THE SOUND OF THE BARRIO: THE SALSA
THE RED GARNER ERA
The Red Garter was a semi-obscure venue located on the border of the Bronx and the Harlem River Drive in New York. Its owner was only open from six in the evening to two in the morning and from time to time he would host some of the popular bands in the area on his stage. That night, like many others, the musical gathering went unnoticed except for the skill of a sound engineer, who had recorded on tape the presence of the musicians that made up the nascent Fania All Stars group. The idea of forming this orchestra came from Jerry Masucci and Johnny Pacheco, the entrepreneurs of the nascent company, Fania Records, who, inspired by the All Stars of the sixties, decided to bring together the most representative musicians of the same in a single group. The record label had only been in existence for four years and if this type of formation did not open new paths, everything they had built would collapse. That is why they persisted in the idea and formalized the possibility of making a new attempt, although it took them three years to do so.
On August 26, 1971, the Fania All Stars reconvened at the ballroom located on 52nd Street Broadway, thanks to the relationship between Fania’s owner, Jerry Masucci, and the owner of the place, Ralph Mercado. That night’s concert was an apotheosis, which was recorded in two anthological albums containing the hits Anacaona, Quítate tú and Ahora vengo yo, and also in a film made by León Gast, which had as its main elements the scenes of the concert at the Cheetah. The film was titled Nuestra Cosa Latina and for the first time showed here the whole series of hardships of the Latino community in New York.
The film, meanwhile, gave the definitive name to all the music those stars represented. It gave the name to a musical genre as varied and complex as Jazz, a contemporary sonorous force and a popular expression that identifies the Latin community. In other words, it gave a distinctive name to the infinity of rhythms that Caribbean music possesses and that at that time were dispersed among the Latinos of New York. And although the tape did not continue the testimonial principles of Nuestra Cosa Latina and was lost amidst the demands of Hollywood, it went down in history for simply being called Salsa.
Under the Fania label, all the Latin musicians became Salsa stars artistically led by Pacheco, the Dominican who alternated the direction of Fania All Stars with that of his own orchestra, a group that followed the same musical parameters as Sonora Matancera.
Superimposition Eddie Palmieri
But the greatest musical influence was represented by two boys from the Bronx: Eddie Palmieri and Willie Colón. The former had been forced by his parents to become a pianist and during the sixties was already the leader of the group La Perfecta, where the strength of his sound rested on trombonists Barry Rogers and José Rodríguez. With them, Palmieri composed and arranged his songs to sound sour, hoarse and aggressive, as was life itself in New York’s Latin Quarter.
Fania All Star
Flute player Pacheco was joined by trumpeter Héctor “Bomberito” Zarzuela and singer Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez. Pianist Harlow was accompanied by trumpeter Larry Spencer and singer Ismael Miranda. And the young trombonist Colón was backed by his second trombonist Reinaldo Jorge and singer Héctor Lavoe. Alongside these orchestras, Fania had called in two young leaders like bongocero Roberto Roena and bassist Bobby Valentín. They would bring along independent guitarist Yomo Toro, Eddie Palmieri’s trombonist Barry Rogers, Tito Puente’s singer Santos Colon and soneros Bobby Cruz and Cheo Feliciano. The latter two were special guests at the Cheetah reunion to sing some numbers. Alongside them was virtuoso pianist Richie Ray. Such a gathering of Latin stars definitively catapulted Fania’s name as a musical symbol of the community in New York, but only until a new concert and a new movie, the label would be defined.
Fania All Stars Live at Yankee Stadium
The 1973 concert was held at Yankee Stadium, which had some striking facts: First, the series of changes in the line-up, with Nicky Marrero on timbales, Lewis Kahn on trombone, Ray Maldonado and Victor Paz on trumpets, in addition to singers Justo Betancourt, Ismael Quintana and two special guests, Mongo Santamaría and Celia Cruz. Second, the concert was suspended due to the frenetic crowd, which overflowed the dividing walls of the stadium and flooded the lawn.
