SOB'S: an Oasis of Latin Dance, Food and Culture
Back in June of 1982 something began to bubble on Varick Street in lower Manhattan. Fueled by a total commitment to exposing the musical wealth and heritage of the Afro-Caribbean Diaspora to as many people as possible, owner Larry Gold opened the doors to what would eventually become New York City's premier venue for world music--Sounds of Brazil, popularly known as SOB'S.
At that point in time, the area known as SoHo (derived from the words "South of Houston") wasn't exactly a hub of ethnic culture in Manhattan.
SoHo hadn't yet become the trendy, cutting-edge community that it is today (I don't even think the tag was widely used). Varick street was simply a strip of asphalt just south of Greenwich Village, an extension of 7th Avenue that led to Canal Street and the Holland Tunnel, marked by non-descript warehouses and a squat, grey looking post office. And in the wake of the famed Village Gate's demise, the whole downtown area was dullsville, to say the least.
Looking back to 1982, Latinos were still married to their favorite midtown and uptown dance venues (all of which are now gone) so the area below Houston Street wasn't exactly inviting. But true to his positive New York attitude and spirit, Larry forged ahead with his vision, which was to make SOB's the number one spot for dance and entertainment. All he needed to do was to create that certain atmosphere, a kind of ambiente popular. Because of that dedication and perseverance, the corner of West Houston and Varick Street was transformed from a quiet family eatery in the middle of a harsh commercial landscape to an internationally known, highly respected oasis of world music and fine cuisine in the heart of SoHo. But truth be told, Larry could not have done this alone.
He hired a young and savvy indy promoter named Ana Araiz, whose ingenuity in booking acts for the club's "Latin crowd" earned her the respect of every musician in New York. With the help of New York's non-commercial radio stations, she conceived and promoted "La Tropica" on Monday nights. Ana's self-described mission was to ensure that the old Monday night tradition of memorable and historical Latin music jams (which had been started by popular deejay "Symphony Sid" Torrin during the late 1960s) lived on in the area. Because she was such a classy lady, and well liked, she achieved her goal, doing it with a consummate style. During her tenure, the...