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Through indifference or ignorance, Santiago has been busking at the southern end of the North Park Farmer's Market (Queen Bee's usually claims the north side). Santiago needs money and players for a new conjunto; there's no time to wait for official gigs in enclosed spaces. A 23-year-old Columbian via Argentina, he has a matador's nimble reaction to a challenging start: as he strums his first chord, a large woman rounds the corner on a double-wide bike, crowding his left side. Halfway through the song, when a disabled woman throws a dollar a foot away from his tip hat, he stops to retrieve the dollar and pat her on the shoulder before running for a napkin to sop up the drink she's spilled on his blanket.

Undaunted by this or the violinist who's been collaborating with him -- today a no-show -- he digs into some original folk and reggae. When singer and djembe-player George arrives, the spark of collaboration ignites as his harmonies join Santiago's bright tenor. Sometimes nearby vendors applaud or someone stops to offer a compliment or a dollar. A woman asks if Santiago plays parties and buys a CD. George leaves for yoga class. Santiago plays "Tumba Esa Negra," a lilting song with which the Gipsy Kings could fashion a monster hit. The sky's clouded up; customers are waning. I hope this guy doesn't give up.

  • Concert: Santiago (aka Todo Mundo)
  • Show date: March 18
  • Venue: North Park Farmer's Market
  • Seats: a few feet away
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