Los Ciegos Del Barrio

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Los Ciegos Del Barrio is an all blind multi-genre Latin American music band, based out of the New York City Tri-State area. They specialize in bachata, merengue, salsa, cumbia and rock among others in both English and Spanish. They have recorded several albums and singles since 2000. Los Ciegos Del Barrio translates from Spanish to mean "the blind boys from the neighborhood."

History[edit]

Los Ciegos Del Barrio actually started in 1997, though the members of the group had been performing together well before then. The name, "Los Ciegos Del Barrio," was adopted jokingly by Jaime Diaz, who is Machete's cousin, during their first ever rehearsal in the summer of 1997. Without having agreed on an alternative name, the group decided to let the name stick as an ice breaker.

In 1992, before becoming Los Ciegos Del Barrio, most of the current members (Alvin Suarez, his identical twin brother, Derek Christopher Suarez, Jimmy Fontanez and Machete spent some time playing Latin music in Russia with a non-profit organization called "Project Troubador". Project Troubador's founder and Artistic Director, Eliot Osborn came across the very talented group of friends during his teaching stint at the New York Institute for the Blind, and has since then helped develop the act. In 1996, also through Project Troubador, Machete and the Suarez twins embarked on a two-week trip to the Dominican Republic, playing for a wide variety of audiences of all ages. This trip is believed to have inspired Alvin Suarez to form Los Ciegos Del Barrio a year later.

In 1998, Los Ciegos released their first self-titled demo album on cassette tape, with Jaime Diaz and Mingo Rosario handling the lead vocals.

In 2000, they released their first full-length album, "No Lo Dude," which features their first underground hit "Dime Donde Estas," sung by Derek Christopher Suarez, their first song to get radio airplay, and first to hit #1 on the former MP3.com website.

In 2003, they released "Dominando," which features a bachata version of "I Will Survive," also sung by Derek Christopher Suarez, which remains their most downloaded song to date. This CD also features their first Merengue to get radio airplay, "Y Sigues Hablando," written and sung by Alvin Suarez, which to date is their most downloaded original, and is one of their most popular songs.

In 2006, again through Project Troubador, Los ciegos returned to the Dominican Republic for another two-week tour; playing in all types of venues such as parks, schools, marketplaces, night clubs, nursing homes, orphanages and theatres.

In 2007, another Los Ciegos del Barrio track, a bachata version of "Brown Eyed Girl," sung by Derek Christopher Suarez, appeared on "Sound insight: Volume 1," a compilation CD recorded and sponsored by the Performing Arts Division of the National Federation of the Blind (United States), which features different blind artists from around the US.

In December 2009, Los Ciegos released their third album "Por Que?...PorQue!" which features the track "Quitate del Medio," written and sung by Derek Christopher Suarez, their first recorded salsa using a brass section; and "Ciegueton," written and sung by the Suarez twins, their first reggaeton.

Los Ciegos were very unhappy with the overall production of "Por Que?...Porque!, as it was recorded in several recording studios, and took extremely long to complete. Despite this, the Ciegos received their first mainstream television exposure in late 2012, with Alvin Suarez's composition, "Loco," which is a clever fusion of rock and bachata. The song was featured on Univision's hit show, "Republica Deportiva," increasing Los Ciegos' national fan base. This was also their first #1 hit on Reverb Nation's latin charts nationwide.

In 2010, Los Ciegos Del Barrio recorded another single, "Buscando La Luz," written and sung by Derek Christopher Suarez, which is featured on a compilation CD put together by the Visionary Media Company, called "Songs About Blindness." This compilation also features a collection of blind artists from around the United States.

In 2011, through Project Troubador, Los Ciegos Del Barrio played a two-week tour of Havana, Cuba. They played in numerous cultural venues as part of the annual week-long "Fiera de Libros" (book Fair). Los Ciegos Del Barrio also made appearances on Cuban radio, television and newspapers. they were the first ever United States band to appear in the Book Fair's annual main event, which is a nationally televised concert held in La Plaza San Francisco in front of an estimated 11,000 people.

Some of these performances were selected as part of their fourth CD released in 2012, a live album called "Los Ciegos Del Barrio: Live in havana, Cuba." This album was also released on download cards and features a few tracks from some of the Cuban artists that the Ciegos befriended during their trip.

