Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca heat up the Boulevard Music Summer Festival

Ricardo Lemvo is living out his musical dreams
Photo by Ernesto Huerta

Ricardo Lemvo’s press coverage may have spiked in the early 2000s, when his “São Salvador” and “Mambo Yo Yo” albums were reaping enthusiastic reviews and his band appeared in the 1998 Chayanne vehicle “Dance With Me,” but he’s remained a dependably entertaining, sharp-dressed presence on the Southland’s salsa circuit.

The multilingual salsero has often spoken of growing up next door to a bar and soaking up Congolese soukous, Cuban rumba, and American funk, soul and rock ‘n’ roll blasting out of speakers mounted outside his family’s compound in Kinshasa (in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). He memorized songs with dreams of fronting his own ensemble, and learned English singing in R&B cover bands.

As a teenager, Lemvo relocated to the States with his family in 1972 with plans to become a lawyer, but after studying political science at Cal State LA, practicality was elbowed aside by his celebratory, genre-meshing music as he and his Makina Loca bandmates honed their sound at clubs like the Rococo Room in Pasadena and the now-defunct Luna Park in Hollywood. When his debut album, “Tata Masamba,” came out in 1996, Lemvo found himself championed by the late salsa promoter and Los Angeles Salsa Festival creator Albert Torres, whom he’d befriended in the early ’90s scene that revolved around the Miami Spice club on Lincoln Boulevard.

Torres and many of those salsa clubs are now gone, but Lemvo continues to tour festivals and cultural centers with his game band of percussionists, guitarists and horn players, his voice still warmly expressive. They perform for Culver City’s Boulevard Music Summer Festival on Thursday, July 20.


— Bliss Bowen

Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca perform from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, July 20, at Culver City’s City Hall, 9770 Culver Blvd. Free. Call (310) 398-2583 or visit boulevardmusic.com.