William Anthony Colón, without having the academic training of Palmieri, also used trombones, but these were even more aggressive and that made him an idol of the Latin community for his heartbreaking accent reaffirmed by the charismatic presence of his singer Héctor Lavoe. Colón composed his songs so that each lyric sounded dramatic, full of overwhelming charge and his arrangements became unceremoniously cruel. That’s why he called himself El Malo, a title that after a few months became a hallmark for other groups that continued his sound, such as La Orquesta Narvaez and La Conspiración. Colón had met Héctor Lavoe at the end of 1966 on a street in the Barrio. “Look, I have a recording, but I’m missing the singer,” Colón had told him and Héctor had not liked it. That’s why he replied: “No, I have my own little group”. Willie insisted: “Well, let’s do something. You record the LP with me and then you leave” Hector thought that sounded good. The guy was really talking about a record. What did it matter who it was, after all it was an opportunity. The first rehearsal was the next night at the Tropicoro Club in the Bronx. They recorded the album a couple of months later. It was called El Malo. It was an immediate success and the lives of both changed. Together they traveled a salsa road that lasted seven years, in which they recorded ten albums and a dozen hits, including Cheché Colé, Juana Peña, Piraña, Calle Luna Calle Sol, La Murga and that sensational Día de Suerte: “Cuando llegará el día de mi suerte. I know that before I die, my luck will surely change”.
But in 1973 Willie Colón decided to leave the group. For Lavoe it was a hard blow, almost smacking of betrayal, but he had no hard feelings towards his friend. After all, he owed him his successes, the public’s recognition and his arrival at the Fania All Stars, which in salsa terms was the equivalent of being in heaven. In addition, Willie had forged his style, giving it that flavor that the entire Caribbean recognized.
Lavoe had one overriding quality. His singing was shrill, very crystalline but shrill, and this, far from relegating him, made him appear to the public as a vocalist who could tell a story from any neighborhood without sounding false. That is why his songs, which spoke of daily violence and marginal disillusionment, made him an idol. Added to that was his natural gift for improvisation, which he demonstrated ad nauseam in Fania with songs like Quítate Tú and Estrellas de Fania, but especially with Mi Gente.
His first album as a soloist was La Voz, an absolute success that proved two things: one, that he was ready to lead his own orchestra. Another, that he could sing all kinds of Caribbean rhythms with absolute mastery. This is evidenced by the smash hit Rompe Saraguey, perhaps the best of Lavoe’s interpretations in a display of unusual talent. It was from that album that the titles and nicknames came: El Sinatra latino, El cantante de los cantantes, or simply La Voz. But the public expected more. His next recording won the praise of friends and strangers alike, especially thanks to a song that would bring him universal fame: Periódico de Ayer, the same song that began by saying Tu amor es un periódico de ayer que nadie más procura ya leer. Sensational when it came out in the early morning, by noon already confirmed news and in the afternoon, forgotten matter.
Catalino ‘Tite’ Curet Alonso
The song was composed by Catalino “Tite” Curet Alonso, the most brilliant and prolific composer in the history of Salsa. Born in Guayama, Puerto Rico, in 1926, Curet Alonso was a pharmacist’s project at the University, a letter carrier for the U.S. Post Office for 36 years and promoter of the record company Tico Records, before entering the field of composition. His first song to become famous was Efectivamente, recorded by Joe Quijano in 1965. Three years later the controversial singer La Lupe performed the boleros La Tirana, Puro Teatro and Carcajada final with Tito Puente’s orchestra. Since then, Tite did not stop his production, which exceeded 3,000 creations, of which 1,200 were recorded.
Tite was also the musical godfather of artists such as Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Rivera and Roberto Roena, to whom he gave the hits Anacaona, Las caras lindas and Marejada feliz, respectively. Cheo had popularized, however, the number El ratón and before Curet’s help he was already considered an idol both in Puerto Rico and New York. Rivera had meanwhile founded the group Los Cachimbos, along the lines traced by Rafael Cortijo, and Roena made Guaguancó del adiós, also composed by Tite, a masterpiece of Salsa. In 1980 Fania Records suffered a crisis due to its own excessive growth that made it an uncontrollable monopoly for Masucci and Pacheco. Fania acquired the licenses of all the New York salsa labels, where some musicians sought independence at all costs, while others surrendered to the demands of the monopoly. Within this brand, several alternative orchestras and ensembles emerged which, in spite of giving a refreshing air to the stars’ production, never gained a similar public following, with two exceptions.
Cheo La voz sensual
The most striking groups that followed Fania were La Compañía, led by flutist and saxophonist Bobby Rodríguez and trombonist Eddie Hernández Iglesias, La Típica 73, which featured musicians of the stature of Sonny Bravo and Alfredo de la Fe, Frankie Dante’s La Flamboyán, Angel Canales’ Conjunto Sabor, where the brilliant pianist Marcolino Dimond played, and Los Hermanos Lebrón, a Puerto Rican group located halfway between the sound of El Barrio and the style imposed by Cortijo. The two exceptions were Celia Cruz and the duo of Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz.
