Tag Archives: salsa

Artist Profiles: Los Titanes

Los Titanes

Los Titanes has been recognized as the most representative Colombian salsa orchestra in countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, Mexico, US, Canada, and in Europe. Conducted by trombonist Alberto Barros under the label Discos Fuentes, Los Titanes came to life in 1982.

A native of Barranquilla, Alberto Barros, musical director, (former musical director of Grupo Niche) pursued his academic studies in the city’s music conservatory. He also participated in other successful orchestras, namely that of Adolfo Echeverria and Pacho Galan. During that same year’s edition of the Carnaval de Barranquilla’s Music Festival, Los Titanes was awarded a Congo de Oro.

1986 was the year in which this orchestra first began recording albums, success didn’t take long to come their way. In 1989, the single “Sobredosis” topped the Salsa charts and became the most listened song of the year. From their fourth album, the title “Por Retenerte”, by Quindio-born composer Pedro Neira, became a smash hit.

Oscar Quesada, joined Los Titanes as a vocalist in 1989. Born in Barrancabermeja, Quesada first took part in a trio, through which he accumulated a number of awards, he then left to put together his own band, and finally joined the ranks of Los Titanes.

Brigido Cheverra, aka Macondo, sings Alberto Barros’ “No me Vuelvo a Enamorar” and Isaac Villanueva M.’s “Desnuda”. Macondo, born in Turbo, Antioquia, began his artistic career singing Folk and African-American melodies. Later, he took part in other orchestras and finally became a member of Los Titanes.

In November of 1989, Los Titanes traveled to the US. Their sixth release came in 1991, along with a Peruvian award as best international orchestra. In 1993, after 11 years in the music industry, Los Titanes began to be recognized as the best salsa representative by audiences in US, Spain, France, Belgium, UK, Switzerland and Latin America. “Basto una Mirada”, “Loca Pasion”, and “Dame una Oporunidad” are always awaited with expectation during any concert. These and other hits have a special place in the hearts of Salsa fans.

Los Titanes, today considered the international ambassadors of Colombian salsa, have everything that is necessary to succeed in the world of Caribbean music, and succeed they have. With their blend of a trombone driven Salsa rhythm, romantic lyrics, and accomplished vocals that have characterized their artistic style since the late 1980s.

Discography:

Los Titanes y Sus Invitados (1981)
Los Titanes (1982)
Llegaron los Titanes (1985)
Furor Bailable (1986)
Apriétala (1988)
Sobredosis de Amor y Salsa (1989)
Amor y Salsa (1990)
Tentación (1991)
En Su Salsa (1993)
Bastó Una Mirada (1993)
6a. Avenida (1994)
El Titán de la Salsa (1995)
Grandes Éxitos de Salsa (1995)
Rompiendo Esquemas (1996)
Salsa al Máximo Voltaje (1998)
Tributo a Héctor Lavoe “La Voz” (1999)
Salsa Magic (2001)
Tremenda Salsa (2001)
Salsa Super Power (2003)
Heavy Salsa (2003)
Mano a Mano (2008)
Tributo a la Salsa Colombiana Vol. 3 (2010)
Essential de Tributo a la Salsa Colombiana (2011)
Tributo a la Salsa Colombiana Vol. 4 (2012)
Tributo a la Salsa Colombiana Vol. 5 (2013)

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Artist Profiles: Alexander Abreu

Alexander Abreu

Alexander Abreu Manresa was born September 6, 1976 in Cienfuegos, Cuba. He comes from a family of nonprofessional musicians, including his grandfather who taught him to play the tres guitar.

As a boy, he wanted to be an athlete, but his mother took him to a school that tested abilities and he got the highest scores in music. Alexander started studying trumpet at age 11 and credits his mother for inspiring him to practice and pursue his career.

Originally, Abreu wanted to give up the trumpet and take up the flute, but his teachers understood his talent and insisted, predictively, that he stick to the brass instrument. At 18, the young musician moved to Havana to continue his studies at the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Arte (ENA), a breeding ground for Cuba’s best musicians. He graduated in 1994 and later would return as a professor, teaching trumpet.

In Havana, Abreu found himself at the focal point of the timba music upsurge that rocked Cuba in the early 1990s, marking an exciting evolution in the way Afro-Cuban dance music, or salsa, was performed. He played for six years with the innovative band of singer Paulito FG, one of the leading stars of the timba wave. Abreu’s skills were forged in this powerful ensemble, working together with two musicians he considers his greatest influences – Carmelo Andrés, his trumpet teacher; and producer/arranger Juan Manuel Ceruto. Several band-mates from this influential ensemble would go on to form part of Havana D’Primera, including Ceruto.

