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Battle of Santiago combines ancient Afro-Cuban rhythms and chants with a distinctly Canadian post-rock spirit and sensibility. The result is a wholly unique sound that tells a universal 21st Century story, transcending borders while staying rooted in one city’s immigrant experience.

“There are a couple of different Battles of Santiagos to choose from” explains the group’s founder Michael Owen. “there were a few in Cuba, mostly during the Spanish-American War, and there was even an infamous World Cup match in Chile that’s been given the name, too. So you can take your pick. We liked that ambiguity. It reflects how our music can change and take on different vibes. The name also implies some kind of soundclash, which works for us since the band has both a Latino section and a non-Latino section, and that dynamic can create a really exciting creative tension.”

While Canada is well-known for its thriving indie rock and electronic scenes, with acts as diverse as Grimes and God Speed You Black Emperor, the country is seldom thought of as a Latin music hotbed. But Toronto hosts many thriving immigrant communities — including one of the largest Cuban expat communities in North America — and The Battle of Santiago is strongly rooted in the city’s wealth of Cuban musical talent.

“The group has always had a strong Afro-Cuban base,” Owen explains. “In the beginning we had a much more pan-Latin mix, with members from Chile, Venezuela and Mexico. But as the band evolved we added more and more Cuban members until we reached a critical mass, and our sound has taken on a much stronger Cuban flavour as a result.

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