Richie Ray had founded his conjunto in 1965 with the recording of the pachangas album Ricardo Ray Alives. Since then he emerged as one of the leaders of the salsa movement, without having the aggressiveness or the trombones of his colleagues Palmieri and Colón. Ray, actually called Ricardo Maldonado, was helped by precisely that: his ability to break out of the mold established by the New York sonority and get into the sound needs of the rest of the continent. Apart from that, there was the presence of his singer Bobby Cruz, the virtuosity of his piano and the perfection of his arrangements, a product of his academic training at the School of Fine Arts in New York.
El Sonido de la bestia
Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz’s ensemble made immensely popular the songs Que serían, El diferente, Richie’s jala jala, Tin marías, Aguzate, Amparo Arrebato and above all a masterpiece called Sonido bestial. With those numbers he marked the works of several South American groups such as the Peruvians of Mario Allison and Alfredo Linares, the Venezuelans of Cheché Mendoza and Nelson González, and the Colombians of Michi Sarmiento and Julio Ernesto Estrada, Fruko.
Celia & Johnny
Celia had excelled in detail in the Sonora Matancera, where she had won the title of La Mejor Guarachera del Mundo (The Best Guarachera in the World). No one dared to dispute her throne, not even after her arrival in the world of Salsa in the midst of her recordings with the orchestras of Tito Puente, Larry Harlow, the Fania All Stars and especially Pacheco. With the flutist’s ensemble he felt he was swimming in waters he knew perfectly. That is why she popularized to satiety the songs Toro mata, Quimbara and Tres días de carnaval. Celia would be, from the recording of the song Bemba colorá with “Fania, the number one of Salsa, without anyone being able to oppose her. Her voice and above all her charisma always exceeded the limits of any criticism.
In 1970, after returning from a tour of the United States with the cumbia group Los Corraleros de Majagual, Fruko had founded the group Los Tesos and recorded the album Tesura, which went unnoticed for two simple reasons: Nobody knew its interpreter and nobody in Colombia knew anything about Salsa. The little success of his work did not discourage Fruko who with trumpeter Jorge Gaviria toured the Brilles night clubs of Medellín in order to sell his little record. The same happened with the second one, titled “A la memoria del muerto” and sung by Piper Pimienta Díaz from Cali. It was like that for a long time until things began to improve with El Ausente, El Caminante, Manyoma and, of course, with El Preso, whose lyrics contained a whole psychological and social conflict when it began by saying: “Condemned forever in this humble cell, where there is no love or the voice of anyone”.
Although the technology of voice processors is not new and has been used for decades, first in recording studios when refining vocals and instruments, it is now available to anyone, be it vocalist, instrumentalist or both, now we are presented with the question, is a performer using it a good vocalist or not, in fact only if we have an “unplug event”, can we realise the vocal range actually, as I said before, it has been used for years in recording studios, as I said before, it has been used for years in recording studios, maybe they have given it another name but they “tweak” the voice on the tracks and you could notice it, only in live events you could perceive some differences and they said it was the “acoustics” or some other excuse.
Nowadays we can no longer distinguish it as it has been used and popularised in performances in front of the audience, whether they accept it as part of the show or just don’t care about the real voice. But don’t misunderstand this, because there are excellent singers who have used it or use it to have a virtual backing vocal with their own voice, special effects as required by the song and it is totally valid.
Courtesy of: Roz Firth
What is really unacceptable, or at least it is to me, is that I am a lousy “shower singer” who uses it to modify my voice to such an extent that it is a deception to “my audience”.
Technology has digitised the equipment by reducing its size and power consumption, adding extra functions to just processing the voice like in a recording studio, it has integrated the voice through a microphone to musical instruments, whether the vocalist is playing a guitar or other musical instrument while performing in front of an audience or accompanying himself in the recent “if the music inspires me to vocalise, it’s perfectly valid” home studios.
However, these very small pieces of equipment have their detractors, be they purists or bandleaders, the latter may argue that it “takes away the work of the extra musicians” but the current reality indicates that if you want to make a live performance you must take care of the economy of all and not only favour the orchestra or the producer of the event, what must prevail is the excellence of the music in front of the audience, and for that you need good vocalists and excellent musicians.
