Miguel Mantovani, leader of hip-hop comedy gang The Cuban Brothers, chats
There are many stories to tell about Miguel Mantovani, most of which are, sadly, unprintable. There are rumours of dubious connections in his native Cuba, tales of his early forays into the adult movie business, and legends of his two-fisted bar fights. There are even claims that he’s actually a Scottish entertainer called Mike Keat, but that one’s clearly nonsense.
What we do know is that he’s now the leader of The Cuban Brothers, a hip-hop/comedy cabaret quartet that count Elton John, Damien Hirst and Damon Albarn among their fans. Their blend of beats, breakdancing and banter has taken them all over the world. And now their leader, Miguel, tells us in a thick Cuban accent (and on the phone from Scotland, for some reason) how they do what they do.
Music ‘This show, it fuses musica, dancing and comedy into one fantastic show. The music? It is a mix of funk, soul, hip-hop, Latin and reggae. I grew up playing Latin musica and then I became the first person to do breakdancing in 1976, so that’s where I got my hip-hop chops. I interviewed Grandmaster Flash on MTV once, you know I freestyle-battled him and he admitted that I am the godfather of hip-hop. He is a nice guy but he is so grumpy, man. He needs to lighten up.’
Attitude ‘People ask what to bring to a show and I say, “Bring a smile, my friend.” It’s nice to be nice but it’s even nicer to be known to be nice. And if some guy is being nasty at the bar I will take the guy and I will break his arm off and I will shove it up his a*** so he will have problem moving his fingers because they are inside his oesophagus. Then I will stand on his throat. No, just kidding. I don’t do violence any more. Now we come in and we cuddle him to the ground. We are saying, “Is okay, no problem,” cuddling, cuddling until he doesn’t feel any anger any more. I did a bit of dodginess in the past – I had my own fighting style, which was like the drunken master technique with Latin hips. I swing my hips into the guy and send him flying. But now I am a lover not a fighter.’
Dancing ‘Well, we have been dancing for a long time using different styles: breakdancing, Latin breaking, popping and locking, a bit of contemporary dance, a little bit of ballet, some Yugoslavian peasant dancing… But all you need for the basics is some popping and locking. I actually have a performing school of arts. So if people want to sweat beneath me for months, we can work it out. And then they will be ready for anything, and they will be fabulous.’
Chest hair ‘My friend David Hasselhoff is far hairier than me – he is a very virile man – but these days I shave my chest anyway. The hair was good when I was an adult film star, but now the chicas like something smoother, you know? Me and my close friend, the actor Tom Selleck, used to jump up and touch chests so we stuck together like Velcro. Was great. But the times change.’
Clothing ‘Is up to you what you wear, but I have very beautiful suits in all kinds of colours. Also, we wear B-boy clothing for breakdancing sometimes, and Lycra. We sometimes make lycra suits for people: topless, bottomless, crotchless… any kind.’