By Kathleen Curry
Contributing Writer

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havana nights voodoo tiki bar west ashley gina castillo
Gina Castillo Latin Jazz Quartet plays Voodoo every Sunday night for Havana Nights.

Famous for its notorious Lunacy parties and the liveliest Mardi Gras party east of N’awlins., Voodoo Tike Bar & Lounge has been a fixture for unscripted fun on Magnolia Road for eight years. It shares a block with Mellow Mushroom, Pearlz, and Al Di La, but this Voodoo certain has a style all it’s own and developed a reputation of putting on unique events. So it’s no surprise that Voodoo has teamed up with Spirit Moves dance studio and Gino Castilo’s Latin Jazz Quartet to introduce Havana Nights from 7-10 p.m. every Sunday.

There will be salsa dancing, Latin jazz. The bar has innovative light and dark rum cocktails, $5 Mojitos and sangrias (sponsored by Shellback Rum), along with bar manager Caroline Adams’ famous seasonal flavor-infused liquors. The kitchen serves up ever-evolving dishes with tongue-in-cheek names created by chefs Chris “Toker” Smith and Craig Nettles. For Havana Nights, there will be Latin-influenced specials and half-priced tacos.

voodoo tiki bar havana nightsCuban hand-percussionist Gino Castillo hails from Ecuador. He’s lived in Cuba and New York City, and toured the largest cities in South and North America. Ironically, he moved to Folly Beach in 2010 to join an act that didn’t work out. And yet, life here has worked out better than he had ever expected. “I love Folly Beach, and summer. Now I am in love with Charleston. That happened in Cuba too. The feel of walking downtown is like walking in Cuba.”

With the energy and persistence that he brings to his musical craft, Castillo quickly connected with other musicians here, playing different styles of music at venues like Pal Joey’s, Barsa, La Nortena, Voodoo, The Mezz, and with the Charleston Jazz Orchestra. He also started teaching hand percussion, collaborating with Joey Clark at School of the Arts and with the local Djembe (African drum) players. Quentin Baxter, drummer and The Mezz musical director, helped make Havana Night a reality when Castillo shared the idea for an authentic Cuban event in Charleston. “Quentin introduced me to Voodoo. Sundays will be a special night becauseport [Voodoo] thought of everything,” says Castillo.

Every Sunday afternoon, Spirit Moves Dance Studio has salsa lessons at their studio, taught by instructors Luis Boria and La Quinn. Following the lesson, the dancers head over to Voodoo, where rum will be pouring and salsa music playing promptly at 5 p.m. Castillo and the Quartet take the stage at 7 p.m., playing American classic jazz tunes, like Coltrane (this month), with Latin style and energy. In between sets the salsa cranks back up again, then Castillo’s band returns for a second set, playing tracks from their soon to be released, locally-themed album ChaCha Charleston. Two tracks include “Baile Cha Cha Cha Charleston”, an autobiographical song about Castillo’s move from New York to Folly Beach, and a cover of Gershwin’s “Summertime”, written on Folly Beach for the famous Charleston opera “Porgy and Bess”.

Castillo’s Latin Jazz Collective is a seven-piece band; their next show is at The Mezz owntown on Feb. 27. “Charleston really knows its jazz standards, the fans are very receptive--it’s wonderful,” says Castillo, who notes that Latin jazz, features a lot of jamming and improvisation; unlike salsa, or Brazilian samba, it’s not dance music. Castillo says he enjoys the versatility of playing different styles of music. It keeps him dynamic and competitive with his peers back in New York. He holds himself to a very high standard: “One day I want to say “I was the number one, not the only one.” Castillo also has ambitions for a local Cuban Congo drum line, collaborations with local Djembe drum students, workshops with local schools, and the develpment of a bigger hand percussion community than Charleston has ever experienced.

Voodoo is located at 15 Magnolia Road. For more information call 769-0228 or visit