BOOGALOO

 

 

by José Calderón, Senior Editor

 

 

 

With the slow but strong resurgence of the Boogaloo, a popular dance genre combining the Latin musical components of mambo, cha cha cha, guajira and son montuno and the African-American rhythm and blues, characterized with both English and Spanish lyrics, a light discussion is warranted.

 

While this type of music became popular slightly before my lifetime, I've heard it literally from birth and have loved it, unknowingly.  I've also deeply admired the artists interpreting these lively tunes. When we think of Boogaloo, people that come to mind almost immediately are Pete Rodriguez, Johnny Colón, Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz, and Joe Cuba.  But so many others dabbled at it, making a significant impact, showing that the move was hip and marketable.

 

Here are some of the classics that characterize the scene incomparably:

 

I've had the honor of sitting with incredible musician, Johnny Colón, and hearing briefly how he brain-stormed, creating some of his music back in those days.  

 

Aside from his landmark recordings and accrediting his unforgettable school of music in El Barrio,which gave fruit to many careers of well-known musicians, this unique gentleman recorded "Boogaloo Blues,"  a fact of expressing being Latino from the barrios of New York at that time, thus leading this tune as an ode to our urban experiences.

Each of the gentlemen pictured here, plus one more of the Joe Cuba Sextet, represented the true sound-track of the Boogaloo era, and this album depicts it completely.  With the piano riffs and arrangements by Nick Jiménez and the majestic voice of Willie Torres, sole survivors of the sextet, they were responsible for the enormous sound that flooded the airwaves of those days and continue to be an essential part of this resurgence.  

 

Jules "Slim" Cordero on the bass, Tommy Berrios on the vibraphone, Jimmy Sabater on the timbales, the uncanny voice of beloved Cheo Feliciano and the great marketer of this product, Gilberto Calderón aka Joe Cuba, on the congas.  An inevitable party took place during this recording, one we still celebrate fifty years later.

El Gran Combo, a musical institution, rebuilding itself from the exodus from Cortijo y Su Combo, has withheld the passage of time, navigating in their comfortable waters of Afro-Cuban rhythms, but with the Boogaloo, they truly make it their own. One of two albums completely dedicated to the genre, "Chua Chua Boogaloo,” shows significant power with its claps and piano riff in unison, being a tune used by then label owner and producer Guillermo Alvarez Guedes as an introduc-tion to his comedy-sketched recordings. 

 

By golly...he stills has it!

 

Joe Bataan has never lost that essential "soul" that has carried him for over thirty years. This Afro-Filipino has wowed the ladies and followers of the initial Fania era, past the disco years of Mericana/Salsoul, and right up until the present.  I can attest to his stage presence in recent shows, with the help of Ken Curtis, in promoting a really exciting presentation, just like "Riot"... "a good, good feeling!"

 

 

 

 

Some of the unique singles of the time...

 

Before Boogaloo was actually coined as a marketable nuance, this soulful single inundated the radio waves with the powerful percussion of Mongo Santamaria and the uncanny, sensual laugh of La Lupe.

 

 

 

The most significant bandleaders of the time, Pete Rodriguez, embellished the popular sounds as well as returning to basics in son montuno, and also making a delightful comeback with this new wave of interest.  After retiring from the music scene over thirty years ago, his return is a true delight among the old and the new.

Even the most authentic of bands, the world-renowned Sonora Matancera, known for its authentic Cuban rhythms, dipped into this genre briefly, showing a capability to play it. But it was only a brief dip, before returning to their savvy arrangements of guarachas, to the acclaim of Sonora Matancera's fans.

 

 

She did not earn the title of “Queen of Salsa” for nothing. Celia Cruz dabbled in all aspects of our music, demonstrating her constant ability to innovate and reinvent herself to attract multi-tudes of followers.  From Mexico to New York, Celia Cruz recorded Boogaloo and made it spicy and tasty as a succulent dish served on a platter, without missing a beat!

What has served as a bridge from yesterday’s  groove to today's awareness is the release of the following documentary:

 

 

This has helped to infuse deep interest in the genre and to fill in much of the informational gaps that have existed, due to lack of footage. I personally think this helps to tell the tale of the youth of the time, recon-necting to their roots while embrac-ing American culture, now making it available for purchase. It did not receive the true understanding that it merited at the time, but its revival helps to further explain the con-nection.  Also, it has given birth to new bands, further developing the music in current day.

 

An exciting approach to yester-day's funky Boogaloo in today's world is expressed by Spanglish Fly, a New York-based band of eleven talented musicians from different parts of the world, working in unison to preserve the spirit and essence of this awesome music.  With original tunes penned by them, Spanglish Fly is fun, invigorating and very unique.  

 

I can't wait to see them live at S.O.B.'s  on Saturday, April 2...!

 

 

 

What better way to promote the return of this music than to be launched by the label that began it all...FANIA!  Boogaloo Assassins (a name I can only attribute to "killing it," in conquering all that enjoy their sounds), an eleven piece band from Los Angeles, California, created in 2007, and known for their exciting performances. 

Whoever said Boogaloo was dead never saw this coming!  What's next...Disco????  

Senior Editor José Calderón, better known as “DJ José," has been playing independently for over twenty years in New York City. Born in Harlem of Cuban parents, he inherited a deep sense of cultural pride which only intensified as he listened to the music he heard consistently at home. Celia Cruz,  La Sonora Matancera, Johnny Pacheco, Orquesta Aragon and Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez are just a few of the artists who influenced his style of playing, which he describes as “a strong mix of Cuban and Puerto Rican conjunto style, saturated with New York flavor.” His pride is evident when spinning.  He states, “I've been given the honor and opportunity to play for a select crowd, and I vow to never disappoint them.”

 

An avid listener of Vicki Sola’s show,  DJ José has played at many well-known venues such as Side Street, Tropicana, Iguana’s, Windows Over Harlem, Leather Lounge, Salsa Wednesdays at Julia DeBurgos,  alternate Fridays at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, selected Wednesday’s at Jimmy Delgado’s Taino Towers, and the annual Quenepa dances in Long Island, emceeing and playing alongside many of the renowned bands of yesterday and today, as well as collaborating with many personalities. Supporting worthy causes has also been an important mission for him. He has joined forces with the Sanchez sisters’ Celebration of Life, and The Latinas Hat Society and their events. He maintains a bi-weekly email trail, informing Latin music aficionados of his own activities as well as those of his many colleagues throughout the city.

 

DJ José is a founding member of Salsa Warriors Radio;  indeed it was his on-air "Que Viva La Música" birthday party at WFDU-FM that inspired the formation of this unique twenty-four hour Internet radio station that features some of the music’s best DJ,s, from the New York metro area and beyond and has received worldwide acclaim.  His show “Boleros Con Soul” can be heard Sunday mornings at 8 a.m. ET and his program “Salsa……Y Algo Más” can be heard Monday evenings at 7 p.m ET on SalsaWarriors.com. 

 

Previously singing briefly with Benny Vargas and Sonido Amante after winning 2nd place in a Boleros contest at the 5th Annual International Latin/Tropical Music Collectors Festival held by Caribbean Cultural Center in 2008, José has been a member of Boricua Legends since May of 2015.
 
Topping it off, he currently belongs to the National Improv League, being one of twenty players comprised of some of the best comedians, actors and poets on the East Coast.  He states "Being a freshman in the art of performance and comedy, and being part of the National Improv League, I am personally willing to take on this new challenge...of course, under the guidance of all the wonderful professionals that surround me. Who knows, maybe I'll add a grain a salt to the mix!" ◊◊◊

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