Down the narrow side alley next to the Zona Rosa Coffee café , “Latin-afro-cubano-world-beat-fusion” band Cava put their spin on some 60s, 80s, and 90s songs for die-hard music lovers enjoying the Playhouse District earlier this month.
Glowing and happy, newly pregnant lead singer and percussionist Claudia “Cava” Gonzalez Miranda sits astride the cajón, a traditional Peruvian percussion box, and croons lullaby-like while gently stroking the anticipated new life that’s growing in her belly.
Glowing and happy, lead singer and percussionist Claudia “Cava” Gonzalez Miranda sits astride the Cajón, a traditional Peruvian percussion box, and croons lullaby-like while gently stroking the anticipated new life that’s growing in her belly.
Cava, who also plays the guiro, taiko, jarana and maracas percussion instruments, formed the band in 2006 fresh off another called Domingo Siete, where the she commonly covered bolero and Afro-Cubano “Son” style traditional music.
“My influences are Celia Cruz to Billie Holiday to Michael Jackson,” and even 80s Latin-jazz based ska-reggae band, The Skatalites, said Cava. “It’s a really wide spectrum of sounds. But I started with mariachi, and that’s the reason why boleros are my forte.”
Walter Miranda, Cava’s husband and a keyboardist and vocalist with the band as well, is a PCC alum who studied architectural design and then later music and jazz standards under professor Bobby Bradford.
Cava credits her music education to family support, musical influences, aural training and practice.
“We’ve been training all our lives, since we were inches tall,” said Cava. “It’s a lot of ear training, which is a master class for most musical students. I was raised on really fine music and musicians.”
“My mother’s part mulatta and my father’s full Jalisco-raised Mexican and had a beautiful voice,” said Cava, attributing them as the inner source behind the rhythm and soul of her music.
Audience members were quick to stand up and dance in the snug and breezy alley next to the café to the infectious rhythm of Cava’s music on a hot Sunday.
Sisters Jacqueline and Daisy Chilin made a special visit to the cafe when they heard the band was playing on Sundays and danced to their favorites.
“Mi Malasuerte is one of the lively ones. It just makes you want to move,” said Jacqueline, a PCC alum who transferred from the Child Development Blended Program and is now doing public service with families for the city of Los Angeles.
“I like the intimate feel of the outdoors and it’s a just a good thing to have in a cafe,” said Daisy of the alley play space. Daisy, also a PCC alum, political science, transferred and now works for the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services.
“We just came to enjoy some Sunday afternoon music. My sister introduced me to Cava,” said Jacqueline. “We went to see them at the Levitt Pavilion [years ago] and they were awesome. She has an amazing voice.”
Wishing to leave the limelight for his sister Cava, Gabriel Gonzalez spoke briefly after joining the lively ending of the day’s performance.
“Well I’m what you call a hired gun in this scene,” laughed Gonzalez. “I’m Cava’s older brother and we’ve played in different bands through the years.”
Cava’s older sister and PCC alum, Martha Gonzalez, sings in the Grammy award winning band Quetzal.
“All our children are performers. And our children, they all sing,” said Cava, whose 16-year-old daughter is actress Mia Xitlali.
In continuing the tradition, the three siblings plan to do a story and music performance piece called Caminos y Canciones next year. In it they will share their history of growing up with music in Los Angeles, including memories of their time at the once popular variety show Noche de Variadades formerly held at the Million Dollar Theater downtown.
With a voice she finds uncommonly deeper than contemporary vocalists, Cava’s finale is El Yerberito Moderno, a traditional favorite by Celia Cruz that she calls her “Hollywood Bowl” song to be ready for when that day comes.
As Cava explains her initial doubts about her vocal style as compared to the contemporary norm, Miranda comes eager to his wife’s defense.
“What Cava means is that growing up, listening to radio…that really high-pitched, breathy, girly sound, she didn’t know that she’s a very powerful singer,” he said. “When she heard Celia Cruz’ [deeper voice] she said ‘Wow! I’m not alone.’”
“[Cava] growing up, listening to radio, the women—it’s that really high-pitched, breathy … girly sound … She didn’t know [yet] that she’s a very powerful singer,” said Miranda about his wife’s talent. “When she heard Celia Cruz [deeper voice] she said ‘Wow, I’m not alone!’”
Cava plays Sundays at the Zona Rosa Coffee café from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.