Abreu has also played and/or recorded with virtually every major act during one of the most exciting and creative eras in Cuban music. He was a member of the popular and esteemed band led by singer Isaac Delgado, who now lives in Miami.

Alexander Abreu

As a highly sought-after studio musician, Abreu has recorded with top acts in different styles, including famed dance band Los Van Van and powerful fusion group Irakere. He has also worked with poetic singer-songwriters such as Pablo Milanés and Amaury Pérez, who played trombone in Havana D’Primera. In addition, Abreu was recruited for previous all-star projects, such as the touring timba band named Team Cuba and the Grammy-winning Cuban roots recording “La Rumba Soy Yo.”

After the Cuban dance music scene started declining in 2000, Abreu traveled to Europe and spent time in Denmark, where he was invited to give master classes in trumpet and Cuban music at the jazz conservatory of Copenhagen. During an extended stay there, he joined Grupo Dansón, a band composed of Cuban and Danish musicians, serving as arranger and composer. Abreu appeared in Europe’s top music festivals and in 2002 he performed on the same stage with Sting, Lou Reed and James Brown as part of the benefit concert “Pavarotti & Friends.”

The time he spent performing abroad helped Abreu avoid the consequences of other Cuban timba bands, often considered too tailored to a home crowd and too hard for outsiders to dance to.

“I believe that to live outside of Cuba for a time has been one of the keys to the hallmark of this group,” said Abreu of his band. “Because I learned how to interact with people that don’t speak the language. I learned how to spread that same happiness and energy….You have to be precise with the rhythms and arrangements. You have to make sure that they are understandable, that they are solid, that they are clear, so that people understand.”

By 2007, Abreu was back in Havana putting together his own band. The aspiring bandleader returned home with only an developing concept, inspired by a New York salsa band he had seen in Copenhagen. There, he had watched the Grammy-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra, a group of veteran salsa musicians who came together with a common determination – to recapture some of the original sound and excitement of the great salsa bands of the 1970s. The group, led by pianist Oscar Hernandez who had played with salsa greats such as Ray Barretto and Ruben Blades, managed to generate enough nostalgia to initiate a one-band salsa revival, touring the world and recording various popular albums featuring star vocalists such as Blades.

That served as an inspiration to do something similar with session musicians in Havana,” said Abreu. “It gave me the strength to come to Cuba and say, ‘I can do it here.’ From that idea, basically, Habana D’Primera is born.”

Abreu brought together an ensemble of experienced musicians who had played with some of the best bands of that exhilarating era, a golden age of contemporary Cuban salsa and timba. Concerned about the decline of Afro-Cuban dance music, Abreu decided to continue the great tradition started by the very bands he had played with, such as Paulito FG y Su Elite and Isaac Delgado.

Since 2000, many of the leading timba stars had left Cuba, including Manolin, Isaac Delgado and Carlos Manuel, all of whom were Abreu’s colleagues and collaborators. In the meantime, young fans in Cuba flocked to foreign pop music styles such as rock, rap and reggaeton, leaving the legacy of Cuba’s rich native dance music to decay.

Alexander Abreu and Havana D’Primera

For Abreu and his new band, the challenge of generating a revival was overwhelming. No new Cuban dance band had managed to break into the top tiers of popular music acts since the turn of the century, when Cesar Pedroso broke away from Los Van Van and formed his own band, Pupy y Los Que Son, Son. Record companies, radio stations and nightclubs all focused on the latest fads, especially reggaeton which had removed salsa off the music charts. Amazingly, so many deejays had turned to reggaeton that there was no place to dance salsa in the capital of the country where the music was invented.

The crisis gave Abreu the opportunity to build a grass-roots fan base just like the timba pioneers had done at the start of the dance music movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That was known as “the special period” in Cuban history, a time of extreme economic difficulty when bands were forced to practice in the dark due to frequent blackouts and try out their material on stage due to a lapse in record production. For a while, Cuban dance music was all about the live performance, a need that helped stimulate creativity. Following his predecessors, Havana D’Primera began working live shows, building a following the old-fashioned way, one fan at a time.

Before long, fans were packing Havana d’Primera’s regular Tuesday shows at Casa de la Musica, a club and cultural center in the residential Miramar section of Havana. Even though they had not yet released a record, loyal fans memorized song lyrics from the live shows.

The weekly concerts were essential to the band’s development. Soon, the unknown band started to develop an underground buzz.

