Friday, March 09, 2007

Review: The Rough Guide to Salsa Dura NYC

For many years we've been hearing about the decline of salsa, with the chorus often led by some of the great stars of the past. The prepackaged, formulaic salsa that took hold in the mid-'80s was dubbed salsa monga (weak salsa), because it lacked the fire and conviction of the urban-flavored salsa of the '70s. The pretty-boy front men had become the focus, not the musicianship.

The inevitable reaction has been building for years now, on New York City dance floors and around the world, and it's called salsa dura (hard salsa). The music, played by a combination of older veterans and young turks who want to bring back the sound of generations past, is captured on a new CD released by World Music Network, called "The Rough Guide to Salsa Dura NYC." It's put together by Pablo Yglesias, a DJ and author of "Cocinando" (Princeton Architectural Press), a book that compiles classic salsa album covers from the golden era.

The tracks on "Salsa Dura NYC" come from acts ranging from veterans Eddie Palmieri and Joe Quijano to newer performers such as Ricky González and Jimmy Bosch.

"The CD came out of meeting all these great artists during the research on 'Cocinando,'" Yglesias said. "The albums that Jimmy Bosch and others were putting out were so perfect for the modern sound systems that I just had to put it all together under one roof, you might say."

The momentum of the salsa dura idea - that newer, more spontaneous bands with higher degrees of musicianship and a responsive relationship with dancers could slay the salsa monga beast - was greatly enhanced by Jimmy Bosch's 1999 release called "Salsa Dura." Almost single-handedly he gave voice to such acts as Los Soneros del Barrio and Chico Alvarez, which had been toiling away on the New York dance club circuit and virtually ignored by commercial tropical format radio.
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