Luis Chaluisan Salsa Magazine The new Fania Records sees the light of day and books Mr Salsa Izzy Sanabria to MC one of its NYC Summerfest shows.

 While not on the main stage Augst 24 with the Fania All stars in Central Park it is at least a pay day for the man most responsible in marketing the term SALSA and the World Wide Salsa Explosion
SALSA The Untold Story PART 1
SALSA The Untold Story PART 2
SALSA! The Untold Story Closing

Hundreds of dancers across the world today gyrate to the sounds of SALSA music. Instructors and students of every shape, color and nationality learn the basic moves and turns to stay on beat. Homegrown Salsa bands in Europe, Asia and Africa turn out locally produced Salsa CD’s.How did the music of a 70’s urban subculture soar to such global heights? It all begins at a Bronx based Record Label (Alegre Records founded by Al Santiago in 1956), a young graphic artist (Izzy Sanabria who collaborates with Santiago starting in 1960 to create historic album covers and marketing strategies for the label) and ten years later a young 17 year old Nancy Rodriguez, who organizes PROLAM “Puerto Rican Organization For Latin American Music”).From his record store CASA ALEGRA Al Santiago launches Alegre Records the most innovative label of the time and starts recording young artists destined for legendary status such as Johnny Pacheco, Eddie Palmieri and Willie Colon. In 1960, Santiago releases his first Alegre album “Pacheco y Su Charanga”Izzy Sanabria (graduate of the NY School of Industrial Arts) creates the iconic woodcut image of a stylized african flute player recognized today as the first modern Latin music LP cover.In its first year It becomes the biggest selling album of the times.As a consequence, this cement’s early fame for the trio of Santiago, Pacheco and Sanabria.In 1961, Al Santiago creates the Alegre All-Stars featuring Pacheco and influenced by the the well-known Cuban Jam Sessions (“Descargas Cubanas”) of the 1950s on the Panart Record label. The freewheeling improvisational talents of the Alegre musicians creates a sound for hip New Yorkers of the 1960’s.As a producer, Al Santiago sets new standards of recording and packaging for the Latin Record Business.He is a great enabler of talent and not just performing talent such as giving Izzy Sanabria the creative freedom to design those trendsetting Alegre Covers.The common theory is that SALSA was coined by a South American Disc Jokey to describe the new swing in Latin Music being created by NYC Puerto Rican musicians in 1966 but use of the word is a bit more organic.Eddie Palmieri and Ismael Quintana use the term during 4 opening choruses in the song “RITMO CALIENTE” to describe the rhythm La Perfecta is playing on Palmieri’s first Alegre release in 1962 Produced by Al Santiago.Palmieri’s terse arrangements feature trombones as often as trumpets, frequently with a flute on top. That alignment, which makes the seven-piece horn section seem as robust as a big band, was borrowed by countless salsa stars of the late ’60s and ’70s, among them Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe).In Jimmy Sabater’s 1962 tune Salsa y Bembé, vocalist Cheo Feliciano wants his main squeeze to add salsa to the bembé (dance) when she dances. The lyrics suggest that there is a request for the dancer to liven up or spice up her performance. “When I wrote this tune,” said Sabater, “I was labeling the music as salsa…you know exciting. When musicians were asked to spice up the music there were shouts of “guataca”. When the band executed the mambo part, I heard shouts of “wapachosa”. These were labels which never caught on. My use of salsa was to describe the music, not the food.”In 1963 Alegre Records releases Charlie Palmieri’s charanga LP Salsa Na Ma. In the Heny Alvarez tune Salsa Na Ma, the chorus of Victor Velasquez and Willie Torres suggest that when they dance with their partners it is Salsa na ma…Que cosa rica (a joy).”Al Santiago’s liner notes described the music as salsa when he wrote “La Duboney (Palmieri’s band) is a musical aggregation that functions as an individual unit and possesses that all important ‘sauce’ necessary for satisfying the most demanding of musical tastes. It is for this reason that this LP album offering is titled Salsa Na MaSantiago leaves an innovative blueprint for others to follow.No one does until the rise of Fania and the Fania All Stars.Alegre is eventually sold to Tico Records which in turn is bought by Fania Records.In June of 1970, 17 year old Nancy Rodriguez plants the seed in Sanabrias mind of actively promoting the “new breed” sound of Latin music.Rodriguez approaches Sanabria to help her PROLAM movement. Why Sanabria? His relative youthfulness, poster artwork, radio commercials and nightclub appearances make him the most highly visible alternative media entrepeneur on the scene.Rodriguez’ group circulates a petition to have Latino music played on American mainstream radio. To help fund this effort, the organization holds a dance June 24th 1970 at the Manhattan Center featuring Hector Rivera, Joe Bataan, Johnny Colon, The Lebron Brothers, Joe Cuba and others.Inspired by Nancy Rodriguez and the thousands of NY’s Latino Baby Boomers congregating in Central Park on the weekends between 1971-73, Sanabria and his partner Walter Velez at WE2 Graphics film a series of free Latin Music concerts in Central Park produced by Sanabria and PROLAM.
