TUNES FOR TUESDAY - Intro to Salsa History
Ok, back to Salsa. The link between Salsa Music and Colombia may be better understood from a historical perspective. One ironic fact of Macondian proportions is that Salsa Music may rightfully wear a label that reads MADE IN USA. This may surprise even Colombians. While Salsa wasn't really born in the US, it was definitely assembled here. Yet, the component elements came from various and diverse suppliers.
During the musical "British Invasion" of the 1960s, as groups such as The Beatles were injecting new energy to the creative minds of Rock and Roll musicians, Caribbean immigrants in New York were witnessing the withering of the Cuban rhythms-- among them the Son, the Rumba, the Montuno, and the Charanga.
But the new creative fever caught the eye - and ear- of the young immigrant generation in places like Spanish Harlem. They started to tweak the Afro-Cuban rhythms and created a new sound, Salsa. The genealogical music tree of Salsa is worth a separate discussion. For now, let me just add that the man credited with coming up with the name for the new rhythm was Izzy Sanabria, a graphic designer from Fania Records, and that Cuban musicians were reluctant to accept the new term, until Celia Cruz, very Cuban herself, started asserting that Salsa was just another way of saying "Cuban Music."
As the popularity of Salsa grew, three main centers became rapidly established as Salsa's natural hotbeds: New York, where the Puerto Rican immigrant musicians abandoned their folkloric rhythms in favor of the new style; Miami, where Cuban immigrants made it the music of the Cuba-without-Fidel movement; and, Colombia where an explosion of talent and innovation took the rhythm to new levels.
But another key word here is Fania. The label gathered the best talent Salsa had to offer at the time under a single umbrella. Eventually, Fania Records would become better known for its creation of The Fania-All-Stars or Las Estrellas de Fania, the Dream Team of Salsa music.
Not just a Salsa Orchestra, Fania-All-Stars was also a Salsa University. And as an appetizer to the history of Salsa music, here today are two of Fania's most celebrated alumni:
Hector Lavoe (vocals) and Willie Colón (on Trombone) performing La Murga.
Though they are not Colombians, no playlist would be complete without them. Watch the video, dance to the song, and we will gather here again next week to talk more about them!