TUNES FOR TUESDAY -- Discos Fuentes

I think we have established quite well that Fania Records greatly influenced the development and recognition of Salsa music as a genre. But, how does all this connect with Colombia? Well, that's our next topic. Bear with me because we are going to go back in time again as we search for the intersection of Salsa Music with Colombian music.

This story begins in la Costa, the Colombian Caribbean coastal area, where the historic cities of Santa Marta, Barranquilla, and Cartagena are located. From these port cities, the slave trade spread the African musical influence throughout the region. Here in the Caribbean Region of Colombia, African music continued to evolve, mix, and change until it eventually spun out cumbia and vallenato among other rhythms.

It was in Cartagena that Antonio Fuentes was born to his wealthy parents in 1907. In 1920, Antonio was sent to the United States to finish High School. Apparently, during a break from his studies, Antonio visited Philadelphia's RCA studios. There he saw music being recorded and pressed to cylinders and the original 78 rpm vinyl discs.

Antonio was so impressed and inspired by what he saw that upon his return to Cartagena, he established a radio station, Emisora Fuentes, in 1932. Two years later, in 1934, he founded the iconic Discos Fuentes record label. Colombians old enough to remember vinyl records will remember the traditional yellow label. Colombians not old enough, just ask your parents or grandparents, or look around the room where the equipo de sonido is kept, you will find one.

Anyway, with his record label and radio station, Antonio Fuentes began introducing his growing audience to costal rural traditional rhythms such as mapalé and porro. This is remarkable because Colombian musical mainstream up to that point had favored rhythms that had a more European pedigree, namely bambucos and pasillos. These European based rhythms were also the music of the white elites who ruled the country from the cold altiplanos of the interior. Thus, Antonio Fuentes' station and label, ushered the beginning of the Costeño music invasion that would overtake the entire country of Colombia.

Let's pause here to sample a Mapalé. This is perhaps the fastest of Colombian folkloric dances, which is a very important fact in our story, as we shall see. . . This one is performed by street dancers in Cartagena.


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