Artist profile – Romeo Santos

Romeo Santos is a well-known bachata star whose latest single is currently rocking the number one spot of the US Latin top 50 billboard. He is one of the major players credited for transforming bachata from traditional folk music into the popular urban genre that it is known as today.

Like many of today’s popular Latin artists, Romeo Santos was born in the Bronx of New York City to Latino immigrant parents. Romeo was exposed to music at a young age, and started exploring his vocal talents by joining a local church choir at the age of 13.

With a number of his friends, Romeo formed a singing group called Los Teenagers, which quickly gained popularity with local youths. This eventually led to a record deal in 1999, where Los Teenagers changed their name to Grupo Aventura.

Aventura – Obsesion

Aventura was well known for challenging and redefining the bachata genre by injecting hip hop into the traditional bachata styling, and transforming the genre into mainstream Latin music. As Aventura’s lead singer, Romeo played a major role in the group’s success.

In 2011, Romeo decided to go solo. Using Aventura’s popularity as a springboard, his debut album, Formula Vol. 1 quickly became one of the most popular Latin albums of the 2011 as well as 2012.

Romeo Santos – You

His latest single, Propuesta Indecente, part of his upcoming album, Formula, Vol. 2, is enjoying the same high level of success. Romeo continues to blend in multiple genres, this time introducing a tango element; adding a note of drama and tease into the music.

Romeo Santos – Propuesta Indecente

Are you loving Romeo Santos’s new stuff, or should he never have left Aventura?
Let us know in the comments!

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Artist profile – Luis Enrique

No matter what city you are in, if you’ve been to any Latin clubs or salsa socials, you’ve likely already heard this song:

Yo No Sé Mañana exploded onto the salsa scene four years ago and quickly became “the song” that guarantees to get all dancers running onto the dance floor, replacing the slew of Marc Anthony songs as the new go-to for romantic salsa. It presents a potent mix of pop styling and irresistible Latin rhythm; add in a strong vocal backed up by a catchy chorus, and you have a song that people ask the DJs to play again and again and again.

Today, I would like to introduce you to the singer of this hit, Luis Enrique, also known as “El Principe de la Salsa”, or the Prince of Salsa.

Luis Enrique was born in Nicaragua, and entered the United States in 1978 at the age of 16, settling in Los Angeles. Without any formal musical education growing up, Luis studied and observed his favorite performers as his only preparation for his upcoming musical career. Luis never expected to become a salsa singer, but when he auditioned for a local salsa group that was looking for a lead singer, he impressed the group so much that they took him straight to the studio to cut a demo, which earned him his first record deal with Sony in 1987. His first success came a year later in 1988 with the release of his second album, Amor y Alegria, earning him international fame and recognition.

Since then, Luis has been a leading force behind the salsa romantica movement, popularizing the more contemporary approach to salsa music. Some people have credited Luis Enrique for setting up the success for other artists such as La India and even Marc Anthony, and bringing salsa music (in its popularized form) back into the mainstream.

Luis’s biggest breakthrough this decade was his 2009 album, Ciclos, which includes the hit song Yo No Sé Mañana, earning him the number one spot on the Billboard Tropical Albums chart, multiple Latin Grammy nominations, as well as the 2010 Grammy Award for the Best Tropical Latin Album.

Artist Profile – Larry Harlow

by Jeff Huang

One of the things I really love about salsa is its ability to bring people together – because no matter your race, your social or cultural background, once you are bitten by the salsa bug, those things no longer matter. In my own dancing journey I’ve had the pleasure of befriending many people that, without salsa as a medium, I would never have had the opportunity to; for that, I consider it a great equalizer in our society.

The featured artist today is a well-known salsa bandleader and a wonderful musician back in the golden age of salsa (1960s-1970s), but unlike most salsa artists, he is an American of Jewish descent. Larry Harlow is a perfect example that as long as the music plays in you, it does not matter where you start.

La Catera

Larry is the son of a musical family – his mother was an opera singer in New York, and his father a bandleader. Larry showed great talent in instruments at an early age, and his exposure to New York’s Latin quarters and its music led him to Cuba where he studied Afro-Cuban music extensively. The Cuban Revolution forced him back to the United States, where his talents led his Orquesta Harlow to become the second orchestra signed onto the Fania label in New York, the largest Latin record company of the era.

El Paso de Encarnacion

During his time with Fania, Larry produced over 106 albums for various artists, as well as 50 albums of his own. Larry became a pillar of the salsa music scene, credited for many important milestones in the evolution of Latin music in North America – including Celia Cruz’s comeback from an early retirement, becoming the first piano player for the legendary Fania All-Stars, and the creation of the Latin Grammy Award. His contribution to Latin music has resulted in a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. Currently, Larry continues to lead and perform his music in New York, a true living legend.

Guasasa

Artist of the month – Marc Anthony

by Jeff Huang

Not too long after I’ve started dancing salsa, my method of finding salsa music was mostly by going to Costco and buying the “100 Best Salsa/Must-have Latin/Best Tropical” CD collections (this was before YouTube and the era of fast downloads). Of course, most of the songs ended up either being not salsa, totally un-danceable, or one of those gritty, old old school salsa. (You know, the ones with nothing but trumpets blaring. All. The. Time. )

I didn’t know better then, and thought that salsa music was pretty one-dimensional, and forever stuck in the 60s, until I found this song:

Marc Anothony – Ahora Quien (Salsa Version)

This was my first introduction to romantic salsa, and furthermore, it put me in a state of shock. How could this be salsa music? I must have listened to this song at least 500 times before the CD gave out (read: I sat on it by accident). I had no idea what the lyrics were saying, but I could feel the power behind his words. These were by far some of the strongest feelings I felt listening to a piece of music. I was hooked.

