Michigan salsa band says if you listen, you will dance

Oct 6, 2017

Grupo Ayé is a Cuban salsa band from Grand Rapids. And even if you don’t know how to dance, there’s at least one guy who thinks you won’t be able to help yourself when you hear their music.

“You have to dance to this music,” says Robert Mulligan, the band’s founder. “When you hear it, your body just naturally wants to move.”


On Saturday night, Grupo Ayé comes to Traverse City to perform at the Groundwork Center’s Harvest Festival. 

The band’s two frontmen are from Cuba. Robert says a lot of the tunes they play are old, standard Cuban songs that they’ve adapted and arranged in their own way. And audiences seem to love it. 

“We are such an energetic band,” Robert says. “We are all having so much fun and I think that’s contagious. When people come out to see a band like ours, they’re coming out to have fun.” 

Robert Mulligan studied jazz at the University of Cincinnati. That’s where he met a Cuban gentleman who asked him to play with their band during rehearsal.  

“And one thing led to another,” says Robert. “I became a member of that band.”

Robert is not Cuban, or Latino. In fact, he says before he was asked to play with that band, he never played any Latin music, or even spoke Spanish. But today Robert Mulligan is a Spanish professor with his own Latin band - Grupo Ayé.

“When I formed the band, one of my objectives was, when we’re done with a show, I want the audience to be exhausted,” he says. “I want them to walk away from the show inspired and having had just an absolute ball.” 

Grupo Ayé performs at the Groundwork Center’s Harvest Festival at the Grand Traverse Commons Saturday night. For more information, click here.