Just the four all-time greats…
La Sonora Ponceña
Even amid the illustrious list of legends that Salsa al Parque has brought to Bogota in recent years, few treats are as rare or sweet as the Ponceña, who will be jetting down from Puerto Rico.
The closest equivalent in rock music would be the Rolling Stones (assuming the Gran Combo de Puerto Rico are the Beatles), just with an even longer track record: Mick Jagger hadn’t even hit puberty in 1954, when Quique Lucca founded the Ponceña, who are literally older than salsa itself. Lucca is now 102 and, though still in the band, is unlikely to make it to Bogota, but his son Papo — recognised as having revolutionised piano playing in Latin music and part of the band since he was just eight years old — is now a spritely 69 and will be leading the performance.
In Jorge’s words, “They call the Ponceña the ‘giants of the south’ but even this does no justice to how big they are. Undoubtedly, one of the most important makers of Latin music ever.”
Expect awful suits (they all plumped for turquoise for their 60th anniversary concert in Medellin in November) but unadulterated old-school high class hard salsa from some of the best musicians and flawless bands you will ever see.
Learn it for the encore: Fuego en el 23. As classic as classics come.
Closing the festival on Sunday will be Willie Colón, born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents and one of the La Fania All-Stars musicians from the late 60s and early 70s who can legitimately claim to have invented salsa as we know it today.
Originally famous as Héctor Lavoe’s trombonist, then producing for Rubén Blades, and now a solo artist with an outspoken history of social activism to boot, living legend is no hyperbole.
Jorge describes him as “the voice of the street”, or as he became known in the 60s as a teenager shaking up New York, “El Malo”.
You’ve heard it on the radio: El Gran Varón, a revolutionary-for-its-time 1989 anthem about AIDS and the stigma caused by homophobia.
At 85 years old, Puerto Rican Willie Rosario is still playing his timbal “like a metronome”, says Jorge, giving him the nickname “Mr Afinque” — which we could roughly translate as the guy who makes the band as tight as it can get, with that distinctive salsa groove.
“Willie Rosario’s music is Sabor — or Latin flavour — in its maximum expression”, according to Jorge.
The essence of salsa: Callejero, four minutes of pure salsa brava.
If nothing else, this page shows us that the world owes Puerto Rico a great debt for many of its musicians, and Tito Nieves is no exception.
But if you only know him as ‘that guy who had a salsa hit in English’ (I Like It Like That in 1996), you’re missing out.
Nieves is known as the “Pavarotti of Salsa”, and, before beginning a solo career that combines commercial and hardcore salsa, made his name as lead singer of Conjunto Clásico.
No, not that weird English salsa track: Señora Ley, recorded with Conjunto Clásico.