Alexander Abreu y Havana D’Primera – Haciendo Historia

Havana D’Primera recorded its first album Haciendo Historia in 2009.

In 2012, Abreu performed as an actor in the movie 7 Days in Havana, in the section “Tuesday Jam Session” with Serbian film director and musician Emir Kusturica.

The album “Cantor del Pueblo” won the Cubadisco Award in 2018.

Discography:

Haciendo Historia (EGREM, 2009)
Pasaporte (Páfata Productions, 2013)
La Vuelta al Mundo (Páfata Productions, 2015)
Cantor del Pueblo (Páfata Productions, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Gilberto Santa Rosa

Gilberto Santa Rosa

Salsa star Gilberto Santa Rosa was born August 21, 1962 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. He made his first recordings for Combo Records, the label of El Gran Combo’s maestro Rafael Ithier. Starting in 1990 he began achieving enormous success with his great shows in San Juan, which would become his trademark.

In 1995, El Caballero de la salsa (the gentleman of salsa) signed with the Sony label and from that time many of his CDs became gold and platinum. Gilberto Santa Rosa is one of salsa music’s superstars and a popular bolero singer as well.

Discography:

Perspectiva (Discos International, 1991)
A Dos Tiempos De Un Tiempo (Sony Discos, 1992)
Nace Aquí (Columbia, 1993)
Tres Con Cache (Bronco, 1993)
De Cara Al Viento (Sony Tropical, 1994)
En Vivo Desde El Carnegie Hall (Sony Tropical, 1995)
Escencia (Epic Records, 1996)
…De Corazón (Sony Discos, 1997)
Salsa Sinfónica En Vivo Teatro Teresa Carreño Caracas (Sony Discos, 1998)
Expresión (Sony Discos, 1999)
Romántico (Sony Discos, 2000)
Intenso (Sony Music, 2001)
Viceversa (Sony Discos, 2002)
Solo Bolero (Sony, 2003)
Auténtico (Sony Discos, 2004)
Asi Es Nuestro Navidad (Sony, 2006)
Directo Al Corazón (Sony Discos, 2006)
Contraste (Sony Music, 2007)
Irrepetible (Sony Music Latin, 2010)
Gilberto Santa Rosa (Sony Music, 2012)
Necesito Un Bolero (Sony Music, 2014)

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Les Moncada Chats with the Comandante of the Timbal, Louie Romero

Louie Romero

There are timbaleros and then there are timbaleros like no other. Louie Romero has a remarkable timbales soloing style. When I post his solos on our Facebook site Timbales and Congas Bongo Bata and bells, the sound on my computer is like a slot machine!

Louie Romero has performed and recorded with the greats, as a youth living in New York City as timbales player for trombonist Willie Colon and with the late vocal legend Hector Lavoe.

Louie Romero’s brother percussionists in the Willie Colon Orchestra were José Mangual Jr. on bongo and the late Milton Cardona on congas, the most feared percussion section in New York City and the world, besides the earlier Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo.

Louie Romero, now living in San Francisco, California, is still making his timbales smoke. He is a true timbales music lesson for the young players and for those fortunate enough to meet him.

Let’s see what Louie Romero has to say about his legendary timbales career.

In the midst of the hottest salsa cycle of the 1970’s with Willie Colon Orchestra: Louie Romero, the late Milton Cardona & Jose Mangual Jr.

Louie, tell us a little about your background, where you were born and raised, your parents’ ancestry.

I was born in Brooklyn, New York of Puerto Rican descent.

Jose Mangual Jr., the late Milton Cordona & Louie Romero, the Comandantes of percussion in New York City.

When did you first hear Latin music?

In my mom’s womb.

How old were you when you started playing timbales? Could tell us what led up to you choosing timbales as your main instrument. Did you play any other instruments?

Watching my Pop playing drum set and timbales. No other instruments except percussion.

Which bands or orchestras did you perform with?

George Guzman, Willie Colon Orchestra, La Conspiracion, David Amram and Estampa Criolla.

Louie, how did you start to play with Willie Colon? Can you tell us a little about your association with Willie, Hector and Jose Mangual Jr and Milton Cardona?

I was at the Broadway Casino in Manhattan when Willie approached me and asked me to join. With Willie Colon and Héctor Lavoe, it was mostly business. With Jose Mangual Jr. and Milton Cardona, that was really good connect.

Louie, what are you presently doing music wise in San Francisco, California?

I have my Latin orchestra Mazacote.

Louie Romero backstage with legendary flutist, Art Webb

Louie, what is your recommendation to timbales or Latin percussion students of today?

For them to learn from the best instructors and to utilize a metronome.

