Agozar Presents: Salsa Cross Borders — Llego la Banda (“The Band has arrived”)

On Saturday 13th June, 2020, the Agozar team from Sweden and around the world will present the latest don’t-miss instalment of its unique ‘Salsa Cross Borders’ concept, with a thrilling new offering called ‘Llego la Banda’ (‘The Band has arrived’) — a full day of back-to-back live music, interviews and behind-the-scenes interactions with some of the finest up and coming salsa musicians from around the globe, offset with a rousing pre- and afterparty that will be sure to put a sunny salsa smile on your lips to carry you through the weekend and beyond.

Kicking off with an online pre-party for the dancers who will be tuning in to join the event via Zoom, the all-day event will highlight some of the wonderful new salsa music being created around the world by 12 fantastic bands, including Grammy and other award-winning performers, who have offered to share their wonderful music with us to help lift our spirits further during lockdown.

While many of the bands featured on the day favour salsa dura, some bring original Cuban rhythms, while others seek to evoke the classic sounds of the golden era of salsa mambo legends, and some seek to create an altogether different sound. With bands hailing from around the world — Australia, Ukraine, Europe, the US, and Cali, Colombia, where the lively atmosphere of the Feria de Cali will carry on through to the afterparty — this round-the-world marathon salsa music party promises to be a feast for the ears.

1. Salsa Kingz, Sydney

First up on the day, starting at 6am EST / 11am GMT / 12noon CET / 8pm AEST (UTC), we head to Sydney, Australia for a brief interview with the band’s director, Christian Guerrero (led by yours truly btw) followed by a live set from Australia’s favourite party show band, Salsa Kingz®. Salsa Kingz® is a multiple award-winning show band based in Australia, where they have been performing their contagious, super-tight brass arrangements and explosive Latin percussion rhythms live since 2004.

Christian Guerrero with the other 11 members of the dynamic Salsa Kingz band (artwork by Coco Jacoel-Robertson)

Led by charismatic showman Christian Guerrero of the renowned Sonora Galaxia Band, the band merges Latin tunes with classic Aussie anthems, adding its own signature salsa twist — a fun, interactive salsa dance lesson that wows the crowd and ensures every party is a hit. Its popular ‘party kings’ reputation was cemented with a performance at the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000 alongside Jimmy Bosch, Jose Feliciano, Savage Garden and others; since then, frequent tours across the country and the Asia-Pacific region have kept them at the forefront of the Australian salsa scene. 

2. La Maxima 79, Milan

Next up, we head to Milano, Italy, for a half-hour interview and half-hour of music from renowned band La Maxima 79. Created in 2010 by DJ and producer Fabrizio Zoro, La Maxima 79 brings a fresh take on the old-school salsa sound, and is mainly produced with the dancers in mind. Following the success of their first two albums, Regresando al Guaguanco in 2013 and Joseito in 2016, the band has emerged as one of the best salsa groups in Europe, with an increasingly global appreciation. Their latest album, Resilenzia, launched in 2019, pays a special tribute to the original Cuban rhythms, fusing styles such as mambo, guaracha, guaguanco, cha cha cha and ritmo changui from Cuba.

La Maxima 79 pays a special tribute to Cuba, with rhythms such as guaracha and ritmo changui featuring in its music (artwork by Coco Jacoel-Roberston)

3. Mercadonegro, Zurich

Next we head to Switzerland for a half-hour interview and half-hour of music with Mercadonegro. The Zurich-based salsa band is formed of three expat Latinos: Havana-born Cuban José Armando Miranda, who is the lead singer and songwriter; Peruvian Cesar Correa, who hails from a well-known musical family, and is a piano and keyboards master; and Rodrigo Rodríguez, from Colombia’s Caribbean coast, who plays timbales and other percussive instruments as well as writing songs.

Zurich-based Mercadonegro delivers a dynamic sound (artwork by Coco Jacoel-Robertson)

The band’s name — meaning ‘black market’ or economy — acknowledges the struggles they as a group of unknown Latin musicians face in establishing their place in the salsa world from such an unlikely base as Switzerland. Yet following their debut at the Latinoamericando Expo in Milan in 2009, and subsequent live performances at some of the biggest Latin jazz and salsa festivals and congresses in Europe, they quickly established a reputation as being one of the most versatile and interesting bands around, with an expert showmanship that wows the crowds.

4. Dislocados, Kiev

Our musical journey next continues to Kiev, Ukraine, where we uncover the revelation that is multi-award-winning band Dislocados via a 15-minute interview, followed by a 45-minute live set. What? A salsa band in the Ukraine?! I hear you ask – well, that explains the band’s name, Discolados (‘dislocated’), which plays on the craziness of transplanting an authentic Latin salsa dura sound to Kiev. Yet this 10-member band certainly knows how to knock it out of the park with a line-up including respected pianist and composer Ilya Yeresko, award-winning jazz musician Dennis Adu, and singers Karolina Patocki and Olesya Zdorovetskaya.

