Thursday, November 27, 2014
There are times as a dancer you may not be feeling those really energetic, party Salsa songs. Instead, you may want something smoother and more relaxed.
Introducing Grupo Latin Vibe, an awesome Latin Jazz group from New York. They possess an incredibly groovy signature sound, produced by the traditional marimba (it’s like a xylophone for Salsa music). Thanks to Kai Fan for helping me identify the instrument! It is so distinct in their music, you know who you’re listening to right away! If you’re curious what a marimba looks like, here’s a picture:
Yes. It’s a xylophone. I’m no expert but if you do love your Salsa music, I believe some understanding of the instruments used would enhance and add value to your listening experience.
“Por Tu Amor” is a track from their most recent (recent is a relative word – it’s in 2007) album, ‘Amanecer’. They’re pretty consistent music-wise from their 2003 album ‘Mambo City’ to their 2005 album ‘All That Vibe’ to the most recent one. “Por Tu Amor” is no different. It’s groovy and smooth with a lovely harmony between the melody played by the marimba and the percussion base. Here is a YouTube link to “Por Tu Amor”:
For dancers, this song is lovely and slow. Don’t underestimate slow songs, as it allows you to really bring on those complicated turn patterns in a suave and cool manner (instead of clumsy spasms as you try to execute the same during those lightning fast songs). Also, you have plenty of opportunity to hit those groovy breaks, which are evenly spaced and not overbearing. BONUS: There is an awesome marimba extended solo which kinda builds up from 3:30 in the song and hits off at about 4:00. The only set-back here is that the song runs for about 6.5 minutes. It’s a little long by salsa social standards in KL and much of South East Asia (elsewhere besides South East Asia? I don’t know).
Your dancing is only as good as your understanding of the music you are grooving to. Hence a basic understanding of the music is important for the development of your dance. Slow groovy songs bring with it a certain feel and deserves respect. So for those of you who only know how to dance to fast music, you might wanna review your dancing and up your level. Flapping about like retarded penguins to ridiculously speeds may not be the best for your dance, in my opinion. But hey, what do I know?
Do you like this song? Do you like Grupo Latin Vibe? Do you want to dance to their music? Lemme know!
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
I’ve always been known for being straightforward and no bullshit. I’d rather speak my mind and be disliked rather than to say what people want to hear and be ‘popular’.
My opinion for the longest time is that many (save a few) Salsa enthusiasts in KL have a limited interest for music variety. Perhaps it is how we’ve been ‘brought up’ – to dance to the exact same songs week in week out. Some of us are comfortable to do so, and some of us have commented amicably on this, but the bottom line is nothing much has changed. Once in a while we have an awesome new song, and everyone overplays it. Every so often we have some ‘Golden Oldies’ which will still be overplayed. But by and large we’ll be listening to the same tunes. For example, everyone knows of/has heard of/has danced to/is bored of the song “Vehicle”, but do you actually know who did that song? (It's Carlos Oliva and his band by the way, which is in turn a cover of Ides of March's 1970 hit song of the same name.)
My point in this discussion is to bring your attention to a very, very popular Salsa tune. I personally like it, despite it being overplayed at one time several years back. You might know - Wayne Gorbea’s “El Yoyo”. It’s an awesome track, no doubt about it – what more sampling the catchy riff in the evergreen “Ran Kan Kan” by El Rey de los Timbales, Tito Puente.
Wayne Gorbea (born 1950), only slightly older than my father, cut his debut studio album in 1973. He has since produced numerous albums and fronted several bands, including Salsa Picante, particularly in his Shanachie debut in 1999 with the album “Cogele El Gusto”. His songs flow freely with groovy melodies, and hard-hitting trumpets, staying true to his Salsa Dura roots.
Why am I bringing Wayne Gorbea into this discussion? Well, methinks if anyone even knows the name of wayne Gorbea, everyone in KL almost always associates him with “El Yoyo” and nothing else. If I’m right about this, then it makes me sad that an amazing musician, composer and producer with tons of amazing songs is not given the due recognition. I will try to rectify this.
Let me introduce Wayne Gorbea’s “Estamo En Salsa”. Here is the YouTube link to the song:-
I don’t have much information to share with you on this song, but listening to it, it find it smoother than other Salsa Dura I listen to (hard hitting Orquesta LA 33 anyone?). This is light listening but make no mistake, this is totally danceable! His piano and cowbell forms the solid backbone of groovy melody you dance to, and the trumpets are a pleasure to listen to, aural ecstasy for me with the right speakers/headphones. For dancers, the trumpets tell you something different is happening, makes you want to hit those breaks! Length-wise 5 ½ minutes seems rather long but the song keeps things interesting for dancers throughout.
Have a go at it and tell me what you think. Better still, tell me if you want to hear it on the dance floor!
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
I find the term 'Salsa Dura' to be a strange and sometimes conflicting term. Many online references (including Wikipedia) tell us that the late-80's - 90's, brought with it a wave of a new type of radio-friendly and pop-influenced Salsa music, referred to as Salsa Romantica. It's proponents are non other that Salsa-personalities such as Frankie Ruiz, Tito Nieves, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Luis Enrique, and many others. Marc Anthony anyone?
Due to the ballad-y and pop nature of Salsa Romantica, many Salsa enthusiasts have hit out, claiming that Salsa Romantica is not REAL Salsa. Accordingly, some claim that the original format of Salsa is of a 'Big-Band Format' otherwise known as Charangas or Orquestas (which are different in essence but we'll not get to it now). They say Salsa should be brass (trumpets, trombones etc.) and percussion oriented. Hell, throw in a double-bass if you find one! They called this 'original' concept of Salsa - Salsa Dura.
Now fast forward a little to band of the day - a personal favorite - Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Debuting in 2002 these boys really made waves with the Grammy Award winning second album in 2004 - 'Across 100th Street'. The song "Un Gran Dia En El Barrio" is the first track in this album. Check out the YouTube link below!
To many fans, myself included, SHO redefined Salsa Dura with their catchy, energetic music, leading dancers and listeners alike with their amazing singers, strong percussion and trumpets. I always wait for the part when the back-up singers come in. Magical harmony for me, it is. From SHO, many other world class artistes with their orchestras have continued with similar concepts/styles of Salsa Dura, among many others Orquesta La Exelencia and Grupo Niche.
Now the strange part for me is that I personally don't really think that older (but golden!) salsa music are all Salsa Dura. Some yes but not all. In fact I associate the term 'Salsa Dura' with a certain feeling or emotion I get when I hear or dance to the music - a degree of intensity - hence 'dura'. This feeling can only be acquired when certain hallmark instruments and patterns come together in a climatic, frenzied mix. Thus I personally coin my brand of Salsa Dura in a category by itself. Mind all you Salsa-Nazis out there, everything I write is purely my own interpretation and opinions on the matter.
What do you think of this? More importantly, what do you think of the song? Do you like Spanish Harlem Orchestra and would you like to dance to it? Feel to free to comment below!
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