It was much, much later, when I started researching salsa singers, that I learned who sang this song; it wasn’t “Mac Anthoughny” as the back of the CD had suggested, but Marc Anthony. And this month, I’d like to do a feature on him.

Born Marco Antonio Muñiz in New York City, Marc is the youngest of 8 siblings in a Puerto Rican family. Marc started his musical career in the 1980s as a session vocalist for freestyle and underground New York house music acts. He produced a number of freestyle records, and worked as a backup singer and vocals for other artists.

After 1992, Marc changed his focus from freestyle to salsa and other Latin melodies, and soon after, he was quickly recognized as one of the great new talents in salsa world. He released his Spanish-language debut, Otra Nota, in 1993, followed by Todo a Su Tiempo in 1995, winning him the title of “tropical artist of the year”.  Marc went on to produce eight more albums, making music ranging from salsa to ballads to pop, and sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, making him the top selling tropical salsa artist of all time. Marc also received numerous awards for his accomplishments, including both the Grammy Awards and the Latin Grammy Awards.

I could go on talking about Marc’s film career and his complicated personal life, including his marriage and divorce to a former Miss Universe, and more famously to Jennifer Lopez. However, this is a salsa blog, and I am here to show case his music, so here are some of Marc Anthony’s more memorable pieces for you to enjoy:

Marc Anthony – Valio La Pena (Salsa Version)

Marc Anthony –  A Quien Quiero Mentirle (Salsa Version)

Artist feature: N’Klabe

N’Klabe

For this month’s salsa artist feature, I am jumping into the more modern side of things. N’Klabe is a Puerto Rican salsa band that started in 2003; a relatively young group when compared to many other salsa bands. N’Klabe quickly gained popularity in the Latin world for its members’ boyband-ish good looks, and the group’s almost chameleon-like ability to adapt to multiple styles of salsa. N’Klabe’s repertoire covers the entire salsa spectrum, ranging from classic salsa covers, to hard and fast salsa, to salsa romantica, to a fusion of pop and salsa music. Here are a few examples of their work:

N’Klabe – La Murga
A cover of a classic

 

N’Klabe – I love salsa
An extremely popular salsa song often played at salsa socials, great at whipping a crowd into a dance frenzy.

 

N’Klabe – A Puro Dolor
One of Jeff’s favorite romantic salsa songs (he has many)

 

N’Klabe – Mi Vida Eres Tu
A nice romantic pop salsa.

Artist profile: Gilberto Santa Rosa – Old School Cool

Gilberto Santa Rosa, also known as “El Caballero de la Salsa” (The Gentleman of Salsa), is a well-known Puerto Rican salsa band leader and, as of 2010, held the record for the most number-one albums on the Billboard Tropical Albums chart.

Gilberto has been involved in making music since 1976, and due to his long and storied career, he is known as a bit of a chameleon – having a well-rounded repertoire in both romantic salsa as well as the classic salsa genres (though his most memorable hits are mostly in the romantic salsa realm).

Gilberto is also famous for his charisma when performing live, and his incredible ability to improvise lyrics on the fly. A great example of this happened when he was invited as the first salsa singer to perform at the Carnegie Hall Theater in New York, during which he performed a four minute improv addition to his song “Perdoname” (Forgive Me). The added sections proved to be so popular, that Gilberto later had to memorize his own new lines for future concerts.

Perdoname (Live) – Gilberto Santa Rosa

Gilberto has recorded with a number of orchestras, including Willie Rosario orchestra, as well as the famed El Gram Combo.

Here is a selection of his music:

Ella – Gilberto Santa Rosa
 

Conteo Regresivo (salsa version) – Gilberto Santa Rosa

Conciencia – Gilberto Santa Rosa

Salsa Hell

I would like to talk about a concept that is fairly well-known within the salsa community called “salsa hell”. This term is used to describe the period at the beginning of most men’s salsa lessons, and is a way to explain why men seem to have a harder time starting out than the ladies.

Simply put, salsa hell describes the painfully frustrating period during which guys are trying to understand important fundamental concepts of dancing such as leading, timing, and musicality. Compared to the ladies, guys have a more difficult learning curve at the start, due to having to learn to lead on top of the already daunting footwork, leading to a noticeable gap between their progression and the ladies’ progression.

This gap is so universal, there are even graphs to describe it. Here’s one:

Learning curve chart by addicted2salsa.com.

Learning curve chart by addicted2salsa.com.

As you can see from this graph, the ladies’ learning curve is fairly smooth; ladies have footwork to memorize and styling to perfect, and once these are committed to memory, it is relatively easy to test them out on the dance floor. Guys on the other hand may take longer to perfect the art of leading and communicating with their partner, which can mean fewer people to dance with, and can kneecap their confidence. However, once they reach that “light bulb moment”, the guys’ skill level will increase exponentially in a relatively short period, rewarding them for all their earlier frustrations.

So how long does it take to get out of salsa hell? It is different from person to person, and depends on a number of factors; how often do you practice what you’ve learned? Do you go out social dancing? Are you inherently athletic? Do you have any music training?

So what can we learn from all this? I can think of a couple of things:

  1. Guys, we have to put in that extra effort in the front, so be diligent about practicing! The more you put in, the faster you will get out of “hell”.
  2. Ladies, be understanding of the guys in your class if you see them struggling. Who knows, maybe the guy next to you will be one of your favorite dancers in a couple of years. Be nice, they will thank you for it later!