For almost 20 years, Latin music band Robertico y su Alebreke has been bringing Latin music to the community at large across RI. Aficionados in PVD, Pawtucket, Central Falls and beyond have become fans of the group’s diversified sound, including salsa, Latin jazz, bachata, and merengue.
Musician Robertico Arias has seen the Latin music scene boom in RI and doesn’t anticipate it slowing down anytime soon. Salsa is what Arias is mainly known for, and he finds that most musicians in the local Latin music scene concentrate heavily on bachata and typical merengue.
“I’m being sought out to play more salsa and Latin jazz at private events,” he said. Events include weddings, where patrons request salsa, cumbia, and bolero to dance to. According to Arias, his reach has grown and diversified just as the music scene has.
“We [also] have a great presence with non-Latino audiences through our Latin jazz,” Arias said. Along with a recent gig at Waterfire in PVD, Alebreke has performed in Jamestown, at a salsa night in Portsmouth and at the Newport Museum, among other places. They are also on their way to being known internationally, with their music getting airplay in Argentina, Peru, and Arias’ native Dominican Republic.
With most of their music also being distributed digitally through platforms like Spotify, Amazon, and iTunes, the doors have been opened for Alebreke to be heard across continents. Their album, Musico, Poeta, y Loco (Musician, Poet, and Crazy) was released in 2017 with 24 digitally downloadable tracks, which Arias is proud of.
One of his most recent projects is the track Soy del Caribe (I’m from the Caribbean), released in 2021 as an homage to Arias’ heritage. “I wrote it to vent about arriving [to the US] and the cold weather,” he said.
Arias has recorded with merengue star Wilfrido Vargas and an array of other musicians. He is currently planning an international tour in the Dominican Republic and is working on a new salsa hit, La Batea, in his home studio, where he mixes and arranges all music.
Arias credits his mother, also a musician, for getting him started as a percussionist specializing in congas, bongo, timbales and percussion arrangement. “My mom is my number one influence; she would take me with her whenever she played at festivals and I saw the process of how the musicians warmed up their instruments,” he said.
Over time, Arias became a music instructor, teaching undergraduate students at Berklee College of Music, Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island. He also taught secondary students at Cranston East High School. “My students were from different cultures at the schools I taught at,” he said.
Alabreke was formed in 2001 but was side-tracked due to 9/11 and officially started playing in 2003. “In the Dominican Republic, Alabreke means a hyper-active, diverse person who likes to be in everything,” Arias said. “It’s a person that is always happy, with chispa. And not only salsa can be used to invoke Alebreke, it can be invoked by other styles [of music] as well.”
Latin music and dance in RI unite as one
Arias finds the Latin dance community helpful in getting local Latin music on the map. He recently played at a salsa night in Warren during a lesson and saw firsthand how well attendees responded to the music.
“There is a cross-fusion with dancers and musicians and people love to see that,” he said. “It’s marvelous.”
RI Latin Dance founder and owner Mori Granot-Sanchez couldn’t agree more. “The Latin music and dance scene in RI is beautiful and diverse,” she said. “I personally enjoy it the best when we get to dance to live bands at all the different festivals and outdoor events we have in RI.”
Granot-Sanchez finds it beautiful when music and dance blend together, for all to enjoy through the talented artists and musicians from Little Rhody, regardless of background. “You don’t need to be Latino/a to enjoy the culture, music and dance, you just need to appreciate its beauty, respect the roots where it originated from and join the party,” she said.
Arias is also most inspired by seeing everyone in the community united to celebrate one another through art and culture, be it within the Latino community or beyond.
“If we do an event, it’s important for Latinos to go and support it,” he said. “We should also all be united as a community [of] all cultures. Art is what unites us.”