B-Sides: (MUSIC & OTHER EPHEMERA) – American dreamer

In near-flawless English, Rafael Lopez-Prieto explains a new crop of demos he’s cooking up in his home studio.

The 28-year-old customer service rep, who you can find playing piano for the band Cosa Seria at New Albany’s Speakeasy Jazz Club, says his setup is modest, but he plugs his MySpace page (myspace.com/raflop) and asks me to hear for myself.

Lopez-Prieto came to the United States from Holguin, Cuba, where he studied classical guitar for three years.

In 2003, he, his brother and his parents arrived in Louisville by way of a lottery system set up between the two countries. The lottery offers Cubans a chance to come to the United States for good, provided they are selected and complete a series of interviews.

“It was very fast; we didn’t have to wait too much,” he says. They chose Louisville because they knew Cubans who lived here, and it was affordable. “We thought that it was good place for us to start. If you stay in Miami, there’s no possibility of getting good help to find a job.”
One relative is still in Cuba — Lopez-Prieto’s grandmother. It’s for her benefit and safety, and for that of his family, that he refrains from discussing Fidel Castro.

“We cannot speak about that. It actually might jeopardize her or us,” says Lopez-Prieto, because the family hasn’t ruled out returning to their homeland. “Even though we are here, (any comment) could be taken as something that is against the government.”

Such international and personal anxiety makes music a welcome respite for Lopez-Prieto, who has played with Cosa Seria for six months as their keyboardist, a skill he picked up from his mother.

Cosa Seria combines salsa, meringue and other Latin rhythms into a dance-friendly Creole. They play Saturday, March 8, at Speakeasy (225 State St., 812-981-0981).

It’s hundreds of miles from Holguin, to be sure, but it’s a sign he’s heading somewhere. “Sometimes you become homesick. Even though it is against your feelings, you need to do it.”

Mat Herron, LEO’s Music Editor. Contact him at [email protected]