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Andean Folk Group Performs at Riverbank Park

Kema's thumping beats inspire crowd to get up and dance

With the summer heat having, hopefully, hit its peak, enjoying the outdoors is once again a real treat. This treat was made all the more satisfying with Kema, the Andean folk music group, playing under the evening sky Saturday at Riverbank Park.

Andean folkloric music, although driven by string and woodwind instruments, has a very strong, rhythmic beat and is characterized by its changes in tempo. The music is somewhat similar to "cumbia" with Kema even incorporating some "cumbias" into their set that night.

Fabian Cortes, Kema's guitar player, recognizes that his group has an uphill battle ahead as it tries to spread its brand of folkloric music.

"We’re well aware that folkloric music isn’t very known around most people. Even Spanish people really don’t know about it," he said. "And we really like to interpret this music to make people aware of it."

Cortes explained the inspiration behind his group's goal, "I really love the music. I started listening to it because of my Dad. And not many people my age hear it but, our objective is to try to get it out to people and make them aware of it ... There's other Spanish music out there."

Despite a delay due to the PA system, the audience was not deterred and welcomed the group warmly once Kema finally took the stage. Nearly every song was accompanied by handclaps and feet stomps from an enthusiastic audience, with a handful even being moved to dance.

After the first hour, the band took a short break.

Fatima Santos, a Portuguese Fado singer herself, said the performance was "beautiful. It's amazing how they bring their roots and I think that’s very important. It's very nice."

Santos' partner Jose Iglesias said he enjoyed the rhythm and harmonies of Kema's music.

"This is music from the mountains so it has to have a very strong beat," said Iglesias. "Because it's hard to be working in the mountains, that’s why the music has to be like that. I like it."

For the second half, Kema returned in matching white ponchos contrasting the darkening night. The crowd's zeal didn’t waiver as day faded into night with even more people getting up and dancing to the music.

"We love this. This is one of our most favorite gigs," said Cortes. "Every single year it's doubled in size with people that come in. We love that. We love seeing so many people. They start dancing. We love it here."

Kema will be playing next on Aug. 7 at the Ecuadorian festival in Jersey City. Iglesias and Santos will play at Independence Park in Newark on Aug. 6 at 7 p.m.

Check out more events at Riverbank Park by visiting their website: riverbankpark.org.

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