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Cuba Oriente heads Down East 

Picture surrealist paintings where instead of Dali's desert of melting timepieces on bare branches, there's a tropical landscape with U.S. dollars pasted on the shantytown walls. Or, picture trash-strewn sugar cane and tobacco farms painted with a ruthless realism that would make Breughel blush. That's a sampling of the diversity of art from eastern Cuba on display now at the Community Council for the Arts Center in Kinston. It's the first stop on a 10-city national tour and the only museum in North Carolina to host the traveling exhibition, organized by the Meridian International Center in D.C., of works from the private collection of Clyde Hensley.

Hensley loaned over 60 oil paintings by 10 living artists ranging in age from 30 to 93 for the show, entitled Cuba Oriente: Contemporary Painting from Eastern Cuba. But that's only a fraction of his personal stash of Cuban art, over 300 pieces worth. The Florida collector is so passionate about the artists of Oriente province, in particular, that he founded the Eastern Cuba Cultural Exchange Association in order to provide them with materials and travel opportunities and to help them sell and exhibit their work.

Word has it that Triangle musicians will play Afro-Cuban music at the show's gala reception and reception, 7-10 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 19. Collector Hensley will attend the $25 per person reception, featuring sustenance for the body as well as the soul, with munchies and an open bar. Make reservations for this event at (252) 527-2517.

There's a poetic justice to the artwork of eastern rural Cuba ending up in Down East tobacco country, strengthened by the fact that Hensley has family connections to the region. The Kinston Arts Center's executive director, Sandy Landis, is eager to get the word out about such rare artworks touching North Carolina soil.

"The exhibit is fabulous. We are so privileged to have this show, we are still a bit in shock that we have it."

The show runs now through Sept. 2 at the Community Council for the Arts Center (CCA) at 400 N. Queen St. in Kinston. The gallery is closed Sunday and Monday, open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The exhibition will move on to Columbus, Ohio, in two weeks, so don't miss this opportunity to encounter Caribbean culture so close to home.

Local live music. Local Latin trio Saludos Compay is back from July hiatus and is becoming pretty ubiquitous in the open-air concert scene. See them Saturday, Aug. 28 at CaFfé Driade in Chapel Hill at 8 p.m., or at Weaver St. Market in Carrboro from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 29. Get the latest gig info via saludoscompay@erich leith.com .

Our May Band of the Month Samecumba plays salsa, merengue and more on Bakus' patio in Durham, Saturday, Aug. 21. Info at www.samecuba.net. Club scene. TAL Promotions led by Tai Lopez, who has taken over the reins of First Fridays at Parizade , expanded Latin party central to downtown Raleigh this month. 518 West Italian restaurant (on West Jones Street off Glenwood) is the site for this latest international soiree, which will be a monthly affair. Check out the new digs, see pictures of the "beautiful people" who turn out, or register for upcoming parties at www.trianglefiesta.com . This Saturday, Aug. 21 they host Latin dancing at George's Garage in Durham, and Friday, Aug. 27 the International Music Dance Party at Spice Street restaurant in Chapel Hill.

You never know what you might see on the dance floor at Montas International Lounge in RTP these days. Their first Salsa Congress came off without a hitch in July, with elegant out-of-town guests from Atlanta, New York, Boston, D.C., and Miami. A few breakdancers have been busting moves on Saturday nights, during the reggaeton and Latin rock sets that pump up the crowd after 1 a.m. New on Friday nights at 9:30 p.m., Duke/Durham salsa choreographer Nick Ortiz gives introductory classes in Casino Rueda--that Cuban brand of salsa with called moves and revolving partners that looks like a funky yet sinuous version of square dancing. No experience or partner necessary, but leave your sneakers at home (you will need smooth soles to look smooth, guajiro). The price is $5 for Montas members and $10 for non-members; see www.montaslounge.com for directions.

La Maraka on recent Saturday nights has been so hot the dance floor literally sweats. They play nice long sets of the tropical genres, salsa, cumbia, merengue, but also more esoteric regional tastes like the punta (Honduras) and quebradita (Mexico). Club Bounce (with separate admission) plays hip hop next door, so this could be your one-stop entertainment center on Hillsborough Road in Durham. x

News for the Latin Beat? E-mail Sylvia Pfeiffenberger at spike@duke.edu .

  • Kinston snags Cuban art exhibit

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