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Florida International University concert features songs about Cuba `Classically Cuban: The World Sings to Cuba,' is the title of the upcoming Christmas concert sponsored by the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University.

Emilio Cueto has a deep passion for history, especially when it comes to his native Cuba.

``I collect and research things about Cuba and, among the things I collect is music that foreigners have written about Cuba,'' said Cueto, 65, a Washington,

For the second year in a row, he is sharing some of the music he has collected with music students at Florida International University. The music is part of the Cuban Research Institute's annual Christmas concert on Saturday evening.

Last year's theme focused on war; this year's concert, titled Classically Cuban: The World Sings to Cuba, has a more international flair.

``I am very excited about it because it is a way to share with people what we are about,'' said Cueto. ``There is so much more that we don't know [about Cuban culture] and the university is a manifest setting to explore it.''

The concert will include songs from 22 countries, four continents and seven languages that were written during the 19th and 20th centuries.

``Cuban music is well known and well researched and that's all well, but fewer people know that foreigners have written songs about it,'' said Cueto.

``They have been inspired by the country's women, palm trees or by taking poems from Cuban poets,'' he said.

Japan, Australia, Germany and Brazil are among the nations that will be represented. Performers such as vocalist Ernesto TresPalacios are happy to see that the concert will have such an international flair.

``I welcome everyone to come and take part. It's a concert that will warm the heart of anyone who has a love for the Cuban people and Cuban culture,'' said TresPalacios, 38, of Coral Gables.

TresPalacios is a classically trained opera singer who will be singing several songs in English, French, Italian, Spanish.

Although the Cuban-American has never been to the island, he sees the allure.

``It's a very laid back culture. They don't even say their R's and S's because they don't have the time and it's too hot,'' he jokes.

FIU music professor Armando Tranquilino is the director of the show. He will perform as well.

``It's amazing that so many counties have written about this tiny island,'' said Tranquilino. ``A lot of this music hasn't been played in God knows how long.''

This is the second year that Tranquilino and Cueto have collaborated on the concert.

Cueto contacted the CRI last year because he had found songs about the Cuban war of independence. FIU then connected him with Tranquilino.

With the number of countries represented, Tranquilino said it was only fair that they play the music in alphabetical order by country, so no bias is shown.

The last song played will be I'll See You In C-U-B-A, by U.S. composer Irving Berlin.

``The song was written in the '20s during [the U.S. Prohibition era]. If you wanted to have a good time, you'd go to Cuba,''

said Tranquilino, who noted there will be a ``nice surprise'' at the end of that song.

``The topic is Cuba. The people of Cuban origin who come will be gratified to hear others sing songs about the country, and people from other counties will be gratified to know that their country sang to Cuba.''


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