Energy and intimacy with Eliana Cuevas

The last two times Eliana Cuevas visited the Yukon, audiences were huge.

She liked the big rooms of the Yukon Storytelling Festival in 2003 and the Yukon Arts Centre in 2006 because she feels the energy from the audience.

However, in Haines Junction on Aug. 20 and in Dawson City on Aug. 22, she will be playing in much smaller venues.

And she likes that, too, because then it is the audience who can feel the energy better.

“It is as if they are part of the band,” says the Latin singer with the clear, passionate voice. “I find it is a bit more intimate.”

Energy is what has made Latin music so popular in the Yukon and the rest of Canada, says Cuevas. As the world gets smaller, people are connecting – especially through the Internet – and they are learning more about other cultures.

“Latin music is very contagious,” she says. “It is lively.”

Since forming her own quintet in 2002, she has been able to avail herself of many influences as she and her multi-cultural band experiment with songs.

Luis Guerra, on piano, is from Cuba. Cuevas says he is “absolutely brilliant” and, even though he is the youngest member, his knowledge is that of a “wise, old man”.

From Peru is Luis Orbegoso. His hand claps and percussion are a “force of nature”, she says.

Daniel Stone is from Venezula and plays the cajon: “He has so many wonderful ideas and that translates to his music … when he performs, he is probably the best one at connecting with the audience.”

Then there is Alberta’s George Koller on acoustic bass. “I’ve seen him play and it seems so effortless,” says Cuevas. “It is the most positive energy and it is always with a smile. It is really refreshing, his outlook on the world is amazing.”

These musicians will be making the trip to the Yukon with Cuevas. But there have also been replacement musicians from time to time and Cuevas encourages each to bring their own interpretations.

“If we take a song and play it often, this song will take different shapes and, as the musicians get to know each other more and more, the chemistry grows stronger.”

Today, her music spans reggae, salsa, Brazilian, flemenco and Peruvian while enjoying the influence of jazz.

If the audience does not understand the words, but are still moved by the music, she considers this the best.

But the words are important to Cuevas so, on her last two CDs, she has included the lyrics with translations.

Although she does not consider herself a “political songwriter”, she is affected by what she sees on her travels.

One song, however, took an unblinking look at the human rights abuses in Burma, now called Myanmar. Song For Burma is not for sale — “We are not trying to make any money off of that, that’s not what that song is about” — but can be downloaded free from her website at

The words are there, too.

The Eliana Cuevas Quintet will perform at the St. Elias Convention Centre in Haines Junction on Aug. 20 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the door.

On Aug. 22, the quintet will perform in Dawson City at 8 p.m. at the Oddfellows Hall.

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