More Than Meets the Eye

Octavio Figueroa keeps the salsa-holics dancing

By Dena Burroughs
Published on LatinoLA: October 21, 2002

More Than Meets the Eye

Those of us in Los Angeles who love musica tropical certainly have an abundance of options. We have access to the concerts and presentations of famous artists who stop by our city regularly (i.e. in the next few weeks alone both Ruben Blades and Willie Colon will be in town!), and we also are fortunate to count with great local talent.

One of these ?locals? who are truly a pleasure to listen to is Octavio Figueroa and his group, La Combinaci?n.

A couple of weeks ago Octavio and his group played at the Babylon Court in Hollywood. What a fun afternoon that was! While Octavio?s band played, a few of us ?salsa-holics? danced non-stop, as many bystanders curiously watched and tapped their feet, or moved in place, to the contagious beat of the music.

It is common to see Octavio?s band play at public events such as this one. Quite often they play at outdoor concerts, museum festivals, and others of the sort.

That day at the Babylon Court I made it a point to talk to Octavio to find out more about him, where he came from, how he got started and what his future projects are. As it usually happens, every person has an interesting story, and our conversation showed me that, ?como si fuera poco?, Octavio Figueroa is a lot more than what meets the eye.

Octavio was born in Lima, Peru, and as a youngster his family moved to the U.S. He attended school in Montana up to his graduation from college (with a Bachelors degree in Psychology). He then moved to Denver, Colorado, where he continued his college courses in music until 1982, when he moved to Los Angeles.

His experience as a musician is extensive. As his specialty is the piano, early in his career he played it for several recognized local artists such as Bobby Matos. It was also as a pianist that he performed in several countries, including Japan and Australia, and of course in other places within the US. He eventually formed his own band, first called ?La Sorpresa?, and now called ?La Combinacion?.

With ?La Combinacion? he plays a variety of music, with a little more emphasis on cha-cha-cha and Cuban classics. According to Octavio, such emphasis probably has to do with the fact that Willie Cadenas? voice has a particular affinity to that type of music. Cadenas is the group? singer, the owner of a voice certainly fantastic, and Octavio?s associate now for more than ten years.

I got a copy of Octavio?s first CD, called ?Ritmo Caliente? which combines songs with both ?La Sorpresa? and ?La Combinacion?. My favorite is the second cut called ?Barranquilla?, which is a great dance song. (By the way, Octavio takes copies of that CD to most of his presentations, so if any of you are interested in getting a copy, know that you can purchase it directly from him.)

He is currently working on a second CD, which I understand will be entitled ?The Lady in Red?, and should be coming out sometime early next year.

This week, Octavio will be playing on Tuesday, October 22nd in San Diego, at Caf? Sevilla (555 4th Ave. Lamp District 619/294-8414), and then here in L.A., next Saturday, October 26th at Havana on Sunset (8 p.m. to 12 a.m., 5825 W. Sunset Blvd. Hollywood 323/464-1800). Think about the possibility of making the 26th into a wonderful evening of Cuban food and great music! (Check out the restaurant?s menu at http://www.havanaonsunset.com)

Octavio?s band? schedule gets updated monthly on his web page http://www.octaviofigueroa.com. There is also a sample of his music loaded on it, as well as several pictures. If you have to miss it on the 26th, make sure to check out November? schedule to find out where you can go see them perform.

From Octavio?s CD, the song ?Mi Regalo?: ?Que regalo son las noches que quedan en Los Angeles contigo. Vamos a gozar, bailar y tomar, ay por Dios, quedate conmigo?.

Make it a point to see Octavio Figueroa y La Combinaci?n soon. It will be to your enjoyment because they are really a great show, and at the same time you will be doing good by supporting our Los Angeles local talent!

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