Robert and Ricardo Padilla have a fundamental importance within the musical movement we know as salsa. The father is a historian, curator and consultant. The son is a journalist, producer and broadcaster.
The role of Robert Padilla, who tropical music connoisseurs consider the most important salsa collector in the world, is unrepeatable, as he weaves together history, characters, facts and archives; delivering a holistic approach to salsa as a concept. His motivation is pure interest in preserving and spreading the culture.
The relevance of the museum that he conceived and guarded is unquestionable. He acquired the property and fitted out the building with the required specifications and ambience with the purpose of having a repository that keeps the salsa memory alive and in force.
When Ricardo was asked if his father influenced his training in the preservation of the musical archive, his successor answered: “That’s right. My dad and I have many things in common; among them, we love salsa. I grew up watching my dad play records and listen to music. But, my grandfather also had an influence because during the 1940s and 1950s, (the golden era of the Palladium, with Tito Rodriguez) Don Hector Padilla Rosado (RIP) had bodegas in New York.
My grandfather was part of what was happening there and danced mambo in that environment. My grandfather told me all that story and my father repeated it to me (…) the Padilla family would not be the Padilla family if we did not talk about my grandfather, Don Héctor. So we are three generations that in one way or another have dedicated ourselves to supporting music because it has changed our lives for the better.”
Ricardo considers his father the biggest fan of salsa. “Beyond being a historian, he is the number one salsa fan. My dad has the largest collection of tropical music in existence.” That collection includes records in different formats, photographs, memorabilia, videos and audios of live shows, all documented and classified. Recently to his already incalculable collection was added that of Don Mariano Artau (RIP), who was collecting and curating unique musical treasures for more than seventy years.
In Ricardo’s case, he studied Journalism at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. What the father began as a hobby, the son saw as a profession. The gratitude and admiration he has for his father is evident when he says: “I thank my dad (…) all those concerts he took me to as a child formed me. And all those people he connected me with, later became mentors for what I do today as a Salsoul programmer.” And he adds: “my greatest inspiration and my best teacher is my dad; and he will continue to be so in every sense of the word”.
Speaking of orchestras, the salsa sound that Robert favors is that of the duo that popularized Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe. For his part Ricardo affirms: “I say that Willie Rosario doesn’t have a bad album. He is a role model; being true to himself, molding a sound supported by great arrangers that he himself chose to refine that style.
He is so special in so many areas (…) So much so that even his life has been compiled in a book, and at 99 years of age, without having the need to play, he continues to do so because music is not necessarily something that only generates money for him; it is something that generates motivation to continue living. Without detracting from Don Rafael Ithier with his mulatos, or Don Papo Lucca with that southern giant, or the orchestra of the King of the bass, Don Willie transcends music and is an example of how to live”.
The Padilla’s, organically; to the succession they added a good dose of discipline and polished themselves with the commitment to take their musical training -which has not yet culminated- seriously, becoming the most admired influencers of salsa.
This dynasty is committed to their self-imposed mission of excellence. They say goodbye as a team and almost in unison affirm: “we are at your service”. I responded gratefully with “we’re still in salsa”, knowing that neither Puerto Rico nor the salsa world can repay this dynasty for the monumental contribution to the culture and musical history of this archipelago that has been the cradle of the greatest exponents of salsa, which the Padillas empower by sharing these stories of Puerto Rico with the world.