Los Tropicanos amping up the Latino rhythm

From the Waldorf Astoria to the Windy City, in Cayman and in Cuba, Burmon Scott enjoys making music.

His band, Los Tropicanos, was invited by Premier McKeeva Bush on trips to New York and Chicago to perform at a couple of functions, where their smooth tones included covers of the Temptations, maybe some Lionel Ritchie and a few by Stevie Wonder.

In local gigs there might be more of a Latin flavour, gleaned from Scott’s many trips to Cuba, where he learned to play the congas.

“The band has stayed together over the years…we were one of the first bands that opened Royal Palms,” Scott recalls. He plays keyboard and sings, or picks up the bass guitar if needed, and organises all sequencing and arrangement. The band brings together Steve Welds – one of the original members – on lead and rhythm guitar; Harry Cupid, percussion; and lead vocalist Andrea Rivera. When Perry Smith, the original vocalist, is on island from Italy, he joins in as well.

These days, Scott is really tuned in to Latin influence, which he has picked up on his frequent trips to Cuba since 2001. “I’ve met a lot of musicians along the Malecón wall [in Havana]…you can find every kind of musician playing along that wall. They taught me classical guitar and from that, I did a restaurant CD called Easy Vibes.”

He is currently working on a salsa CD, which should be completed by the end of the year.

He also learned congas – which he admits at first left him feeling a little lonely, a little lost, just him and his drums, trying to sing while keeping the beat. But now he’s quite comfortable on the beach at the Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman on Friday nights, playing the drums to background music he meticulously records and loads onto a laptop.

The Brac native learned from his late father, popular musician Eddie Scott of the original Eddie and the Brac Beach boys. From age 9 or 10, young Burmon would be hanging around, teaching himself some chords, and later practicing with the high school band while still in primary school. Then, one evening when the bass player for his father’s band didn’t show up, an audience member reminded Eddie that his son had some bass chops, so Eddie jumped on his motorbike and picked up Burmon, who performed for the first time with the Brac Beach Boys.

The younger Scott also played piano at church, by ear – as with all his instruments, which now included guitar, bass and keyboard – and organ (at the Buccaneer Inn, where Eddie often played).

In 1987 Scott started Los Tropicanos, while also working full time for the police service.

Over the years he converted one of the bedrooms in his Newlands home into a jam-packed recording studio, where he can do it all, from intros and endings to sequencing – technology has made it all so much easier.

“It really enhances what we’re doing,” he says.

Sometimes he helps friends with a CD; other times he enjoys pickin’ on one of his favourite guitars, among them a ‘60 Stratocaster, a ‘61 Telecaster, a couple of acoustic guitars and a classical guitar, or his current fave, a Paul Reed Smith, like the one Santana plays.

Another pride and joy is his 1958 Strat that he bought from someone in the Brac.

His sound is so close to Lionel Ritchie you’d think you were back in the day when you hear his vocals -“Most of his songs that I sing, I don’t have to change key,” he says. Other sounds he admires are the disco/Latin beat of Gloria Estefan, as well as her ballads; Santana, of course; George Benson and Latin jazz, and Cuban-influenced music. When he travels to Havana, he says he listens to a lot of bands “and comes back with arrangements.

He has produced five albums on CD, countless original songs in many genres, served for a while as vice president of the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association, and recently received a Long Service Award from CMEA.

Los Tropicanos also won the battle of bands a few years ago, an honour that led to them opening for Grammy winner Alicia Keys at the 2009 Cayman Islands Jazz Fest.

Still, a key highlight is that evening at the Waldorf, playing for the Governments of the Caribbean State Ball in 2004. “We were playing a lot of Temptations and smooth music while everyone was eating,” Scott recalls.

But in a testament to the mood and tempo set by Los Tropicanos, “They threw their forks down and started dancing.”

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