What does the future hold for you, Louie Romero, timbalero of timbaleros?

To continue teaching, performing and recording.

Louie Romero with conguero Javier Navarrette

I would like to thank Louie Romero for his time he spent for this interview and thanks for his lifetime dedication as a timbalero.

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Angelique Kidjo’s Spirited Celebration of Afro-Latin Music

Angelique Kidjo – Celia (Verve/Universal Music France, 2019)

As a young girl, Angelique Kidjo was inspired by Cuban singer and salsa star Celia Cruz. Angelique’s new album, Celia , recreates some of Celia’s most popular songs. It is also a celebration of Afro-Latin music as it includes salsa, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Peruvian material.

Angelique Kidjo – Celia

For this recording, Angelique sings in Spanish and chose some of the most Yoruban-influenced songs by Celia Cruz. Angelique’s band features well known musicians from Benin, the United States, the UK and Nigeria, including Nigerian Afrobeat trailblazer Tony Allen on drums, American musician Meshell Ndegeocello on bass, British jazz outfit Sons of Kemet, and acclaimed Beninese act Gangbé Brass Band.

Celia is a colorful and beautifully-delivered tribute to one of the essential vocalists from the 20th century.

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Artist Profiles: Dany Noel

Dany Noel

Dany Noel was born in Havana, Cuba. He began his performing career at only 8 years old singing and playing guitar. After taking up acoustic and electric bass, he began to play with the top son, salsa and timba groups from Cuba. Ultimately, he left his native country to settle in Torino, Italy.

Dany is a renowned bassist, musical director, arranger, composer, producer, singer and graduate of classical guitar at the Conservatorio Ignacio Cervantes de la Habana. He has collaborated and recorded with prestigious musicians such as Celia Cruz, Omara Portuondo, Chucho Valdés, Pio Leyva, Xiomara Laugart, Iovanny Hidalgo, Richie Flores, Jose Alberto El Canario, Richie Rey, Rey Sepulveda, Mayito Rivera, Roberto Van Van, Changuito, Alexander Abreu and Jerry Gonzalez among others.

He moved to Europe in 1997, first to Italy. Along with Cuban drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, he formed Italuba as bassist, musical director, arranger and composer.

Dany is currently living in Madrid and has worked with Spanish, Argentine and Greek artists Luz Casal, Victoria Abril, Lolita Flores, Ainhoa ​​Arteta, Mariza, Arvanitaki Elefteria, Fito Páez, Ojos de Brujo, José Luis Perales and film director Fernando Trueba in his movie Chico y Rita.

He has also entered the pop and flamenco scene, which has led him to record with artists such as Niño Josele; Concha Buika on her album Niña de Fuego, winner of a Grammy Award, produced by Javier Limón; and Limón’s project Son de Limón, as bassist, voices and arranger.

In his 2017 album, Por La Habana , Danny focuses on the roots of Cuban music, his ancestors and his own words: “It’s an album so that my parents and my people won’t stop dancing”.

Discography:

Mi Sentir (2006)
Dime Si Tú Sabes (2006)
Proposicion (2011)
Confidence, with Dario Chiazzolino (2014)
Tinta Unida (2014)
Por La Habana ‎(Abanico Records, 2017)

With Italuba:

Italuba (Timba Records, 2002)
Italuba II (Cacao Musica, 2006)

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Dynamic Salsa and Merengue

Son Real Orchestra – Salsa

Son Real Orchestra – Salsa (ARC Music, 20008)

The London-based Colombian band Son Real presents an excellent CD of vibrant, dynamic and very danceable salsa and merengue. The band has a funky rhythm section (percussion, piano, bass), a tight and bright brass section, and three female crooners who fill out the sound on the 13 tracks.

This is a must-have album for you Latin fans out there; our picks include the dancefloor tracks Aurorita, Corazon gitano and Ay papa ay mama. A perfect choice for your Friday and Saturday parties!

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Angelique Kidjo to Release Celia Cruz Tribute Album

Angelique Kidjo – Celia

African music star Angelique Kidjo is set to release her new album Celia (Verve/Universal Music France) on April 19, 2019. The new recording reimagines and celebrates “The Queen of Salsa,” Cuban artist Celia Cruz. Guests on the album include Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen on drums, Meshell Ndegeocello on bass, Sons Of Kemet, and Gangbé Brass Band.

Angelique Kidjo is currently touring the United States, presenting songs from her 2018 album Remain In Light, which reconceptualized the music of influential rock band Talking Heads.