In the Fall of 2012, due to personal and creative differences, it was announced by Alvin Suarez that the band would finish any remaining commitments through 2013, then go on hiatus.

In March 2013, the Ciegos embarked on their second trip to Cuba, which turned out to be an overall disappointing experience, as many of the performances were in the same locations as in the 2011 trip. Current events also exacerbated matters, as due to the March 5th announcement of the death of Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, Cuba observed several National Days of Mourning in memory of their ally, cancelling all musical and entertainment events nationwide. An announcement of Chavez's death was made in the middle of the band's performance in a children's music school, putting an abrupt end to the show and the rest of the performance itinerary. The Ciegos continued performing until the late Summer of 2013 before officially going on hiatus. The hiatus was short-lived, however, as due to popular demand, the Ciegos decided to put their differences aside and resume performing in late 2014.

In the Spring of 2015, the Ciegos released a single, a salsa version of the 1982 hit, "Mama Used to Say" by Junior. The Ciegos' version was arranged by Machete and is sung by Jimmy Fontanez and Derek Christopher Suarez. The band's overall growth and ability is even more noticeable in this track, which exhibits a heavy Cuban influence.

Later that same year, another single, "Baby Boy," written and sung by Alvin Suarez, was released. Written and sung by Alvin Suarez, this song, like "Loco," is a fusion of rock and bachata.

Both of the 2015 releases have been highly acclaimed for their creativity, production, musical arrangements, vocal work and subject matter, and have also enjoyed mainstream radio play in different parts of the United States. They are also putting up high download numbers from various digital music web sites, including Spotify and Deezer.

In 2016, The Ciegos released their 5th studio album, "El Futuro," produced by Jimmy Fontanez. "El Futuro" consists of a total of 10 songs representing numerous genres. In addition to "Baby Boy," this album features a longer version of "Mama Used to Say," other salsas including the title track, "El Futuro Comienza Ahora," which discusses the United States' recent efforts under the Obama administration to reopen relations with Cuba. The 2010 single, "Buscando La Luz" also appears, as well as "Llego Nuestra Gente," the only merengue on the album, a live version of "Ciegueton" recorded during their 2013 trip to Cuba and some English tunes including Alvin Suarez's "Eclipse" and Derek Christopher Suarez's "I'm No Fool for You." To date, this is the most successful album released by Los Ciegos Del Barrio.

Later in 2016, Los Ciegos released their first ever official music video, "Mama Used to Say."

Members[edit]

Current members[edit]

Alvin Suarez - Band director, lead guitar, drums, percussion and vocals. (1997 to Present)

Derek Christopher Suarez - Bass, keyboards, percussion and vocals. (1999 to Present)

Machete - piano, Keyboards, accordion, flute, harmonica, percussion and vocals. (1997 to Present)

Jimmy Fontanez - Congas, percussion and vocals. (1997, 2007 to Present)

Past members[edit]

Domingo ("Mingo") Rosario - Lead Guitar (1997 to 2000)

Braulio Thorne - Percussion (1997 to 1999)

Henny Fernandez - Percussion (1999 to 2006)

Kelvin Perez - Percussion (2000 to 2006)

Angel Dueno - Timbales and percussion. (2009 to 2011)

Note: Rosario, Fernandez, Perez and Dueno are all fully sighted.

Other members[edit]

Jaime Diaz - Rhythm guitar, bass and vocals. (1997 to Present)

Andre Donatien - Lead Guitar (2005 to Present)

Tony Jimenez - Congas, Timbales. (2007 to Present)

Domingo Pascual - Timbales (2011 to Present)

Diaz, Donatien, Jimenez and Pascual are still used occasionally depending on need, type of show and availability.

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Album information
No Lo Dude
  • Released: 2000 (U.S.)
  • Singles: "Porque Te Quiero," "Dime Donde Estas," "Respetala"

This features the lead guitar-playing of Domingo Rosario. Alvin Suarez begins his lead guitar work in some of the songs as well, as he slowly takes over the role. Jaime Diaz, who was the original lead singer of the group, sings almost all of the songs. Almost all of the material for this bachata and merengue album was written by Diaz and Rosario. Machete does not appear on this album, though he was still a band member at the time. The Suarez brothers sing one song each.

