By KARA POUND
It’s been more than two decades since Luis Mario Peral started his band, Luis Mario Peral & His Rumba Kings, at the now-defunct Habana Village Cafe that was located on King Street.
“I have been playing in St. Augustine for the past 30 years, both solo and with my band, covering many city events and area restaurants,” says Peral.
Today, Peral’s Rumba Kings consists of Tony McLeod on bass, Pepe Ramirez on conga drums and Peral providing vocals and playing guitar. The Latin jazz trio hails from St. Augustine, Jacksonville and Palm Coast.
“Our sound has a Latin beat,” says Peral. “It’s danceable with a jazz influence. I like to play Spanish and American oldies including Bolero, Rumba, Cha-chas, Merengue and Salsa.”
Born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Peral’s father was a musician and his mother was a piano teacher. He started writing music professionally at a very young age for theater, musicals and Spanish singers like Celia Cruz (a.k.a. “Queen of Salsa”) and Oscar D’Leon.
“Music is my life,” says Peral. “The first musician that inspired me was my father. When I was a young boy, I would play in his band. Music is a gift that I was given. When I see people’s reaction to my music, even if they don’t understand what I’m saying, I call it, ‘breaking the language barrier.’”
Peral remembers playing at St. Augustine’s 450 Celebration this past September on behalf of the Aviles Association on the Aviles Stage. “Even though it was raining, it did not stop people from singing and dancing,” he says. “And for a moment like that, I am so thankful that we can make our music happen.”
Luis Mario Peral & His Rumba Kings play cover tunes spanning multiple genres. Artists included in the band’s repertoire include Santana, Nat King Cole, The Beatles and Gipsy Kings.
Peral has recorded two albums. His first, “Café con Leche,” was recorded in Miami and features seven original songs that tell a “romantic story between a customer and a restaurant server.” The other album was recorded at Habana Village Café by Eclipse Recording Company.
The trio regularly performs at area haunts like European Village in Palm Coast and Tempo Restaurant & Bar in downtown St. Augustine every Friday night beginning at 9 p.m.