The United States has a great number of Latin music radio programs that always sought to promote the best of Latin talent through their frequencies and one of them is ”Alma Del Barrio” of the well-known radio station KXLU, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Against all odds, ”Alma Del Barrio” celebrates five decades on the air after all the effort of its hosts and the team involved in such a noble and necessary feat. We say ”against all odds” because it is not common that projects submitted by university students did not used to last long and ended up being replaced by programs of the same style.
In addition to the above, decades-long programs usually have a single host and comfortable time slots each week. However, ”Alma Del Barrio” was the exception to this rule and, today, continues to prove that limits can be overcome.
Beginnings of ”Alma Del Barrio”
After so long, ”Alma Del Barrio” has remained up to date and continues to keep people’s taste.
Its main founders were Enrique ”Kiki” Soto and the late Raúl Villa, who at the time were two young students with many ideas and eager to achieve interesting things. The program was aired for the first time in 1973. A few years later, Hector Resendez, a freshman in college, contacted Enrique and Raul in order to write an article about this new radio show, but it would not be long before he joined the main founders in the project they were developing.
Three years later, in 1976, student at Loyola Marymount University Eddie Lopez joined the program on the third anniversary of ”Alma Del Barrio”, show in which he would spend the next 46 years bringing the best Afro-Cuban music to the audience every Sunday between 2pm and 6pm.
On a number of occasions, Resendez said that ”Alma Del Barrio” was not created to be hosted by great famous personalities, but by dynamic young people who wanted to be part of a small team that was just starting operations.
At the beginning, the new hosts only had one hour of broadcast time to show what they were made of, but at the same time, they did their best to get more airtime and have more presenters in the program. They wanted to include a not very popular genre on the station at that time, which was salsa, something totally innovative for the station.
In those years, salsa was understood as that set of genres coming from Afro-Cuban music and the novice hosts thought it would be a fine attraction to the Latino communities of Los Angeles. That set of genres came from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama, Colombia and the Dominican Republic. This is when record labels and music promoters renamed these rhythms as ”salsa” in order to make it easier for programs and hosts to identify the music.
‘’Alma Del Barrio”’ programming
The traditional programming of most of the stations consisted of jazz, rock and classical music, but then salsa was incorporated thanks to the increasing popularity that this genre was gaining.
One thing Resendez said is that one of the most famous rock groups was Santana, so the announcer and the rest of his cabinmates were surprised that the musicians of the band knew so much about Afro-Cuban music in terms of percussion. Let us remember that the popular song ”Oye Como Va” was written by ”El Rey De Los Timbales” Tito Puente a decade and a half before the band recorded it.
This union of rock and salsa was what gave the hosts the confidence to use trendy Anglo-Saxon genres as a means to promote Latin music.
On top of that, the guys were clear that jazz fans would be receptive to Latin jazz, since great jazz musicians like Dizzy Gallespie hired Cuban percussionists in their orchestras. If on other stations, this music was successful, ”Alma Del Barrio” was no exception. Fortunately, they were not wrong.
Last years of “Alma Del Barrio’’
During the last years of ”Alma Del Barrio”, the program team has made great efforts to join and create links with the community, whether it would be through sponsorships, advertisements, public services, donation campaigns, among other things.
Through all this community service they offered, they also made their own work known and many listeners began to enjoy this great team’s talent while listening to good music and varied programming.
The program has also been and is part of great annual and historical festivals such as the Salsa Fest. This day is always reserved for the audience to share with the new and old hosts of ”Alma Del Barrio” and many of the station staff, who always spread their enthusiasm to those present with their good energy.
”Alma Del Barrio” and its hosts have brought joy to their followers, but there have also been some sad moments. One of them was the death of DJ Eddie Lopez in January 2023, leaving a great void in the station and the hearts of those who faithfully followed his career through the KXLU circuits during the last decades.
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