Ukrainian sensation Dislocados knows how to knock it out of the park (artwork by Coco Jacoel-Robertson)

Exploding onto the Kiev music scene in 2005 under the name ‘Kiev Salsa Kings’, the band quickly became a fixture on the national and international music scene, winning an immediate international audience after their single “Resaca” debuted on New York’s Hard Salsa Radio. Since then, they’ve featured in Salsa Dura Mundial, a worldwide salsa compilation album with Latin Soul records; released Ukraine’s first salsa album, with 10 original tracks and an intro by salsa legend Andy Harlow; played with DLG’s Huey Dunbar at the Summer Salsa Festival in Stockholm; and won a bevy of awards for original tracks.

5. La Candela, Tenerife

Next up and coming to you live from Tenerife with a 15-minute interview followed by a 45-minute set, sensational eight-member band La Candela Salsa Orquestra serves up a niche mix of original rhythms — son montuno, guacancó, mambo, cha cha cha and salsa dura — that hooks dancers in with a fiery roller-coaster of emotions. Their first album in 2015 was inspired by and includes classic tracks by Joe Cuba and His Sextet. Since then, the band has continued to evolve, adding a primitive pungency to their classic sound, with new instrumentation that evokes tributes to the great precursors of Afro-Cuban music, Tito Rodriguez and Frank Grillo ‘Machito’. Its third studio album, now in production, includes some exciting surprises.

La Candela Salsa Orquestra serves up an awesome roller-coaster of sound — catch their live set on Saturday 13 June (artwork by Coco Jacoel-Robertson)

6. New Swing Sextet, Orlando, FL

Up next, we head to Orlando, Florida, for an hour-long presentation on the New Swing Sextet (NSS) band and the history of the 1960s and 1970s salsa scene, featuring selected highlights of their music. Founded in 1965 with a stirring debut at the New York World’s Fair, legendary New York City salsa band New Swing Sextet has been a popular and innovative exponent of Latin jazz, salsa and pop for over five decades. NSS’s classic sound evokes the heyday of the Palladium era for today’s global salsa fans, with masterful musicians George Rodrigues on vibes and vocals; brothers Angel on vocals and conga drums and Harry Justiniano on bass and vocals; Hector Ortiz on bongos and Latin percussion; Jimmy Figueroa on timbales and vocals; Conal Fowkes on piano; and Orlando Ortiz on lead vocals.

Grammy-nominated band New Swing Sextet’s music evokes the heyday of the Palladium era, but with a contemporary twist (artwork by Coco Jacoel-Roberston)

After a gap of a few decades, the band reunited recently in honour of its 55th anniversary, recording  CD ‘Lo Que te Traigo‘ as a follow-up to its Grammy-nominated album ‘Back on the Streets… a Taste of Spanish Harlem, Vol. 2‘ (2009) and ‘Yesterday Today & Tomorrow’ (2013).

7. Luisito Rosario, Bethlehem, PA

We then journey on to Bethelehem, Pennsylvania, for a 15-minute interview with world-class, charismatic sonero Luisito Rosario, which will include a 45-minute selection of his MP3 music. Born on the 4th of July and raised by Puerto Rican parents in New Jersey, right across the river from the epicentre of Latin music, New York City, Luisito was deeply influenced by his Latin American heritage and listening to all the Salsa legends of that classic period of the 1950s and 1960s, particularly the Fania All-Stars. These inspired Luisito to pursue a singing career within the salsa music genre. He has since achieved over 20+ years’ experience of performing and recording with the likes of Larry Harlow (Fania All-Stars), Grupo Hechizo, Los Hermanos Moreno, Mambo City Music Ltd, Croma Latina and as a solo artist. Luisito’s mission is to restore and revive that old-school salsa sound by making it fresh-sounding and popular again — Eh la cosa! (That’s the thing!).

World-class sonero Luisito Rosario — eh la Cosa! (artwork by Coco Jacoel-Robertson)

8. La Excelencia, New York

Speaking of the epicentre of Latin music, we now head to New York City for a 30-minute interview with videos and live jamming with the excellent La Excelencia. True to its name, La Excelencia is a powerful, award-winning salsa band from New York. Offering a unique contemporary take on traditional salsa, its music combines a hard-hitting, socially conscious message with highly danceable salsa dura rhythms that perfectly capture the gritty energy of the city’s original ‘working bands’. Founded in 2005, the band’s first album, Salsa Con Conciencia (2006), uncovered a surprising resonance with global audiences; its subsequent three albums, Mi Tumbao Social (2009), Ecos del Barrio (2012), and Machete (2020) have further enhanced their international reputation as an up-and-coming salsa legend to watch.

Salsa music with a conscience: New York City’s gritty La Excelencia (artwork by Coco Jacoel-Robertson)

9. Los Hacheros, New York

Staying in New York, next up is a 30-minute interview with videos and live jamming with Brooklyn-based Los Hacheros. Los Hacheros is a five-member contemporary salsa band whose swing-oriented sound emphasises the Cuban clave in homage to the golden age of Latin music, with a raw, warm and open sound inspired by these Latin legends. Los Hacheros is dedicated to reviving folkloric styles like son montuno, guaracha and salsa, often combining them with Bomba, a fiery rhythm from the mountains of Puerto Rico. Their first album, Pilon, received critical praise for its “deep groove” and “solid arrangements and lively original songs” that “have impressed old-school salseros and young music fans alike”.

