Son Cubano NYC Cuban Roots – 1972-82

Honest Jon’s Records did it again! “Son Cubano NYC Cuban Roots New York Spices 1972-82” is a marvelous compilation of Cuban rhythms, all with their own idiosyncrasy; and all of them could be called salsa, although they aren’t salsa. ‘Salsa’ doesn’t exist; it is marketing, says Roberto Torres, who helped found the Orquesta Broadway in 1962:

It’s marketing – for the American people it’s easier to call everything Salsa. It’s like for me pop, rock, everything, it’s the same shit. If you asked Tito Puente, or you ask Eddie Palmieri – they don’t call it Salsa. They asked Ismael Miranda, this guy from Mexico asked him on MTV, What is Salsa? – he can only smile and say nothing, because he knows that it doesn’t exist. The guy said, The music you play, we call in Mexico ‘musica tropical’… Everyone was calling out that now the music of Salsa has a little more jazz. That’s bullshit. I can play you from a hundred years ago the Conjunto Casino, they have jazz… The only thing New York gave the music was the new recording techniques.


Roberto Torres – Camina Y Ven Pa’ La Loma (1981 SAR Productions Licensed from Guajiro Records Inc)

The recordings of this compilation document the grown-up of the afro-Cuban music in New York, the ‘amalgamating creativity’ of the musicians and the late flowering of Cuban ‘classicism’: It has broader harmonies and jazz phrasing, but never leaves the raices [roots] and the cinquillo… Cuban music is natural – its essence is its raices [roots].

Cuban Son-back


Rey Roig Y Su Sensacion – Son Sabroson (1972 Trina Jill Music)


Lita Branda is originally from Peru, where she worked with La Sonora de Lucho Macedo, the first Peruvian ‘Sonora’ (typical for afro-Cuban popular bands). After moving to New York, where she became known as “La Tigresa de la Salsa”, Lita embraced the classical Cuban style as its best with a touch of Colombia. Although she languished in the shadow of Celia Cruz, she doesn’t deserve less.

La Tigresa de la Salsa

Lita Branda – Yo Perdi El Corazon (1982 Toboga Records Licensed from Guajiro Records Inc)

Lita Branda – La Mulata Rumbera


Roberto Torres again:

I was working for Salsoul-Mericana. I worked my way up. The first job I do was picking up boxes… Sergio and Adriano had a truck, and they had all the merchandise in the truck, and they go round all the record shops, and they called me one day because the people from Africa where there, and they buy 40,000 copies of my record, easy, and they pay right away. They’re for the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Gabon, Cameroon, Senegal… We recorded live because that’s how you get the flavour [salsa], the musicians can express more.

By the mid-eighties New York salsa was becoming ‘boring and monotonous’, ‘Europeanised’ in its renunciation of improvisation, so Charlie Palmieri (whose younger brother Eddie was accused of ‘communist salsa’ for his song Mozambique, which isn’t salsa at all – ‘mozambique’ refers to a Cuban music and dance derived from street carnivals or comparsas). In some way, the afro-Cuban musical heritage down to its roots was dismissed as out of date. Actually, it is timeless.


Angelo Y Su Conjunto Modelo – Celosa (1980 Guajiro Records Inc)