Saturday, 8 September 2012

Salsify your Soul

We went out last night to a free concert the district culture ministry had organised to celebrate Bogota being named as one of UNESCO's cities of music. In the line-up were La-33, who I'd never seen before, and Ondatropica, a collection of living legends from Colombia's musical past, partly guided by Quantic as a producer.

The 33 were fabulous. The theatre is an all-seated venue, and it's old, cold and cavernous, but despite the physical hurdles to getting some atmosphere going, they had the entire place on its feet in seconds, and they ripped through a short showcase set of four songs. The crowd wouldn't let them go, and after a couple of minutes of baying "more" while the stage technicians wandered around wondering whether there would be an unplanned encore, they came back and played one of their signature pieces, a salsa version of the Pink Panther. Here's a video of them playing it a couple of years ago in Womad:

I've been feeling that I need to offer a crash course in salsa music on here, to try to give a little context for some of the stuff that has been mentioned, so we'll start with possibly one of the best salsa tunes that has ever been written: Sonido Bestial by Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz. This song can put the hairs up on the back of my neck at 50 paces, and despite having first heard it about 15 years ago, it still quickens the pulse every time. Listen to the frenzy of the brass as they kick off the song. The trumpets cut in and out like they are on a mission to save salsa. The keyboards answer back and only drive them into a even greater frenzy. Then the key change to get the vocals going, and it hardly gets to the first chorus before they go off on a semi-classical piano odyssey. Bonkers and brilliant. This song makes my little feet go wild. The only curious thng about it is how Bobby Cruz (who later became a Christian minister, make of that what you will!) can just stand there so tranquilly while this maelstrom of salsa consumes everything behind him. I hope you like it as much as I do.

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