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Sotavento is a musical group that presents an innovative blend of traditional and contemporary folk music, and brings to life the diversity and rich musical heritage of Latin American cultures. Comprised of musicians from Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico, and the United States, Sotavento has been performing throughout the U.S. Canada, Europe and Latin America since 1981. Performing on over 30 string, wind and percussion instruments, which represent the Pre-Colombian, African and European roots of Latin American music, Sotavento combines the talent and versatility of each musician in the group to create a sound that is quite unique.

In concert, the group showcases the broad spectrum of Latin American music, embracing past and present by performing instrumental and vocal compositions of the group, as well as arrangements of traditional and contemporary Latin American music. The group's compositions bring a new pulse to the sounds of Latin America, from Andean America to the coastal sounds of the Pacific Mexican region, from the Panamanian mejoranas to the merengues of Venezuela, from the Puerto Rican bombas to the European influenced danzas, and from the rich rhythmic traditions of coastal black Peruvian musical styles to Latin American classical chamber music.

The group's performances are colored by a tasteful use of a variety of musical instruments. In addition to the familiar guitar, flute, or violin, you will hear the Venezuelan and Puerto Rican cuatro, Mexican vihuela, Brazilian cavaquinho, Andean quena and siku, Peruvian cajón, or Dominican tambora.

Along its musical career, Sotavento has shared the stage with internationally renowned artists such as Patricio Manns, Los Folkloristas, and Roney Gilbert, and has been featured on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, on Chicago Public Radio's Stud Terkel Show, and on Canadian and Italian Television.

Sotavento wrote and performed the theme song Animales Nocturnos for the program Panorama Hispano, broadcasted on National Public Radio from 1984 to 1987. This song is featured in Sotavento's third recording, Cuicani (Redwood Records, 1988). Their eighth recording, Flor y Grana, released in May 2002 on Mexico's Discos Pueblo, has been described as a mature and balanced work of the group, combining well crafted arrangements of traditional pieces with innovative trends in the group's compositions.

The members of Sotavento are at ease as much at teaching as at performing on stage. The group's lectures, workshops, and hands-on programs, are a strong facet of the group. Sotavento was the featured artists in the educational video series Harvesting New Songs, produced by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and has performed at a number of Ethnomusicology and Musicology conferences. The group's musical and educational work has received recognition awards by the North Central Council of Latin Americanists (1992) for "Outstanding Achievement in Bringing to the General Public a Greater Awareness of the Nations and People of Latin America," and by the Centro de Estudios Historicos del Porfiriato in Mexico City (2003) for "Contributions to Latin American Music."

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Orlando Cabrera
(Percussion, clarinet and vocals)

Born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, Orlando has been playing percussion since age 9. He performs and records in a variety of musical genres, including Latin American folk, salsa and jazz, and has over 25 recording credits. Orlando has also performed in the US with such renowned Latin American artists as Guillermo Anderson, (Honduras), Romulo Castro (Panama), and Pedro Villagra (Chile).

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Raquel G. Paraíso
(Violin, mandolin, Puerto Rican cuatro, siku, and voice)

Born in Lagunilla, Salamanca, Spain, Raquel has a Bachelor of Music degree in Violin and Music Education from the Conservatory of Music from Salamanca, Spain, a Masters in Violin Performance and a Masters in Ethnomusicology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Raquel has performed with several orchestras in Spain and the U.S. In 1984, she co-founded the Sirinx school of music, in Salamanca, noted for their innovative teaching methods. At present, she combines her performing and teaching career with the study and research of Latin American music in the field of Ethnomusicology. Together with Francisco López, she is the author of the book "A Collection of Latin American Folksongs" (Hall Leonard, 1999).

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Francisco López
(Charango, guitar, strings and siku)

Born in Mexico City, Mexico, Francisco is a founding member of Sotavento. He is a self-taught musician with a deep understanding of Latin American folk traditions, and an experienced composer, performer, and educator. Francisco has collaborated with a number of Latin American musicians performing throughout the United States. Together with Raquel, he is the co-author of the book "A Collection of Latin American Folk Songs" (Hal Leonard, 1999).

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Mario Mendoza
(Lead singer, guitar, strings and percussion)

Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mario was a student of pianist Angelina Figueroa and of famed classical/popular Puerto Rican guitarist Manuel Gayol de la Rosa. As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Mario became a guitarist and backup vocalist for the Afro-Caribbean ensemble Bentetú. Currently, he is the lead vocalist for the Madison based Latin jazz group Madisalsa.

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William Torres
(Flute and percussion)

Originally from Baranquitas, Puerto Rico. William has taught music, and performed for more than 20 years with a number of popular, folk, and jazz groups in Puerto Rico and the US. William has worked with such renowned artists as Andrés Jimenez, Edwin Colón-Zayas and the Taller Campesino, and Orquesta Canayón, and toured the US, Europe and Japan. Currently, William resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he teaches music and performs with a number of musical groups.

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