Orishas Rap 

Cuban hip-hop superstars

SAT 11/5

Before the coming of the Orishas, few people outside of the inner-city barrios of Havana were aware of Cuban hip-hop. But with the release of 2000's A Lo Cubano, it became apparent there was much more to the island's music scene than what was hinted at by the Buena Vista Social Club. At once ultracontemporary and folkloric, the Orishas speak to listeners' souls with deeply resonant grooves, urgently insistent raps, and sung choruses, becoming a sensation throughout the Latin world and Europe. The phenomenon continued with 2002's Emigrantes, a somewhat less raw but just as precisely syncopated sophomore effort. Boasting a more worldly sound -- its title reflective of the group's relocation to Paris, a place where, unlike their native Cuba, musicians could actually earn a decent living making music -- Emigrantes was even more successful than its predecessor, winning a Latin Grammy in 2003. Now the group has returned with its third album, El Kilo, another exhibition of urbanized salsa, hardcore son, and barrio-bangin' boom-bap. It's a stylistically diverse affair that demonstrates the range of Afro-Cuban music within an elastic hip-hop framework that places as much responsibility on organic percussion as on electronic drums. A guest appearance by Pitbull further solidifies the Miami-to-Havana link, as the Orishas show that they can raise the energy meter to crunk status as well as any Lil' Jon disciple, while on the anthemic "Naci Orishas," the suave "Elegante," and the bold, bouncy "Bombo," the trio of Roldan, Yotuel, and Ruzzo travels from the calle to the discoteca and back with universal rhythms that easily cross national boundaries as well.

Speaking of border crossings, Berkeley's La Peña Cultural Center has scored a major coup in landing the Orishas for their first-ever Bay Area appearance, this Saturday night. Expecting a large turnout from the gente, they've booked the cavernous Historic Sweet's Ballroom, 1833 Broadway in Oakland, for a show also featuring Company of Prophets, Youth Movement Records, and DJ Treat U Nice. It promises to be part concert, part ritual. 9 p.m., $23-$28. www.lapena.org -- Eric K. Arnold



The Icon Con

Taro Hattori's art comments on the prettification of military and hunting weapons. Mayumi Hamanaka uses crayons to deconstruct such loaded iconography as the Japanese imperial family. Francis McIlveen's work deals with "anarcho-utopic dreams" and "fantastic heterotopias." The cheeriness of Tae Kitakata's consumer imagery masks a dark side as it "infects the gallery architecture." There's Bubble Trouble in Doubles at Oakland's Rock Paper Scissors Collective (2778 Telegraph Ave., 510-238-9171, RPSCollective.com) beginning this week, as the site-specific art exhibition of the same name takes perverse pleasure in icons and surfaces. The show opens Friday with a reception (6-10 p.m.), and runs through December 2. -- Kelly Vance

SAT 11/5

Writers' Island

It's a celebration of symbiosis: At the Alameda Literati Book Faire this Saturday, authors and earnest bookworms will give thanks for each other's existence. A day of book signings and panel discussions provide readers ample opportunities to meet, greet, and mingle with pen-wielding professionals. Local luminati include Alameda-born Ben Fong-Torres, a longtime editor for Rolling Stone, and saucy San Francisco columnist Beth Lisick. For the kids, there's a writing workshop with the folks from the 826 Valencia project, and a fully stocked craft table. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Albert H. DeWitt O Club. All events are free. Info: AlamedaLiterati.org or 510-427-7974. -- Eliza Strickland

THU 11/3

Von Is On

Don't expect to hear Live 105-esque juxtapositions of Busta Rhymes and the Cure at Mash-Up, the weekly Thursday night party held at Oaktown's opulent @Seventeenth (510 17th St.). What you will hear is the latest, hyphiest, most thizzin', club-rockin' beats, played by an all-star lineup of local superstar DJs. In addition to Big Von Johnson (often credited with returning local music to KMEL's airwaves), original Digital Underground DJ Fuze aka DonJon and self-proclaimed "mixtape assassin" DJ Juice will be in the mix, so you can get your swerve on -- whether you arrive in a flashy whip or a beat-up scraper. Visit At17th.com for more 411 on the 510's most blingin' club. -- Eric K. Arnold

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