My name is Jose Lorenzo Reyna, and when I was seventeen years old in 1994, I decided to leave Cuba by swimming for three days to the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo. Maybe even more daring, I chose to live in Richmond, Virginia, a city with less than 5 percent Latinos, so I could learn English and study art and music.
In 1998, I formed a Cuban band called Timbason, which performs traditional and new Cuban music, including Latin horns, percussions, and strings. Cuban music is not easy to play. You have to have grown up with it, or you have to have studied it quite a bit. There are basic recipes: mambo, cha-cha, salsa, son, and bolero (all of which can be approximated), but to get the spine-tingling effect of a dozen instruments improvised layer after layer, on a basic rhythm, you need to know Cuban music and culture.
As for me (although I am convinced my music will make anyone grab a mojito), I am like an old man. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke – not anything. My only vice is being creative and driven. I am the band’s lead singer, booking agent, and manager, and the work is tough. Enticing Richmond audiences with the sounds of mambo is tricky work, especially when club venues are scarce (particularly for a whopping 11-piece band). Because of this, my band plays primarily in Shockoe Bottom (where there are a few larger clubs), and at private and corporate parties and festivals. In Washington, D.C., where the Latino population is bigger, it’s another story, and we’re earning a loyal following there.
As for my other creative outlets, I studied Fine Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University, and I paint murals for restaurants and private citizens.
Sample of Jose Lorenzo Paintings
I also like to paint landscapes and portraits on large pieces of wood and metal, instead of canvas (a practice I learned in Cuba, when there was no money for canvas), and I often have art shows in Richmond, where I sell my artwork (my latest show is called “Frutas en el Café”). Here is some Samples of my Work
Click on the image for enlargment
Along with being a painter, musician, and singer, I am also a graphic artist and writer. I wrote a book called Chiquito Travieso , which is based on my life in Cuba and my artwork, and how my murals nearly got me arrested in Cuba, when I was seventeen. It is my goal to make this book into a film, which would contain my paintings, music, artwork, and my story.