MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s also important to remember the cultural influences in music. One Memphis band is a blend of musical genres, representing seven different countries.
The historic Levitt Shell in Overton Park, known for being where Elvis took the stage in the first ever rock-and-roll show, has a different sound. And now that same stage on this day is the musical backdrop for a Memphis band with tropical roots.
Leodan Rodriguez is a trombonist in Tropical Fusion.
“I also think it’s time to bring in some new vibes, new styles and introduce it to the Memphis music scene and Tropical Fusion has been doing that for the last couple of years,” Rodriguez said.
For the last couple of years, Tropical Fusion Latin band has been shaking up the Memphis music scene with its unique blend of sounds and rhythms.
Tropical Fusion is a band living up to its name as being a fusion of musicians from several different countries, but now all calling Memphis home.
Valentina Henao is a singer in the band.
“We decided that we were going to get together with people from different parts of the world so we could make music. Music doesn’t recognize race, gender or ethnicity or disability. Music, everybody is one,” Henao said.
It’s one of a kind music that’s also a potpourri of merengue, bachata, cumbia and salsa, and of course its music with feeling.
“It’s more so a feeling that you have within yourself that we’re able to express that in the music that we play and the people that we get to meet. All of the different places where we get to be. We’re at Levitt Shell right now, as you can see, so it’s something that’s really special,” Rodriguez said.
Juan Bracho is a musician in Tropical Fusion.
“He says all of us try to give our best when we are out there, trying to innovate, trying to do things a little different and trying to bring out what’s the best that we have for the band,” Bracho said.
This band has been well-received in the home of the blues and birthplace of rock-and-roll.
“I feel blessed to be here. Memphis has received me with open arms and I’m happy and when I found out there was a band and heard Tropical Fusion, I said I want to be part of that and I’m blessed I’m now part of tropical fusion,” Bracho said.
Nelson Rodriquez is a percussionist who says Memphis has embraced the band.
“Basically, Memphis has opened its doors to us,” Nelson said. “People love us and when we’re ending people want more and more, and they want to keep enjoying, and like I said there’s no language for music. You don’t have to speak Spanish to be able to enjoy and feel the music and the vibe.”
The music and vibe are part of universal language that perhaps can help heal divided souls during a year of social distancing and racial unrest.
“Just considering with COVID being away from everybody, and the racial tensions we have in this country, I think once we get together under the umbrella of music, like I mention, it’s a really special connection and really special vibe that you get to feel,” Rodriguez said.
And even with fewer in-person performances, Tropical Fusion is still connecting with fans with online concerts.
“So, to be able to do it even virtually and even if we don’t have anybody right in front of us clapping or anything, we still love it. We still love it,” Henao said.
They hope people come to love their music, but also celebrate their diverse culture during Hispanic Heritage Month.
Leodan Rodriguez doesn’t just play trombone. He’s also a senior at the University of Memphis and the Hispanic Association president.
“Whether it’s in my music, within my advocacy and who I am every single day, and I think that’s what Hispanic Heritage Month means to me,” Rodriguez said. “And also respecting and appreciating all the people that came before me. All the great leaders, artists and musicians within those respected cultures.”
“I celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month within my heart,” Henao said. “I’m proud to be Hispanic, Latina, Latinx, Colombian, and I’m also enjoy being here and being able to share some of my culture with other different cultures. And if you take a minute to learn from someone about their culture, you’ll see how many things you have in common.”
Tropical Fusion: a band with members from different countries on a musical journey to show what we all have in common by blending diversity and music in Memphis.
“We do from our heart,” Nelson said. “It’s what we like, and it’s our passion as well, and we want to continue doing it and to grow, and that’s the goal that Tropical Fusion has.”