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Caridad Cruz

Caridad Cruz Vilain was born in Havana, Cuba, into a musical family deeply rooted in Afro-Cuban culture. Her beloved father Daniel Cruz was an accomplished professional violinist, whose own mother was a first cousin of the great Celia Cruz. (Celia had already left Cuba before Caridad was born, so the two never met.)

Caridad studied music for three years at Havana's Escuela Superación Técnico Profesional Ignacio Cervantes under the tutelage of Argelia Fragoso, while at the same time taking private vocal training from Margarita Orutinier. Other early musical influences include Pablo Milanes, Félix Chapotin, Elena Burke, Omara Portuondo, Beatriz Márquez, Rafael Lay and La Orquesta Aragon, and El Cuarteto Los De Enrique.

In 1990, Caridad began her professional career with a six-month stint in Trinidad, Cuba, in hotels Costa Sur and Ancón. Over the next ten years in Havana she went on to sing in many venues such as the Hotel Vedado, Casa del Thé, Bosque de Bologna, Bar Monserrate, Café Paris, El Patio, Villa Panaméricana and Cabaret Alibar. In 2002, her first CD, Caridad Cruz con el Grupo Habanero Son, was released.

In the fall of 2003, Caridad moved to Chelsea, Quebec to live with her Canadian husband Michael Bein. The following spring she made her performing debut in Canada with Jane Bunnett's Spirits of Havana in a Toronto concert Global Divas that earned her a rave review in the Globe and Mail and was aired nationally on CBC Radio. She soon appeared again in Toronto before an outdoor crowd of 1,000 people at Harbourfront Centre, where, backed by piano phenom David Virelles and conga master Luisito Orbegoso, she kicked open the show for French-African star Angélique Kidjo.

In 2006, Caridad toured New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut, accompanied by some of New York's leading Latin jazz players, like bassist Ruben Rodriguez and conguero Chembo Corniel. In Montreal, backed by the powerful 9-piece salsa band Ritmo Caribeño she sang a Celia Cruz retrospective, which was repeated in the 2006 Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.

In 2007, Caridad exploded onto the Ottawa scene, with appearances in the National Arts Centre’s Quebec Scene festival, the Ottawa Jazz Festival and the Ottawa Bluesfest. “Havana native Caridad Cruz packs a powerful punch,” read the Ottawa Citizen headline.

2008 saw Caridad headlining the Carnival of Cultures at the Astrolabe Theatre, making a return to the Ottawa Jazz Festival, appearing on Rogers TV with César Ricardo, and twice setting fire to the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage.

She appeared in 2009 at the Canada Day celebrations in Major’s Hill Park and at the Casino du Lac Leamy Festival of Sound and Light. She performed at the Ottawa Jazz Festival again that year and twice again in 2010, with one show broadcast nationwide and recorded by CBC Radio and made available on the internet through Concerts On Demand. In 2010 Caridad and César also made their third appearance at the NAC Fourth Stage as part of CHIN Radio’s World Music Showcase.

Caridad retains close family and musical ties to Cuba, and a love for her native country which is expressed proudly in her music.

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