Local Latin band GarDel to make Cat’s Cradle debut Saturday

For Latin music outfit Orquesta GarDel, the UNC-Chapel Hill connection runs just as deep as its jazzy Cuban salsa roots.

What began as Charanga Carolina, a university ensemble under the guidance of music professor David Garcia, now stands as a 13-member-strong group that meshes the traditional and the modern elements of Latin music through a growing combination of percussion, horns, keys and vocals.

“It’s the group that has the heart of a small band and the body of an orchestra,” said Andy Kleindienst, trombone player, UNC alumnus and co-director of GarDel.

In 2006, Garcia and local Latino singer Nelson Delgado decided to branch out with a professional ensemble. The band has gathered members from a variety of backgrounds, from the UNC students who participated in Charanga, to NCCU music students. The group also collaborated with local Latino musicians.

The band’s pianist, Eric Hirsh, co-director and UNC graduate, said the group’s large size is one thing that hasn’t changed.

“You can access a whole catalog of music and a whole set of styles with that many people that you can’t with a small group,” Hirsh said.

For GarDel, versatility is inevitable and embraced. Each member is in at least one or two other bands, many of which are not Latin-music based.

Through bringing this variety of outside influence to the salsa, the group’s musicians often change their roles depending on the musical needs. Kleindienst estimates the band plays about 25 different instruments overall.

“Our exploration of these different rhythms requires the percussionists to switch to different roles and it really creates a balanced and unique aesthetic experience for whoever is coming off the street,” Kleindienst said.

Orquesta GarDel aims to appeal to all audiences, particularly at the upcoming show. The band has played at a variety of venues, including at the Saxapahaw Farmer’s Market and the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival. Overall, Kleindienst said they’ve garnered an overwhelmingly positive response.

“I think some of the stronger responses have been from people who know nothing about the music and nothing about the language even,” Kleindienst said. “Our intended direction is to reach audiences beyond the Latin community.”

GarDel is also largely accessible for fans of Latin music and local Latin dance groups.

“We do get a response from people who know the music and don’t expect to hear this kind of music here, from this area,” said Delgado, a lead vocalist. “They are blown away, especially by the quality.”

Orquesta GarDel makes its Cat’s Cradle debut on Saturday, Mar. 31 at 9 p.m., owning the stage all night with two sets of music. For the group, the opportunity to play in this venue has been a long time coming and provides an opportunity to reach out to a variety of communities.

“This is a band that needs to be on a big stage,” Hirsh said. “GarDel really belongs there, no matter how many people are going to be there. People are going to find room to move.”

GarDel is excited to continue to develop its sound and presence as a salsa super group. Since releasing in 2011, the band is focused on booking as many shows as possible and developing internally. For Hirsh, GarDel’s cohesion is a result of playing with such good people.

That’s how they intend to remain, Hirsh said.

“That’s really my favorite thing about the last year,” he said. “Ever since we owned our band by putting out an EP, we’ve spent more energy letting more people have ideas, lead rehearsals. It’s become even more of a family.”

Contact the Diversions Editor at diversions@dailytarheel.com

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