London Salsa All Stars head to West Dean Gardens' Chilli Fiesta

It's all about connecting with the audience, says Juan Carcheri, as you'll find out if you catch his performance with his London Salsa All Stars at West Dean Gardens' Chilli Fiesta (August 5-7).

Friday, 29th July 2016, 12:42 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 2:17 am
London Salsa All Stars
London Salsa All Stars

It’s all about connecting with the audience, says Juan Carcheri, as you’ll find out if you catch his performance with his London Salsa All Stars at West Dean Gardens’ Chilli Fiesta (August 5-7).

The weekend offers the UK’s biggest chilli festival: a party and the chance to dance to live Latin music, watch cookery and gardening demonstrations and taste delicious chilli foods until your tongue sizzles.

Juan and his band will be performing on Saturday at 8.15pm, his first time at the event.

“We haven’t done it before, but we have got members of the band who have played there before, and they said it was a brilliant opportunity to gig, especially to gig for salsa. When they mentioned it, I was very keen to play there. The people that come to the festival are fantastic, and this is what we are always looking for as a musician – a chance to connect with people. We play salsa dura, which means hard salsa, and for that we mean we play the vintage type of salsa. The reason sometimes I like to be specific is because there is a lot of fusion that you hear, combinations of salsa. People will play a mix of salsa with jazz or Santana with salsa, and that’s fine and it sounds great, but this is pure salsa.

“We have been going for about four years. We are all musicians, and I have been playing guitar for many, many years, just by myself or with other groups, and when we got together, this was the idea that we wanted to do. I had the facility to get it all together. I mean, I had the sheet music that I could get, and you give it to the musicians, they look at it and they are off! It can be hard sometimes because there are some quite high notes, but they just love it.

“We are an 11 or 12-piece which means perhaps that our gigs can be a little bit scarce. With that number of people, it can be quite difficult, but I don’t mind sometimes going without. That’s OK. I work as a tutor in a college during the day, and salsa is my passion. The money for me is not the issue… but you have still got to live! So you just have to try to find the right gigs with the right money in the right places, and that takes a little bit of doing.”

And no, it’s just not possible to reduce the numbers and deliver the same experience: “You have got to have the horns well equipped. We have got to have it all to get the right sound, the musicians, the singers, everything… you need it.

“But it is fantastic. We really enjoy it, and people like it too. People really get into it and they ask us for our business cards or telephone numbers or when we are playing again. So it’s good. Things are happening. We are happy with the way things are going. Everyone is always very interested in doing new songs all the time, and we are even getting ideas for writing our own salsa numbers and perhaps projecting ourselves that way. We might perhaps do some recording and put it out on YouTube or things like that. We need to get the interest perhaps from a recording studio. But there is a lot of appetite out there for salsa in London – and outside London. We just try to do our best. And I am a good talker. I like talking. You have got to make that connection with the audience. You need to talk to them to make them feel good and that they are part of it all.”