Cuban Brothers: Thong & Dance

What do B-boying, Virgin Air, G-strings, Latin rhythms, the FTSE100 and Swan Lake have in common? The Cuban Brothers. MIKE KEAT drops his pants and reveals all to PARIS POMPOR.

Formed by notorious Edinburgh party larrikin Mike Keat (stage name Miguel Mantovani) the Cuban Brothers have been busting out their own brand of Latin-inspired dance music for close to 20 years. Dazzling festival audiences with comic, but gravity-defying B-boy moves, contagious Fort Knox Five-style breaks and attention grabbing onstage (and backstage) antics, it’s as if they know that for a performance to really go-off, sometimes the performers need to get it off.

Once down to underwear mid-show, some might find it hard to know where to go next. For The Cuban Brothers, the solution is simple: fling off of the bum-thongs to reveal Cuban cigars.

Starting off as a trio playing British back rooms, the four now perform on major stages around the globe – both music and comedy festivals – and this year plan to unveil their own TV show. In the interim were singles for labels Sunday Best, Jam City and Outta Sight (the latter with English soul rebel Mica Paris) plus a full album in 2013 entitled Yo Bonita.

To get a bit on the side (though presumably these are quite nice little earners) the often get asked to play celebrity parties for the filthy rich. People like Virgin boss Richard Branson.

“He does two parties,” Mike Keat says of Branson’s annual festivities. “One for his staff, and then one for his friends and family – which, if you can believe it, comes to 18,000 [people].

On the intimate night in question, Keat and his crew had just finished performing at the Isle Of White festival when they were choppered away to Branson’s helipad, then home in Oxfordshire.

Soon after touchdown, Keat, whose Cuban Brothers character is a sleazy mobster turned singer-dancer, was bouncing Branson’s daughter on his knee in a dressing room.

It should be pointed out that Holly Branson was in her mid-twenties at the time. Regardless, it wasn’t this indiscretion that angered the Virgin boss; the band refused to leave the dressing room until their regular cue music was played.

“Branson physically lifted me out of the chair and was kicking my arse out the door,” Keat recalls. “If it had been anybody else, there could have been some elbow to the temple work going on. I was like, hthank God you’re the Branson lad, eh? Because no one kicks my arse out of the dressing room!

The show went off and the two remain friends. “He’s a nice guy. I’ve got a lot of time for him, actually,” says Keats of the man John Lydon famously dubbed Catweazle after the Sex Pistols fiasco presumably made a longlasting friendship untenable.

Keat, who began life as a DJ in Edinburgh, regales his stories in an incongruous Scottish accent. When the Scot slips into his Havanan gigolo character Miguel Mantovani, the Cuban Brothers’ parody goes into full swing. On stage, Miguel is joined by his breakdancing protege nephew, Archerio Mantovani, sidekick Domencio and his Okinawan love child, the martial artiste Kengo San.

In band legend, Kengo San was sired on a night of hot Latin love in 1978, during his father’s national service in Cuba’s merchant navy. In real life, Kengo San is a Japanese trader, who wheels and deals the FTSE 100 on London’s stock market. It’s a bizarre and exhausting combination, given the Cuban Brothers’ tour schedule and physically demanding shows.

“He’s an unusual man,” Keat says, “he doesn’t sleep.”

Despite the compounding years, Keat also reveals the whole band’s enthusiasm is unwavering, whether they’re playing Robbie Williams’ Christmas party, a function for Jack Daniels or a Havana club: “We’d do the same gig at the postal service as we would at Robbie’s party.”

What if Elton John’s signing the invites?

“We might go a little camper,” says Keat. “We ended up in tutus. Elton had a lot of cats from the Billy Elliot musical [there]. The Swan Lake scene’s quite a big part in the musical, so we tried to take some bits from the Billy Elliot stage show to give them a bit of a buzz, as well. It was great fun.”

Are there any corporate gigs that Keat would turn down?

“Umm … Nah, probably not. I’ll bow down to the corporate cock.”

The Cuban Brothers play The Junction in Bondi for Rotary Disco on March 18 Go


MISDEMEANOR A pretty solid cover of Foster Sylvers’ kiddie-soul beauty from 1973, the same year Sylvers topped the charts with the lesser tune Boogie Fever. LISTEN

SO SWEET A celebratory look back at those “days in the hood, when it was good and you partied all night” with the divine voice of Mica Paris guesting. [Someone tell Mike that the wig has to go!] LISTEN

ROLL CALL RAP Upping the Latin vibe and lifted from their Yo Bonita LP, guest MC here is Kurtis Blow of The Breaks. LISTEN


Wednesday 22nd of February, 2017

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