She will be at the Savannah Music Festival on April 6th, 2019 and at Carolina Theatre in Durham, North Carolina on April 8th. Other tour dates include:

April 11
Ulster Performing Arts Center
Kingston, NY

April 12
McCarter Theatre Center
Princeton, NJ

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Spanish Harlem Orchestra Wins Best Tropical Latin Album 2018 Grammy Award

Spanish Harlem Orchestra – Anniversary

The album Anniversary by legendary New York City salsa band Spanish Harlem Orchestra is the winner of the Best Tropical Latin Album 2018 Grammy Award.

Anniversary is the sixth album by the spectacular 13-piece all-star salsa big band led by pianist, composer and arranger Oscar Hernández.

Nominees

Pa’ Mi Gente – Charlie Aponte
Legado – Formell y Los Van Van
Orquesta Akokán – Orquesta Akokán
Ponle Actitud – Felipe Peláez

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Artist Profiles: Diego ‘El Cigala’

Diego ‘El Cigala’

‘El Cigala’ (the langostine or Norway lobster) is the nickname given by the Losada brothers to Diego Jimenez Salazar.

Cigala is a Gypsy singer-songwriter born in Madrid in 1968 and nephew of Rafael Farina. Since his childhood, he has been singing in his Madrid neighborhood of El Rastro (known for its large, popular flea market), later doing the same in the peñas (Flamenco fan clubs), and at the age of 12 he won a prize in the Gente Joven (Young People) competition and first prize in the Flamenco Joven (Young Flamenco) competition in Getafe (a city in Madrid’s southern metropolitan area).

He has accompanied such famous dancers as Cristóbal Reyes, Mario Maya, Manolete, Carmen Cortés, Guito, Farruco and Manuel Camacho. He has performed on records by Camarón, Paco Peña, Gerardo Núñez, Tomatito, and has worked with renowned musicians of the likes of Jorge Pardo, Carlos Benavent and Michel Camilo, to name but a few.

He has traveled the world over, visiting Iraq, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, United States and more.

In 1994, he embarked on his solo career accompanied by the guitarist Antón Jiménez and was chosen by the public of the Sala Revolver concert venue in Madrid as Best New Artist of the year.

In 1995, he shared the billing with Morente, Mercé and Parrita. In May of that year he released Undebel with the participation of David Amaya, Paquete, Parrita, J.M. Cortina, Bandolero, Chaboli and El Piraña.

El Cigala’s best known collaboration was the recording Lágrimas Negras with Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes. These two renowned performers, from two distinct disciplines, joined forces to create a third, powerful and distinctive musical language. Bebo Valdés was the pianist and composer arranger who helped shape Cuban music for the last 60 years. He was also the father of jazz phenomenon Chucho Valdés. Diego ‘El Cigala’ was the younger traditional soul-searching flamenco singer from Spain. They used boleros as their medium, Spanish as their language, and together they created Afro-Cuban influenced boleros with a distinct flamenco personality.

It was film director Fernando Trueba who had the idea of putting Bebo Valdés (85 at the time), and “El Cigala” (who was 35), together to record the all-time classic album and recreate songs such as “Lágrimas Negras”, “Corazon Loco”, “Se me olvidó que te olvidé” and “La bien pagá”.

Lágrimas Negras became an international best seller, with over 700.000 copies sold all over the world, 300.000 in Spain.

In 2006, El Cigala won the Latin Grammy Award for Best Flamenco Album with Picasso en Mis Ojos.

Diego ‘El Cigala’

He explored tango and flamenco in 2010’s Cigala & Tango and continued his interest in South American music with Romance de la luna Tucumana.

In 2014, Cigala recorded a live album as a tribute to Paco de Lucía with Diego del Morao on guitar.

In 2016 he released Sony Music Latin CD debut, Indestructible, an album where he explored the intersection of flamenco singing and classic 1970s salsa.

Discography:

Undebel (EMI, 1998)
Entre Vareta y Canasta (18 Chulos Records, 2000)
Corren Tiempos De Alegría Ariola (BMG Spain, 2001)
Teatro Real ‎(BMG Spain, 2002)
Blanco y Negro – En Vivo, live (Calle 54 Records, 2003)
Lágrimas Negras (Calle 54 Records, 2003)
Picasso En Mis Ojos (Sony BMG, 2005)
Dos Lágrimas (Edge Music, 2008)
Cigala & Tango (Cigala Music, 2010)
Romance De La Luna Tucumana (Cigala Music, 2013)
Vuelve El Flamenco – en vivo – Homenaje a Paco de Lucía (‎Cigala Music, 2014)
Indestructible (Sony Music Latin, 2016)

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