Believe it or not, half the year has blown by, and the music, old and new, has continued to pop up from all corners of the world, but with little marketing and publicity, and many of these 2009 releases may already be scarce.
Emúsica (acquired by Signal Equity Partners, as of this writing) has uncovered a rare live Fania All Stars recording, untouched for 30 years and titled San Juan, 73. It was recorded in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the year 1973, when the Roberto Clemente Coliseum was inaugurated. Said historic event features performances by Celia Cruz, Cheo Feliciano, Héctor Lavoe, Justo Betancourt, Ismael Miranda, Bobby Cruz, Santos Colón, Pete 'El Conde' Rodríguez and Ismael Quintana. This is precisely what fans of the Fania era want to hear and get their hands on.
Anyone residing this summer in Northern California who is interested in traditional Afro-Cuban drumming and dancing needs to attend the 13th Annual Explorations in Afro-Cuban Dance and Drum Program, to be conducted from July 25th to August 1st at Humboldt State University, in the midst of said region's redwood forests. The lineup will include Francisco Aguabella, John Santos, Jesús Díaz, Michael Spiro, Lázaro Galarraga, Román Díaz, Sandy Pérez, Israel Berriel, Reynaldo González Fernández, and Freila Merencio Blanco, among others.
Over the years, many exciting Afro-Caribbean bands have emerged in the United Kingdom, and one such group, Almeida Girl & La Descarga (presently known as La Gran Descarga), is led by Matthew Owen and vocalist Kristy Almeida. Their 2004 debut, Llanita, is now a collector's item, and I've also enjoyed their live performances at the Bridgewater Hall and The Lowry. Their version of the Motown classic Grapevine (I Heard It Through the Grapevine) has traveled throughout the world in the past few years, giving the band great exposure.
Speaking of Great Britain, my good friend, the U.K.-based journalist and DJ Lubi Jovanovic, has been putting together some fantastic compilations from the Fania vaults, as well as from Cuba and Colombia. His most recent compilation (Salsa Dura, on the Freestyle label) provides exposure to thirteen deserving acts from all over the world.
Thanks to L.A. promoter J.C. Ospina, who just came back from Puerto Rico's Día Nacional de la Salsa festivities, for bringing us new material from vocalists Yamín Elías, Junior Pérez, Doel and Mayté, along with music performed by the Giovanni Lugo/Oscar Rios band...