On August 26th, 1971 the Fania All Stars perform and are filmed at the Cheetah Discoteque in Manhattan. While there is no mention of the term “Salsa” defining the music many consider this event as the birth of “SALSA”.Why?Had it not been filmed and made into a movie it would have just been another night at the club.The film brilliantly presents the music, its creators and its audience.It’s released in 1972 and is appropriately called “OUR LATIN THING”. The movie receives excellent critical reviews and is a hit in the North and South American Latino community.However, the OUR LATIN THING has its greatest impact years later when Fania makes clips of the film available to the international press corps following the LATIN NY Music Awards of 1975.Fate steps in when Walter Velez and Izzy Sanabria create a fourfold newsprint flyer for the first ever multimedia Latin Arts Festival held at the Cheetah which includes Charlie Palmieri doing solo piano work, photography, art, poetry, comedy and a demonstration of video (then … in its infancy).On a lark, an ad with a switcblade knife stating “six issues for a dollar” is included in the flyer.The dollars start rolling in! As a consequence, Izzy Sanabria is compelled to continue publishing Latin NY magazine which mailing costs far exceeded a dollar!No Matter … The magazine starts reflecting and spearheading the emerging cultural renaissance in NYC created by the young Puerto Ricans caught on the Central Park films. In November of 1973 Sanabria hosts an equally trendsetting television show named SALSA – the first time the title is used for a broadcast program. Aired on Channel 41 WXTV New Jersey the program is pitched by WXTV account executive Lou Cabrera plus Ad Agency Young and Rubicam Latino Rep George Colon to advertising underwriters. Though canceled after a 13 week run, it is not until years later that Sanabria finds out hundreds of letters in support of the show were delivered to the station. 1974However, neither Sanabria or Salsa can be stopped.
It is an exciting time to be alive as young latinos self awareness explode with energetic creative force in all the arts. And, yet the Spanish media continues to ignores its own children.Meanwhile, Latin NY Magazine continues to flourish throughout 1974 covering the NY latino arts scene and Latin music events such as the Fania All Stars at Madison Square Garden and The Tico Alegre All Stars at Carnegie Hall. Following Sanabria’s lead, Latin NY writers also start referring to the music as SALSA.The only two industry people who believe in Sanabrias’s innovative strategy for marketing NY’s Latin music with the term SALSA are promoter/agent Ralph Mercado followed by Jerry Massucci President of Fania Records.Alternating between conflict and friendship, this trio manages to create a series of events leading to the worldwide SALSA EXPLOSION.Ironically, the established stars that have the most to gain, strongly reject the SALSA label but later embrace it as international media interest focuses on the Latin NY music Awards in 1975.1975: THE SPARK THAT IGNITES THE SALSA EXPLOSION!Its fire fanned by Nuyorican fervor … the Salsa scene is bursting at the seams. Like dynamite waiting for a spark to ignite it, Salsa is ready to explode. That spark came in the form of Latin NYs First Salsa Awards in May 1975 produced by Sanabria and promoted by Ralph Mercado.The Latin NY Music Awards receive greater (pre and post) mass media coverage than is ever given to any Latin music event at that time and thus gave Salsa its biggest push and momentum.Two factors made the awards (by American media standards) a “News Worthy” event that merited their attention. The first is that Latin NY publicized the event as “Latinos finally honoring their own Salsa Awards Ceremonies.” But of greater interest is Latin NY’s intense published criticism of NARAS for ignoring 17 years of repeated requests to give Latin music its own separate category in the Grammys.Frustrated by his years of labbying Naras for a separate category, Larry Harlow asks