Adeli’s Music Blog

The Salseros: Now

Posted in music, Uncategorized by adeli on October 13, 2007

Since its explosion in the 1970’s, there have been many Salsa singers, too many to discuss here. I will touch on two: Celia Cruz and Marc Anthony.

Celia Cruz was around since Salsa’s early days, and still lives on even after her death. She recorded with many great musicians during her more than 50-year career and transcended race, language, and genres, earning her the well deserved title of Queen of Salsa. Young and old knew of her and appreciated her charm, talent, spectacular stage presence, and her trademark motto: Azucar!

She began her singing career in her homeland of Cuba, and continued it in America in 1965 by forming a band with Tito Puente and recording eight albums with him. She went on to record with other greats, such as: Oscar D’Leon, Johnny Pacheco, and The Fania All Stars. She was continuously recording and performing, and many of her songs were remixed and even became dance hits, such as 2001’s La Negra Tiene Tumbao. She recorded her last album, Regalo de Alma (Gift of the Soul), in early 2003, a few months before her death from a brain tumor.

Since her catalog is so extensive, to make recommendations of her best work would be difficult. Here are some of her standout songs: Quimbara, La Vida Es Un Carnaval, Burandanga, La Negra Tiene Tumbao. There are some Best Of’s and live albums out there, and those would be a good start. Also, there are Fania All Stars compilations, which would give listeners a taste of classic Celia, along with exposing them to other stars of Latin music.

90 Millas to Mi Tierra

Posted in music by adeli on October 6, 2007

Gloria Estefan’s strength lies in her native Spanish songs, those that celebrate the Caribbean beats and her Cuban heritage. The album that started her on her journey back ’home’ was 1993’s critically acclaimed Mi Tierra. 90 Millas, her fourth Spanish album, is another love letter to Cuba. It’s aptly named for the distance between Key West – the southernmost point of the U.S. – and Cuba. 90 Millas is a fiesta. It doesn’t matter if you understand Spanish or not, it’ll get you moving or want to learn how to dance salsa. This impassioned new addition to Estefan’s catalog of music is her absolute best.

No Llores (Don’t Cry) brings together the exceptional José Feliciano and Carlos Santana on guitars, with Sheila E and Luis Enrique on percussion. Because of Santana’s distinctive opening riff, the listener will immediately be reminded of Smooth, and that’s not such a bad thing. This caliente tune is already climbing the charts in much the same way. Píntame (Paint Me) is in the tradition of the Cuban ’son,’ or folk song. It’s heavy on the bongos, timbales, and the Cuban Tres – the guitar-like instrument with three double strings present in many Afro-Cuban bands. This type of song celebrates the union of lush landscapes and love among country folks. There are layered vocals and short verses, with the ongoing chorus prevailing. The actor, Andy Garcia, shows his rhythm on the bongos here. A premier Tres player, Nelson Gonzalez shines brightly, and is a major contributor to this album.

One of the slow tunes, Bésame (Kiss Me) is a beautiful love song. José Feliciano – a frequent collaborator of Estefan’s – does his magic on the acoustic guitar. And on flute, Johnny Pacheco (also known as El Maestro) – the Dominican-born composer, bandleader, and producer who pioneered salsa music in the United States. Esperando (Waiting) and the title track ponder the eventual freedom of Cuba. The second is especially rich in African chants. There are very few Spanish lyrics here, and they are sung much like a conga mantra: 90 millas vienen, 90 millas faltan (90 miles come, 90 miles still to go). Whether it’s wishful thinking or not, the timing of these songs couldn’t be better.

The most interesting song on 90 Millas is Morenita (Dark-skinned Girl). Afro-Cuban rhythms are at their best in this composition. It tells of the Santeria ritual where saints are channeled through chants, dances, and drums. This will get you shaking your hips and clapping your hands, as will the other two party songs – A Bailar (Let’s Dance) and Esta Fiesta No Va Acabar (This Party Will Not End).

Several high-caliber musicians participate in this high-energy celebration of Latin music. Aside from those already noted above, Latin jazz greats Arturo Sandoval and Pacquito D’Rivera play trumpet and saxophone respectively. The octogenarians, Candido Camero and Israel “Cachao” López aren’t slowing down just yet. Camero bangs on the congas and bongos with vitality, while “Cachao,” the father of the mambo, skillfully plays the bass.

90 Millas is quite simply, the album Gloria Estefan was born to make. And if by chance it’s the last, then, what a way to celebrate!

Conga performance on Dancing With The Stars: click here.