The New Mambo Revival

In the mid-1990s, David Sherman reinvented himself as Juan del Queso, Latin lover and lead vocalist/percussionist/clarinetist of Cabaret Diosa, champions of the “new mambo revival.”

“Can you tell we got the bus up to 75 mph?” asked del Queso via a static-ridden cell phone as he crossed the country with his band.

Formed in 1996, just north of Havana, Cuba in Boulder, Colorado, Cabaret Diosa includes nine members, all of whom prefer the toilet seat up, except for Kimberly Franco, aka Montana de Fuego, who shares crooning duties with del Queso and bangs the ivories as well.

After consistently playing sold-out shows at both the Fox Theater and the Boulder Theater in Colorado, Cabaret Diosa released their debut record Hi-Fi Latin Exotica in late 1997. Shortly thereafter, original female singer Wilow DuHamel departed, making room for Texas native de Fuego. In July 1999, Cabaret Diosa released Voodoo Pinata, another exercise in Latin Big Band music intended to “make people feel good in these dark times of corporate greed,” as quoted on the band’s Web site.

“What we really first got into was the mambo of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s from Havana and New York (City) and every place in between – The Latin Big Band (sound),” said del Queso in refernece to the band’s roots.

“There was a certain exotic element that had to do with the arrangements and the subject matter of the songs – the mood of all the rhythm when it came together,” del Fuego said as he sped through a tunnel.

Cabaret Diosa indulges in the cha cha cha and rumba, but the mambo is their specialty.

“Mambo was a later evolution of other popular Cuban styles – it was like when Cuban popular music ran into jazz – mambo started to happen,” said del Fuego. “What we did was studied it and digested it and then regurgitated it in a kind of drunken rock ‘n’ roll format,” added del Fuego. “We rock the mambo with Middle Eastern influences and psychedelic influences.”

What does del Fugo usually witness when he gazes out into the audience?

“A bunch of beautiful cats and kittens swaying to and fro in (an intoxicated) stupor,” mused del Queso. “A bunch of sweaty chicks just shaking it. Smiling, happy people bouncing up and down to our hypnotic rhythms.”

However, Del Queso noted that on occasion adoring fans pose a problem.

“Sometimes when we’re leaving a big hotel we get mobbed by small-nosed sorority girls – it’s that mambo, the mambo drives them crazy,” he said.

Del Queso emphasizes the fact that doing the mambo is as easy as …

“It’s just like having sex,” he said. “You just move your hips to the instruments. The excitement of the dance is in its connection with the sexual life energy that dwells in our pelvises.”The crooner compares the mambo to swing.

“Just with the booty-shake in the middle,” he said.

What is the purpose of all this booty-shaking?

“It’s about getting people to appreciate their own vitality so that they can get off on the dance floor,” said del Queso. “It’s really an expressive dance.”

On a broader level, del Queso sees Cabaret Diosa as liberators from “The Man.”

“The Man is the whole system – the corporations of the world have banned together to form this ultra powerful force,” deadpanned del Queso. “Our goal is to pull people out of the machine.”

Del Queso never allows the band’s purpose to get out of perspective.

“Cabaret Diosa is not just a band or a dating service, we are the saviors of the Earth,” del Queso said with the utmost sincerity.

Cabaret Diosa has been touring extensively for the last five years and is not a newcomer to the friendly confines of Skipper’s Smokehouse.

“We’re really excited to come back to Tampa,” del Queso said. “Every time we’ve played Skipper’s it’s been great. I’m really looking forward to the show and meeting (co-headliner) El Vez.”The chatty del Queso wished to make one last comment before refocusing his attention to the road passing under his wheels in excess of 75 mph.

“I just want to tell everyone to love each other and to dance as if it were your last night on earth,” he said.

Then, just before his cell phone cut out, in a moment of divine inspiration, Del Queso one-upped himself.

“Dance as if your pants were on fire with the very flames of carnal desire,” he said.

  • Cabaret Diosa will be performing at Skipper’s Smokehosue in Tampa on Saturday. For tickets/info call (813) 971-0666