By Jessica Laub Special to Published Oct 13, 2007 at 10:18 AM

I went down to the United Community Center to catch Bobi Céspedes and her band last night and was pleasantly blown away by her authentic vocals and heartfelt rhythm. Bobi sported long, gray dreads to frame her  angelic face and wowed the crowd with her powerhouse voice. Her band consisted of musicians on piano, (baby grand) stand-up bass, guitar, bongos and congas (with liberal dose of cowbell and gourd thrown in). The talented pianist did double time on the trumpet. What they created together was nothing less than amazing.

Bobi sings in English, Spanish and Lucumi, the mother tongue of the descendants of the Yorubas of West Africa in Cuba. She was born the youngest of a musical family of 14 in a town on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba and grew up with music and magic all around her. Bobi is a priestess in the Yoruba-Lucumi tradition and her music is consequently spirit-filled and inspired. She left Cuba in 1959 for New York, and currently resides in California.

One of the first numbers the group played was “Rezos” (the title track to her latest CD) a musical prayer for tranquility, money and health. Bobi was off to a jammin' start. It quickly became quite clear that she could surely shake it.

Just when I was feeling proud to be a sort-of Hispanic American (by marriage that is) Bobbi broke out with “Buenos Días America” and the trumpet sounded, and the drums beat, and there was no way I could stop my feet. Bobi taunted, “Bailén! Bailén! Bailén!” but alas, no one was dancing. “Don't make the gringa be the first one to dance,” I thought, because I am going to have to do it, and it's not going to be pretty. Bobi set the crowd straight after that and said, “We are going to have to come to a little understanding about what that extra space in the aisles is for.” Thank you, Bobi.

Bobi then broke into a gorgeous ballad, one of those songs that she claimed didn't even know she knew, but had somehow seeped into her veins. Ah! The trumpet was so shiny, so, so lovely -- in more ways than one.

Then, she crooned “Como Te Extraño” to someone she loves who has gone away in hopes that somehow he will here it and know that he is still close to her heart. My head filled with the people I miss -- parted by time, geography, mortality. Her soulful song brought me to tears.

Somewhere along the way the pretext of speaking English fell away, y las mujeres empezarón a bailar. Se ponía libre y alegre el alma. Good energy vibrated through every screw in every seat in that hall. And those two smooth, little sticks they used to hand out in music class? They're mighty powerful in the right hands.

Jessica Laub Special to

Jessica Laub was born in Milwaukee in the spring of 1970, thereafter spending her childhood days enjoying the summers on the shores of Lake Michigan and winters at the toboggan chute in Brown Deer Park.

Alas, she moved away to broaden her horizons, and studied out East for a few years at Syracuse University. After a semester "abroad" at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, she graduated with a B.A. in English and advertising.

After college, she worked at Glacier National Park, a ski hill in Steamboat, Col. and organic farms in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California.

In 1995, Laub moved to Nicaragua where she worked on community gardens, reforestation and environmental education as a Peace Corps volunteer. While there, she learned to speak Spanish, pay attention to world politics and how to make tortillas.

Laub then returned to Milwaukee to join the ranks of the non-profit sector. Currently, she works at the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) and keeps busy by painting, throwing pots, reading, trying to understand her two-year old son, seeing performances and howling at the moon.