San LazaroBilled as “the tightest Latin outfit to come from Australia so far” San Lazaro certainly lived up to its reputation. This is a hybrid group of some eight different nationalities, all based in Melbourne, coming together to make a wonderful mish-mash of reggae and hip hop-ish music on a distinctly latin base. Or in their own words, an “unrestricted melting pot of urban latin funk”.

“I could be 26 again!”, my gyrating wife enthused as the visceral sound and enthusiasm of these ten musicians enwrapped us and made it virtually impossible to keep still.

Complex and hypnotic rhythms abound, together with polished unanimity and apparent exuberance in performance, and Adelaide welcomed them back from WOMAD with enthusiasm. A song called Justicia (Justice) was a nice link with Anzac day, because, it was explained, we are involved in a war that the Anzac spirit is not all about.

This band has fortitude and drive, and an infectious musicianship which shows through in spite of the volume. Spain has a lot to be thanked for in giving the world these invigorating rhythms. This band has mastered and adapted them well through its marvellous mix of cultures. We could do with more of it in this country.

BUT - and this is a real concern - what possesses any band to set its volume at a level only marginally below the pain threshold? When it is deemed necessary to mike even the congas - certainly not the gentlest of the battery of percussion featured - and when the strident trumpet has to be blown directly into the microphone, then surely everything is too bloody loud! San Lazaro is not alone in this modern aberration, but it shares the culpability for the impending hearing loss of present and coming generations.

So it was not just with the fine music ringing in their ears that the audience left with - it was blending with their jangling and battered auditory nerves, together with the excitement of music that would have been even more enjoyable several notches softer. I’m sure St Lazarus, the Patron Saint of healing, would approve.

San Lazaro

Venue: Piano Bar, Adelaide Festival Centre
When: Friday 25 April, from 8pm
Cost: All tickets $20
Bookings: BASS on 131 246 or online at

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