Importing Latin rhythm to the prairie landscape

Trio Bembe was recently featured in Steinbach’s newspaper, The Carillon. Amber Epp grew up in Steinbach, and had a few revealing details to share with her hometown paper:

Importing Latin rhythm to the prairie landscape (by Ian Froese)

Amber Epp admits her preferred musical genre startles those who don’t know her. Besides, who would guess infectious Latin music could originate in the wintry prairies?

“It doesn’t have to be in your blood to do it,” said Epp “you just have to be passionate about it.”

The Trio Bembe vocalist is used to a surprised reaction. However, it doesn’t bother her in the slightest. The “Mennonite from Steinbach” is the first to state she has no cultural background in the music she is now attached to.

“It’s one of my favourite things to tell people,” said the 24-year-old. “But I take it as a compliment; it means people feel that what we are doing is authentic.”

Jazz at the University of Manitoba

Like many artists, Epp began with humble beginnings. She grew up in Steinbach, performing in as many school musicals and choirs as she could. After graduating from the SRSS, she studied jazz at the University of Manitoba.

Each week a jam session was held in her school bringing many musical credentials to the impromptu gathering. It was where she got her first taste of a rhythm that would get her dancing then and in the future.

She followed the beat to Cuba after receiving her university degree to spend three months in the country learning Latin music at one of its birthplaces. It was there she trained with the best and experienced firsthand where the music’s inspiration comes from.

Epp soon expanded her horizons. She learned Spanish and Portuguese, fueling a further dimension to Trio Bembe’s voice.

“I’ve completely lost my Mennonite accent and got a Spanish one,” Epp joked. Her band sings most often in Spanish, but the other two languages are also heard.

Last month Trio Bembe released their second album Oh My Soul. Epp described it as a very upbeat disc, “featuring Latin music from around the world.” They distributed their self-titled debut in November 2009.

She hopes their sound reminds listeners of that southern travel getaway they probably daydream about.

“I like to tell people, (this album) is the cheapest ticket to the Caribbean you can find,” said Epp. “We want people to think of that great vacation.”

Concert at Steinbach’s Summer in the City Festival

Now living in Winnipeg, Epp, and her band mates Rodrigo Munoz (guitar, vocals, percussion) and Scott Senior (percussion) are readying for a few summer gigs in Manitoba, including a concert at Steinbach’s Summer in the City Festival.

Epp remarked it’s unique to sing under the night sky in Cuba, but her heart also has a place for where her musical aspirations began.

“It’s special in Cuba because you’re actually there, where it happens. As a foreigner, it’s exciting to have people accept you,” Epp said. “But here, to bring something that was kind of nurtured in Steinbach and go here’s what I did with everything you gave me. It’s special.”

Trio Bembe’s latest release is on sale now at Musical Directions as well as their website, They perform at the Summer in the City Festival on Friday, June 17 at 1:30 p.m.

Scott Senior, Amber Epp and Rodrigo Munoz of Trio Bembe hope to see their audience dancing on June 17 in Steinbach when they bring their Latin vibe to the Summer in the City Festival.

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