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Lula Lounge is a nightclub in a working-class neighborhood of Toronto. Over the last decade, this Canadian hotspot has nurtured an impressive Latin music scene that could hold its own in Havana or New York. Now, the story of Latin gold in the frozen north is captured on a new CD. It's called "Lula Lounge: Essential Tracks," and Banning Eyre has a review.

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BANNING EYRE, BYLINE: For years, Canada has welcomed waves of newcomers from Latin America and the Caribbean. So it was just a matter of time before the country produced great Latin bands like the ones that play at Toronto's Lula Lounge. The club's co-founder Jose Ortega cut his teeth in New York's legendary Latin scene. When he came to Toronto, he found the vibe fresher, more open to experimentation, and he found talent.

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EYRE: That's one of the city's newer Latin bands Changui Habana tearing into a classic guaguanco, one of the bedrock rhythms of Cuban dance music. Toronto's Latin bands are diverse, but the music on "Lula Lounge: Essential Tracks" is largely powered by Cubans. Listen to the vitality and verve in this track by Cuban arranger and composer Roberto Linares Brown.

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EYRE: Expatriates naturally feel nostalgia for home and the past. This explains the dominance of old school sounds among the 15 tracks on this Lula Lounge set. Of course, the Lula Lounge is also about exchange and experimentation, and we get a taste of that in a track by Havana-born rapper Telmary Diaz.

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EYRE: Latin music is unlike any other genre. Born in a clash of African and European cultures, it's always been about fusion. But at the same time, its sense of discipline, form, competitive excellence and knowledge of its own past could rival any classical tradition anywhere. So great Latin music in Toronto? Not so much of a surprise after all, but it sure is a delight.

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CORNISH: Banning Eyre is senior editor at afropop.org. He reviewed "Lula Lounge: Essential Tracks."

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