What are your Top Ten Salsa Songs?
After the infamous Ice Bucket challenge, there was a challenge on Facebook that asked people to pick their top 10 salsa and bachata songs. A number of smooth unknown tracks were mentioned and I will not lie, I was genuinely excited to see what certain people revealed as their top 10. One list in particular caught my attention. Why? While the song choice was indeed impressive, the most impressive if not fascinating reason was the reason behind each song choice. Many a people just simply listed their top ten songs, but one Salsera in particular took it one step further and decided to explain why her top 10 was her top 10.
P.S. If you love Salsa and want to know more about the history of Latin Music in the USA, click here and watch this 1hr documentary.
MARTINA’S TOP 10 SALSA TRACKS:
Ok, I know it took me ages to do this, but squeezing all my favourite songs into only 10 tracks was really hard and I’ve taken it a bit further with personal interpretation.
Thank you Shems and Yassin and thanks to whoever started this. I’m glad in this case no ice is involved and I’m grateful cause this has got to do with music, one of the most wonderful gifts the world has given us.
So no donation required in this case, cause the challenge could almost be considered as a donation itself: What’s better than spreading joy everywhere by providing music??
The idea is to list 10 of your favorite Salsa/Bachata tracks and tag your friends….
I’ve taken the freedom to add a brief (depending on the points of view) description for each track, explaining why I chose them as my favourite tracks. Don’t want to bore you to death with my music feelings though so feel free to just skip all of them and click on the links only.
So here you go, in no particular order:
1. Lluvia de tu cielo by Ruben Blades and Willie Colon
I love the pace of this track. It almost feels like the notes are dragged throughout the piece, as to represent an image of tiredness and fatigue. The music grows but never gets to a very high peak, if not only through the voice towards the end. The flow reflects the lyrics: an invocation for rain, the struggle for the vegetation to grow in the field due to the lack of rain. Water: one of the main elements for humans but how often we take it for granted!
2. Todos vuelven by Orquesta Power
Thanks to Julian Summers for “reminding” me of this beauty during one of his
amazing sets. An initially innocuous track that reveals its personality very gradually.
There is no rush, but the adrenaline you end up feeling when you really listen makes your heart race. Originally made to be the soundtrack of a film on the history of Latinos in the US, “Todos vuelven” means “Everyone comes back” and it’s referred to Latinos emigrating to the US for a better future, but focuses on their attachment to the motherland, which always makes them come back.
3. Calle luna calle sol by Willie Colon & Hector Lavoe
Black, grey and brown are colours I would use to describe this. The feeling I get here is threat, danger: Low trombone notes and hard and sharp percussion give it a very dark sound. Calle de la Luna and Calle del Sol (Street of the Moon and Street of the Sun) used to be some of the most dangerous barrios on the island. One of the most meaningful lines says: “Put your hand in your pocket, take the knife out and be careful. Listen to me, in this neighbourhood a lot of people who tried to fight the violence have been killed”. A tough reality of South American barrios in the past that’s unfortunately still very present in some areas of the world.
4. Arrullo y son by La 33
Bolero: one of the oldest and least explored genres by the social dance community. Something I would listen to interminably with my friend Dani K.
With La 33, the Latin tradition is transferred into today’s way of making music: The old and the new coming and mixing together beautifully. Sounds are rich and polished. And the voice builds up so much that it’s not just a mean to express concepts anymore but it behaves just like an instrument. A really multifaceted band. This is a song about the power of nature: the birth of a baby.
5. Pena y dolor by Hermanos Lebron
Hermanos Lebron: always a very distinctive sound despite the incorporation of so many generations taking over the band. You can tell from the first 5 seconds of their tracks that it’s them, it’s like a signature. Love the way this song changes from the beginning to the end. Trumpets and violins fading away at the start. As it often happens with Hermanos Lebron, the predominant feelings here are sadness and nostalgia.
6. Para la rumba by Conjunto Salsa and Wayne Gorbea
A reminder of why I love dancing so much. So many different moments in here. This music calms you down and pushes you up. It builds its energy section after section. A pleasure for body and soul.
7. Vivir esta vida otra vez by Orquesta Colon
Do I actually even need to say anything about this?
8. El alacran by Rafael Solano
Warm and powerful sound. Love the desperation of the voice and the general
tendency of the percussions which help the music flow by wrapping up the dragging trumpets.
9. Juan Pachanga by Ruben Blades
Ruben Blades.. such a distinctive voice and not only because of how it sounds.
Ruben Blades is known for telling stories of specific characters in his songs, giving them actual names and surnames and using the same as the song title. I can recall at least 3 songs that respond to this rule: Pablo Pueblo, Juan Pachanga and Pedro Navaja. A common element for the 3 characters is the struggle – whether for political, sentimental or sociological reasons. Juan Pachanga is a very unhappy man who hides his pain for a lost love behind a high lifestyle, expensive and fashionable clothes, cigarettes and alcohol. Musically, sounds are twirled and the combination of violin, electric piano, electric guitar and violin is just priceless. Despiteits great energy, I’d rather just listen to this than dance.
There’s a live concert of this with Cheo Feliciano, quite recent, with a great violin and saxophone solo, here the link if you want:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnKwjsRZ9-8
10. Nostalgia by Angel Canales
I know it’s another bolero but I would be mad if I wouldn’t include this in the list of my favourite ones. As for Ruben Blades, you can recognise Angel Canales’ voice among millions. He plays with it in a very peculiar way, with ups and downs, by distorting it..
This is a song to listen to and preferably by yourself and with very good speakers or headphones.
Sorry about this super long post but I felt that it was the only chance to express publicly what music means to me. Latin music is so rich and I think it’s a shame to dance/listen to it without fully understanding it, even if you’re not a Spanish speaker. It’s not just a mean to make us happy. It’s an art and it’s important to contemplate it besides “using it” for our own purposes.
So much culture, history and traditions are here. Behind the lyrics, the instruments and the notes there’s people’s lives, musicians working hard to create this awesomeness and still deliver feelings after so many years, but only to the ones who really listen.
So enjoy guys!!