Two-time Grammy nominated Cuban music group Tiempo Libre will perform at Pepperdine Friday.

Bringing the sounds of Cuba to Malibu

The members of Miami-based Cuban music group, Tiempo Libre, had classically trained in Cuba’s premiere conservatories at a time when it was illegal to listen to American songs on the radio. Now they perform throughout the U.S. and have earned two consecutive Grammy nominations. They will appear at Pepperdine Smothers Theatre this Friday at 8 p.m.

Tiempo Libre plays timba, a combination of Latin jazz and traditional Cuban songs. Their goal is to serve as ambassadors to Cuba’s musical heritage, while celebrating the American experience. Their album “Arroz con Mango” garnered the group a Grammy nomination for Best Salsa/Meringue Album in 2006. They received their second consecutive Grammy nomination in the Latin Tropical category for their CD “Lo Que Esperabas” (“What You’ve Been Waiting For”).

The group is also releasing a new Latin music album in May that draws inspiration from the music of Bach, which will feature guest tracks with Yosvany Terry and Paquito D’Rivera.

The music of Bach has been an inspiration to the members of Tiempo Libre since their early school days studying at La ENA, Havana’s premiere classical conservatory.

The members of Tiempo Libre-music director, arranger and pianist Jorge Gómez; vocalist Joaquin “El Kid” Diaz; drummer Hilario Bell; trumpeter Raúl Rodríguez Hernández; sax and flute player Luis Beltran Castillo; percussionist Leandro Gonzalez and bassist Tebelio “Tony” Fonte-grew up in Cuba knowing they could be expelled from the conservatory for even listening to Cuban artists like Gloria Estefan and Celia Cruz, as well as Black Sabbath and even the Beatles.

Ironically, today some of their music is played in Cuba, but broadcasters have to be very careful which songs they play since some of their music has political undertones-one song even includes a snippet of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Since their formation in 2001 (all the members in one way or another had immigrated to the States and first came together to play during their “free time”(in Spanish, “tiempo libre”), they have been on a mission to share the musical heritage in which they grew up with as wide an audience as possible, reinterpreting and reinvigorating traditional Cuban music with a youthful, modern sound and forging a new style born from the meeting of their Cuban roots and their new American experience.

Their July 2002 debut, opening for the legendary Celia Cruz at the Ravinia Festival, has been followed by a tour schedule that has taken them around the globe from Thailand and Hong Kong to Rome, New York and Los Angeles, New Orleans to Chicago and countless points in-between.

Tiempo Libre will perform Friday, Jan. 9, at 8 p.m., at Pepperdine University’s Smothers Theatre. Tickets are $40 and may be purchased by calling 310.506.4522 or online at