"Dominando"
  • Released: 2003 (U.S.)
  • Singles: " Y Sigues Hablando," "Llego Ramon," "I Will Survive"

Beginning with this album, Jaime Diaz decided not to be the lead singer anymore, though he can still be heard singing background vocals on this and future albums. Alvin Suarez takes over as lead guitarist. He and Derek Suarez, who sings most of the lead vocals on this album, wrote most of the material. "I Will Survive" and the Kuko Valoy tune, "El Juicio," are the only two cover songs on this album. "I Will Survive," sung by Derek Suarez, made an underground splash, getting lots of airplay on college radio and remains one of the more popular songs performed by the group. "El Juicio" is the group's first recorded salsa, and features Alvin Suarez on lead guitar and Machete on vocals.

"Por Que?...Porque!"
  • Released: December 2009 (U.S.)
  • Singles: " Loco", "Quitate del Medio," "Yo Volvere (Homenage a Savana Iglesia," "Ciegueton"

Much to the group's frustration, this album took years to record as they endured numerous personnel changes and personal challenges. Despite having recorded this album in several studios, this is perhaps the most experimental and diverse album recorded by Los Ciegos to date. Again, Derek Christopher Suarez assumes most of the lead vocals and a majority of the material was written by the Suarez twins. This album features "Quitate Del Medio," the first salsa recorded using real trumpets and trombones (written, arranged and sung by Derek Suarez). The only bachata in its purest form is called "Yo Volvere (Homenage a Savana Iglesia)," sung by Machete. This song was written and recorded in the 1970s by Marto Batista, Machete's godfather and even has Batista's voice taken from the original recording mixed into part of the Ciegos' version. In this song, Machete interprets his love, allegiance, pride and even concern for his family's hometown of Savana Iglesia in the Dominican Republic. Another bachata, this one extremely experimental, is called "Loco," written and sung by Alvin Suarez. In addition to the typical bachata instrumentation, a distorted electric guitar and drum kit are also featured; thus combining bachata and hard rock. "Loco" was the first Ciegos song to receive mainstream airplay. The electric guitar work of Andre Donatien is featured in Alvin Suarez's "Por El Resto De Mi Vida," and the album version of "Brown Eyed Girl," which has a slightly different mix.

"Ciegueton," (the title being a combination of "Ciego" and "Regueton"), is another song featured on this album, which was supposedly an attempt to poke fun at Regueton. This bilingual tune turned out to be one of the more popular songs from this album, though the group rarely performs it. The album ends with a rock version of "Dime Donde Estas," which takes the Ciegos back to their younger days when they played mostly rock. This song was recorded live at a recording studio without any overdubs, thus capturing the Ciegos natural ability. It took 18 takes to complete, which is somewhat noticeable in Derek Suarez's singing performance, though the natural quality (or the "garage band sound") is appreciated by the group.

"Live in Havana, Cuba"
  • Released: August 2012 (U.S.)
  • Single: "El Cuarto de Tula" "Yerberito Moderno," "Bilongo (La Negra Tomasa)"

This album is a collection of performances from their 2011 trip to Havana, Cuba. Jimmy Fontanez has returned as a full-time member thus strengthening the percussion core and adding another high-pitched vocalist. With Derek Suarez playing exclusively bass guitar, Machete remaining on piano/keyboards, Alvin Suarez playing exclusively percussion and Jaime Diaz switching to guitar, the Ciegos are now playing instruments that they are comfortable with. It is clear that the group has evolved into more of a salsa group as they cover several Afro-Cuban styles on this album. Because the Ciegos' performances are live, one can now listen to the familiar voices of Derek Suarez and Machete outside of the recording studio. jaime returns to a lead vocal role as he sings "Mujer Querida," which was originally recorded in 1998 by the Ciegos as part of their self-titled cassette demo. Jimmy Fontanez's incredibly wide vocal range is also featured in his rendition of "La Negra Tomasa (Bilongo)." This albums also showcases some of the talented artists whom the Ciegos encountered during their trip, including El Trio Angerona and Rodovaldo Suarez (no relation to the twins).

External links[edit]