Sanabria if Latin NY could join his crusade. Latin NY enters the battle with guns blazing. Salsa comes closer to emerging from the shadows.”INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION for LATIN NY MAGAZINE and SALSA”The coverage by mainstream local media such as The N.Y. Times and as far away as Japan, creates an incredible worldwide avalanche of interest in Salsa. The day after the Latin NY Awards, NARAS announces it new category for Latin Music. The unprecedented coverage and its impact caught everyone in the industry completely by surprise and unprepared. Harvey Averne (Producer of the first Latin Grammy Award Winner for Eddie Palmier’s unfinished msasterpiece on Coco records) says, “I wish this would go away and return next year so we can get ready for it.Though still largely ignored by local Spanish media, the rest of the world keeps taking notice. International journalists and TV camera crews came to New York with the question, “What is Salsa” They left documenting what they perceived as a new phenomena of high energy rhythmic Latino urban music, its dancing and its lifestyles.They gravitate to Latin NY as their central source of information and by interviewing Sanabria, Salsa’s most visible and articulate spokesman. This world-wide attention established Latin NY as the bible. And as its most visible spokesman, earns Izzy Sanabria the title of Mr. Salsa.His idea is to sell Salsa as new music (which it is) and as an integral part of the cultural life-styles of young Latino New Yorkers. According to Sanabria, “Salsa, in reality, is any musical form, cultivated in New York by Latinos, upon a Cuban base, but inventing and adding new elements. Directly translated, Salsa is sauce. it is what gives Latino cooking its flavor. Like in Italian cooking. What’s spaghetti without the sauce? Traditionally, in American music like Jazz (and Latin), when a band was really swinging, people would say, ‘They’re cooking’… in Spanish–‘Cocinando!’ And when all the ingredients were cookin just right–the music hot and spicy, Latinos would say, ‘It had Salsa y Sabor’ (sauce and taste). So what it really denotes is music with flavor and spice.” My prepared stock answer was, “Salsa is Latin Soul. Salsa is Flavor and Spice. Salsa es Ritmo! Rhythm, the basis of Salsa. African slaves brought their rhythms to the Caribbean, mixed with the Indian, European melodies, Spanish lyrics and gave birth to Latin music. The sons and daughters came here, mixed in the high energy of New York, the influence of Jazz, added in some brass, and b Salsa was born!” (I always added that Salsa’s rhythmic origins were Cuban, but that it was the young Puerto Ricans that developed and kept it alive in New York City). Aside from having lived the Salsa experience, I have it all documented with American and international print media, Latin NY magazine and television coverage on video (dating back as far as 1971).”In 1976, Jerry Massucci at Fania Records approaches Sanabria to use the title “SALSA” for the companies second fim release. SALSA (the movie) premieres in March of that yearA Final Note on Who is Really Responsible for Salsas ExplosionWhen evaluating or analyzing the 70s explosion and the people most responsible for it, there are some important factors to be considered (especially if looking for unbiased viewpoints to arrive at historical accuracy). The reality or truth is that a great number of people made viable contributions to Salsa, its popularity and recognition. The musicians who developed Salsa, as well as the people behind the scenes such as journalists, radio jocks, the record companies, the promoters and most important of all, the fans. In other words, nothing can be attributed to just one person.In the long run, it doesn’t matter who said or who did what first, but rather who or what developed it.
The Latin NY Salsa Explosion A History written by Mr Salsa Izzy Sanabria and El Extreme Luis Chaluisan

— with Mr Salsa Izzy at Williamsburg Brooklyn.


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