“Gritty, driving and infectious” — Los Hacheros (artwork by Coco Jacoel-Robertson)

Jacob Plasse, producer and guitarist on the band, describes their follow-up album Bambulaye as “gritty, driving and infectious, with the goal to get you up and dancing”. He explains: “I wanted to capture the vibe of when the band plays its final sets at 3am in East Harlem, and everyone is exhausted — and then the band comes to life and all the old dancers are at it just like it was 1970 again.” Tune in on Saturday 13 June and ‘come to life again’ with us on the dance floor as we listen to Los Hacheros!

10. Avenida B, New York

Continuing in the ‘New York state of mind’, we next feature a one-hour live set in a park with Avenida B. Born and raised in Lower Manhattan, New York — a neighbourhood rich in the Latin American cultures that created the salsa sounds of the 1950s and beyond — David Frankel absorbed the salsa legacy of his late father, Daniel ‘El Mago del Organo’ Franklin, which eventually led to him taking up piano, percussion and salsa dancing. As his father had said, “salsa is made for dancing — and you will have a lot more fun with it if you dance.” With a growing passion for salsa, he formed Avenida B in 2011 with the purpose of recreating the old-school salsa dura sound the added swing of Latin percussion, as in the music of Eddie Palmieri and Ray Perez. Says Frankel, “Our mission is to reconnect salsa dancers, musicians and DJs in a meaningful way, and inspire the perpetuity and evolution of salsa dura’s singular energy and swing.”

11. Bailatino, Caracas

Next we head to South America for a 30-minute interview and 30-minute CD presentation (with possible live broadcasting from their present base in Colombia) with Venezuelan band Bailatino. Reflecting a rich mix of diverse Venezuelan and international influences — La Dimensión Latina, The Greater Sauce, Eddie Palmieri, Federico and His Latin Combo, Sonora Ponceña, The Mango Group and Fania All Stars — Venezuelan band Bailatino’s mission is to honour and revitalise its Caribbean cultural heritage.

A rich mix of Caribbean heritage: Venezuelan band Bailatino (artwork by Coco Jacoel-Robertson)

Debuting in 1995 at the Caracas International Theater Festival, the band’s musicians are renowned for their versatility, popularity and professional growth within the salsa world and across the Venezuelan music spectrum, specifically within the nightly rumba scene. Bailatino has evolved its own brand of ‘resistencia salsa’ (“salsa without concessions”), a traditional salsa dura, yet with its own unique twist, which is in great demand at many of the best salsa parties in Caracas.

12. Corfecali y Feria de Cali presents Orquesta la Clandeskina + Swing Latino, Cali

Staying in South America, we head to the other world capital of salsa, Cali, Colombia, for a 15-minute interview and an exciting 45-minute live set from Corfecali y Feria de Cali presents Orquesta la Clandeskina, augmented with a fiery performance from Colombian dance supremos and World Dance Champions Swing Latino.

Two treats in one from the world-famous Feria de Cali: band Orquesta Clandeskina and the Swing Latino dancers (artwork by Coco Jacoel-Robertson)

Cali fuego is in the house! Orquesta la Clandeskina is a rousing 12-musician band that delivers a fresh take on 70s salsa music reflecting a distinct Cali-style sabor (flavour) and heritage. Under the musical direction of David Gallego, the band is a key performer at the ginormous five-day Feria de Cali street festival in Cali, Colombia, which highlights all of the amazing cultural things in the country — including a massive salsa parade that gets the whole city dancing. Their first hit, “Sonando el Tambor”,  was included in the official Feria de Cali EP in 2012 and became a dance floor favourite. They have since gone on to achieve fame across the country as a result of their live tours.

Swing Latino performing at the 2017 World of Dance event — copyright / credit to NBC

They will be joined on the day by world-famous Colombian salsa dance champions Swing Latino. Founded in Cali in 1999 by dancer, director and choreographer Luis ‘El Mulato’ Hernández, the troupe has placed first in prestigious competitions in Cali and Florida with their exciting choreographies, ‘Echa Pa Lante’ and ‘Bemba Colora’. Their energy is bound to get you dancing. Eso!

...and on to the afterparty!

We continue the festive ‘feria’ atmosphere with an afterparty that continues with our global guests, the Agozar team and dancers from around the world who will be joining online in the Zoom room. Dancers from around the world are invited to tune in to join us throughout the day via Zoom / their own mobile device. Whether you are dancing solo in your living room, or as a couple — either inside your home or in a park — we look forward to you sharing in this awesome, first-of-a-kind online event. It promises to be a sublime feast for the ears, delighting music lovers, dancers, DJs, collectors and promoters alike.

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