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Like sweet rum and smooth cigars, Bamboleo is another one of those fine Cuban exports that, once you get a taste of it, one sampling just won't be enough. The 14-member timba group is one hot number, from its music and choreography to its well-dressed singers and musicians. Lazaro Valdes leads the band, and he also plays the piano, arranges, composes, and writes songs. A Havana native, he was enrolled in the Alejandro Garcia Caturla Academy during the 1970s. He established Bamboleo after spending time performing with such artists as Pachito Alonso, Bobby Carcasses, and Hector Tellez. He culled musicians from the cream of the crop, incorporating into his new troupe many who had trained at Havana's National School of the Arts. He added some spark with vocalist Haila Mompie, who in turn recruited vocalist Vannia Borges. Another Havana native, Borges became a music student when she was five years old, and first sang professionally with an all-woman outfit known as D'capo in the early '90s. Four years later, she moved on to Pachito Alonso y su Kini Kini, leaving in 1997 to add her talents to Bamboleo. Guantanamo native Yordamis Megret came to the group in 1998, a year after Mompie left. She started her musical training when she was 10 years old and took up the guitar. Like Borges, she, too, is an alumna of the National School of Arts. Upon graduation, she started singing professionally with Ricacha. Before joining Bamboleo, Megret sang for Jose Luis Cortes' salsa ensemble, PG. Bamboleo first started touring outside of Cuba in 1996, the same year the group debuted with Te Gusto o Te Caigo Bien. The group has performed in major U.S. cities, from Chicago to Miami, and New York to Los Angeles. After the release of Yo No Me Parezco A Nadie and Ya No Hace Falta, the group toured the world, with stops in Europe, the U.S., and Japan, as well as China's Heineken 2000 World Music Festival. Bamboleo also contributed to the Temptations' Grammy-winning Ear-Resistable. In addition, the ensemble has been featured on the MTV program Road Rules, and has worked with artists such as James Brown, Femi Kuti, and George Benson. ~ Linda Seida