Sunday, June 10, 2012

The World's Salsa Music Capital


After having grown up in New York City where salsa music was born right after the beginning of U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, Puerto Rican New Yorkers like Tito Puente, Willie Colón, and Ray Barretto  continued the legacy of Cuban music, called “Latin” by many, and improvised using Puerto Rican bomba and plena music, jazz, and even some R&B to create what we know today as salsa music.

Salsa is Spanish for “sauce,” and the improvisations by Puerto Rican musicians was like putting sauce on an original dish. Of course, New York City has been the capital of salsa music for decades. 

Then other genres of Latin music gained in popularity in New York, such as merengue and bachata with the influx of immigrants from the Dominica Republic, and of course, reggaetón; very popular among young Latinos. 

New York City has been described by a friend as a melting pot for musical styles. In the film Cantante, meaning singer, which is about the late salsa music megastar Hector Lavoe, there was a scene when Lavoe was told by maestro Willie Colón that he needs to show the world that salsa music still rules, despite the influx of other Latin music genres, and it turned out that his concerts were not filled to capacity as before. 

I've heard people claim Los Angeles and Miami as salsa music capitals. Even several publications like Latin Beat Magazine was published in Los Angeles. 

When I went to Havana, Cuba, I was in salsa music heaven, but timba music reigned supreme. I was so surprised that Havana didn't even have a salsa music radio station. Recently, I was reading an article in a black Colombian magazine called Ébano, Spanish for Ebony, stating that Cali is the salsa music capital, and it makes perfect sense. 

My former supervisor at work, who is Colombian, knew that I was planning a trip to Colombia and that I love salsa, highly recommended that I visit Cali. Considering that three of my favorite salsa bands, Grupo Niche, Grupo Caneo, and Sonora Carruseles are from Cali, my supervisor hit a hot button with me.

In Cali, these days, people assert that salsa music moves millions as it is Cali's greatest tourist product and is an integral part of the city’s cultural fabric.  A New York journalist visiting Cali says salsa music is a way of life, a day hardly went by without her hearing it. The owner of one of the most reputable dance schools in the city, Rucafé, has been involved in 33 international salsa congresses, and has seen Cali evolve into a world power of salsa music. 

Below, salsa music megastar Oscar De Leon, of Venezuela, sung one of his biggest hits... Yo “Me Voy Pa' Cali (I'M GOING TO CALI).”

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