Keep­ing salsa fresh Los Hacheros

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

The mu­si­cal vi­tal­ity of New York in the 1970s — from disco to punk to hip-hop to free jazz — set the en­dur­ing styles and stan­dards of these mu­sic gen­res to this day. The same city era also gave us salsa dura. As pop­u­lar­ized by Héc­tor Lavoe, Wil­lie Colón, and the Fa­nia All-Stars, the mu­sic genre fused to­gether Cuban or­ches­tral mu­sic gen­res like cha­ranga, son, and guaguancó with the lyri­cal street sen­si­bil­ity of Man­hat­tan’s Puerto Ri­can and Do­mini­can bar­rios.

On ra­dio and streams, salsa dura has long since been re­placed in pop­u­lar­ity by the more man­u­fac­tured sound of salsa román­tica — think of the Latin pop stu­dio con­fec­tions of Marc An­thony and La India. But in New York, the hard-hit­ting salsa dura sound never died out. The genre was kept alive at clubs and quinceañeras by a new wave of Latin Amer­i­can mu­si­cians, who grew up with Celia Cruz and Rubén Blades records coo­ing to them in the crib.

Los Hacheros, a five-piece out­fit from Brook­lyn who play a free con­cert at the Rai­l­yard Plaza on Satur­day, July 22, is prom­i­nent among the crop of salsa dura re­vival­ists. With darkly red-hued cover art that is sug­ges­tive of San­tería aes­thet­ics, their sec­ond record, Bam­bu­laye, both looks and sounds like a Fa­nia record from a more grimy era of New York, when stagfla­tion, ran­dom mug­gings, and graf­fiti-cov­ered sub­way cars were the norm. Re­leased last year, Bam­bu­laye was a crit­i­cal dar­ling and a fa­vorite among salsa DJs, who are keep­ing sev­eral of the al­bum’s clas­sic-sound­ing Afro-Caribbean grooves in heavy ro­ta­tion.

“We formed Los Hacheros when we were all free­lance mu­si­cians in New York City play­ing with a lot of dif­fer­ent salsa bands. A lot of us play with cha­ranga bands,” said Ed­die Vene­gas, who plays both trom­bone and vi­o­lin for the group. “Those bands, if you hear them live, it sounds like it’s play­ing from 1975. We love that old sound. It’s got the more clear acous­tics of a salsa band.” Vene­gas, who was part of Marc An­thony’s tour band for sev­eral years, is steeped in the many va­ri­eties of salsa. Orig­i­nally from Colom­bia, he moved to New York to at­tend col­lege, earn­ing a mas­ter’s de­gree in clas­si­cal vi­o­lin.

Of all of salsa’s sub­gen­res, he re­mains most in­fat­u­ated with cha­ranga, a throw­back mid­cen­tury Cuban dance mu­sic that ac­com­mo­dates vi­o­lin and flutes along­side the clas­sic five-stroke clave beat. In the stu­dio, he also ap­pre­ci­ates cha­ranga’s clear sound, where each in­stru­ment is al­lowed to shine through, a qual­ity that is man­i­fested through­out the record­ings on Bam­bu­laye. “What makes the sound clean is that there is less in­stru­men­ta­tion. We did our record­ings live. There are no over­dubs. That’s what gives you the clar­ity of sound,” Vene­gas said.

Re­leased on Chulo, the Latin im­print of Dap­tone Records, the neo­tra­di­tional record evokes the the sound of 1970s New York salsa while al­low­ing for heavy dol­lops of Afro-Latin dance gen­res from the 20th cen­tury. The high-pitched flutes of mid­cen­tury Euro-Cuban par­lor mu­sic show up here, as well as the rhythms of tum­bao and rumba that have cap­ti­vated Caribbean au­di­ences for nearly a cen­tury. “We’re very in­ter­na­tional. The two other per­cus­sion­ists were born and raised in Venezuela. The singer — his name is Papote Ro­driguez — is Puerto Ri­can. The flute player, Jacob, is from Is­rael. The bass player is Jewish, grew up in New York. His wife is Colom­bian. He speaks re­ally good Span­ish. Him and Jacob ac­tu­ally write songs in Span­ish,” Vene­gas said.

As other mu­sic crit­ics have pointed out, Los Hacheros has crafted a salsa sound that is steeped in tra­di­tion with­out be­ing shack­led to it. It seems that Los Hacheros have done for salsa what Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings did for ’70s funk — or what Gil­lian Welch and David Rawl­ings did to re­vive a cer­tain strain of mid­cen­tury Amer­i­can folk mu­sic. Es­sen­tially, these artists re­stored a sound, mak­ing what was old new again, and prov­ing the genre still had life enough to adapt. “At our shows, we have the old-school people that re­late to this this kind of old-school sound. They were in New York back in the 1970s, who grew up lis­ten­ing to bands like ours. They dance their butts off at our shows,” Vene­gas said. “There are younger crowds who come to our shows, too, but not nec­es­sar­ily Latino. They come to our shows for that sound.

“We are now plan­ning our third al­bum. To pro­mote it, we’re grav­i­tat­ing to­wards do­ing a lit­tle 45 vinyl sin­gle. It looks very at­trac­tive, and it’s much cheaper to pro­duce than a full-size record,” Vene­gas added. “In Santa Fe, we’ll prob­a­bly try some of the new stuff from the record we’re work­ing on with our au­di­ence.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.