Those wanting to know how intricate the fabric of the world's community of music is need only to have made pilgrimages to the last 15 Tropical Heatwaves.
Saturday's annual multistage event in downtown Ybor City is a palette of diverse musical styles whose colors blur in an exotic blend. While one stage crackles with the swamp boogie of a zydeco quintet, another bubbles over with the dance groove of an African soukous band as it performs decked out in native regalia.
"It's the ultimate dance party," says Randy Wynne, program director of WMNF-FM 88.5, the non-commercial, community radio station that stages the event each year as a prime fund-raiser. Since it began broadcasting in 1979, the station has been a champion of musical diversity and eclecticism. Tropical Heatwave, says Wynne, "gives us an opportunity to celebrate with a unique flair, along with the listeners who support us."
This year's event has even greater significance for WMNF, which must make up operating revenue that was lost when its state supplement funding was recently axed by the Florida Legislature. Says Wynne: "We typically receive about $40,000 from Heatwave, and that goes a long way at the station."
Eighteen acts will crank out music at the Cuban Club Courtyard, El Pasaje Plaza and Ybor Square, where groups such as jazz/funk revelers Michael Ray and the Cosmic Krewe and roots rocker Dave Alvin will operate. The indoor basement stage in the Cuban Club Cantina will feature bands including Pork Pie Tribe, Edison Shine and Baby Gopal.
"I think folks will be pleased with our efforts to partition the quieter acts from the high-volume groups," Wynne says. "We've also tried some creative scheduling that will work better for acts that like to play longer."
There will also be an array of food and beverage concessions that reflect the eclectic music bill.
Admission is $17 in advance, $20 at the door. Gates open at 5 p.m. and music starts at 6. Call 238-8001 for information.