Bronson Tennis took off for Buenos Aires in 2009 looking for “something different.” He chose the city largely arbitrarily, except for the fact that Tennis heard the city had a good arts scene.
“Really I was just looking for inspiration,” he said.
The trip was the first time Tennis was extensively exposed to Latin music, and he came back to the Philadelphia area four years later – after two more stops in Brazil and Colombia – ready to start a band with the sounds of Latin America in mind. Before his trip, he had mostly been playing music in the vein of older bands like the Beatles, but also more contemporary ones like Jack Johnson. It’s a style of music he still appreciates, but it simply grew stale to him.
“I just felt like being in the U.S., the country was already saturated with guys like me,” he said.
But he returned to North America with the realization that Latin roots fusion music was his calling. He promptly started De Tierra Caliente, which is scheduled to perform as part of the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s summer concert series at Pastorius Park. The performance - the last of the season - starts at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 26, and the presenting sponsor is Temple Health – Chestnut Hill Hospital.
De Tierra Caliente roughly translates to “Of Hot Land.” And no, it’s not just because Latin America is a warm place.
“Basically what we’re doing is transmitting the energy and the vibe you feel in warm weather countries,” Tennis told the Local in a phone interview. “It’s as much about the feeling as it is about the music.”
It’s a feeling that makes the listener want to dance, Tennis said. Every De Tierra Caliente show features dancing, singing and clapping - whether or not the attendees know the songs or not.
“It’s like a carnival, you know?” Tennis said. “It’s warm, fun and inclusive.”
To get a taste for De Tierra Caliente’s music, listeners can check out the band’s first album, “Nadie Es Profeta,” released in 2015, or “Traigo Alegria,” released in 2018. Both albums use guitars, Latin percussion instruments and Tennis’ croon to create a funky mix of Puerto Rican and Cuban salsa, Dominican merengue, Colombian champeta and reggae.
The authenticity of the band’s catchy melodies, bellowing vocals and positive vibes landed them a residency at World Cafe Live, where they started playing First Friday shows in 2020. The residency, which Tennis credits with catapulting the band, lasted up until this year.
This fall, the group is planning on heading back into the studio to record its third album. Listeners can expect a preview at the Pastorius show.
“We got most of the songs together,” Tennis said. “We have them arranged and we’re giving them life and exploring them as we play shows.”
And when Tennis performs those shows, he has a goal in mind. He wants to get people “out of their heads.”
“It’s an opportunity for people to feel their emotions and feel their bodies,” he said. “We really want people to feel like they’re welcome and included."