The technology of voice processors accompanied by digitised effects is already with us, there is no turning back, nor should there be, everything changes for the better and that leads us to have better vocalists and more qualified musicians, it gives the opportunity to emerging musical groups that do not have a large budget for extra musicians, recording studios … if you are good with little, you will be evaluated by those who really matter, your audience.
Now let’s talk about these vocal effects processors, what they do, what they look like, costs, etc.
What do they do?
They are electronic devices that allow echo effects, reverb, voice multiplication (to be and make your own chorus), enhance the vocalist’s singing in real time, pitch, depth, volume, add pre-recorded harmonies and loops, change tempo, gender, age and distort the voice, something you could never do on your own, all while performing in front of your audience, something unthinkable between how the artist sounds in studio and “live” and in addition to this we can integrate via MIDI connection a guitar, piano, synthesizer or simply next to the microphone, a harmonica, to the audio output.
What are they like?
They are small, portable and not expensive musical equipment digitized or purity of sound that emanates from them, are placed between the microphone, either dynamic, condenser … the main thing is its connection is XLR, these capture the voice processing it, mixing it to achieve and deliver a very refined voice (such as that of a recording studio operated by a sound engineer), directly to the audio system to the public, and are presented as desktop models or pedal, both do wonders.
Variety and cost
At this point we must remember that like all equipment, they are constantly updated, improving their quality and variety of effects and interfaces to other equipment, so there is a wide variety of prices according to their characteristics, currently we can indicate six really efficient voice processors, I established the order according to the price range and not preferences, in the links you can see videos of artists using them, their use and more.
- TC-Helicon VoiceLive 3 https://www.tc-helicon.com/product.html?modelCode=P0CDY ($ 740)
- Boss VE-20 Vocal Performer https://www.boss.info/global/products/ve-20/ ($ 360)
- Zoom v3 https://zoomcorp.com/en/us/vocal-processors/vocal-processors/v3/ ($ 285)
- Roland VT-3 Vocal Transformer https://www.roland.com/global/products/vt-3/ ($276)
- EHX Voice Box Vocal Harmony Machine and Vocoder https://www.ehx.com/products/voice-box/ ($ 262)
- TC Helicon VoiceTone Harmony-G XT https://www.tc-helicon.com/product.html?modelCode=P0CMT ($ 229)
- Behringer Virtualizer 3D FX2000 https://www.behringer.com/product.html?modelCode=P0A3P ($ 160)
What is happening now?
Tito Garcia-The Doctor of Salsa, the renowned colorful bandleader and timbalero of Tito Garcia y Orquesta Internacional passed away on Saturday, April 23rd after a long battle with cancer. Tito has performed Salsa and Charanga in the 1970’s with the seminal SF based bands Ritmo 74 and later Charanga Rene Del Mar. He later spearheaded the band “Orquesta Salsa Dulce” in the late 1980’s which morphed into the first edition of his band La International featuring a young Julio Bravo on coro in the early 1990’s. La Internacional were remembered for their explosive performances by dancers and aficionados.
Tito was a staple at the late, famed salsa palace Cafe Cocomo with his monthly “Mambo Saturdays” during the early 2000’s. I often was the DJ during those hot nights. His band featured fine musicians and vocalists such as former Batachanga vocalist Ricky Rangel, congueros Eddie Borrero and Sandy Perez of Los Muñequitos De Matanzas and keyboardist Coto Pincheira who relocated to New York.
Tito García had been fitghing against, cancer, which took his life at the end
Tito resurfaced after his bout with Cancer in 2020 to relaunch La Internacional but the comeback was short lived due to his health issues. He later hosted some outdoor rumba sessions near his new home of Vallejo but those dates were limited due to COVID restrictions. He relapsed during his recent trip to Costa Rica and died due to complications with his recovery. He will be sorely missed.
Don’t forget coming up on Friday, May 6th at 8 pm with be the tremendous Cuban music double bill of “El Tren De Cuba”…Los Van Van and Alexander Abreu y Havana d’Primera at the UC Theatre, 2036 University Avenue in Berkeley. Two of the powerhouses of Cuban Popular music are appearing together for the first time in the US and on only certain dates of the tour…SF Bay Area residents are blessed to have this double bill play here! DJ Antonio will spin in-between sets. I will be your MC for the evening. Run to get your tickets because they’re going fast! For more information, go to jaffeevents.com
Salsa superstar Oscar D’Leon and his orchestra will visit the SF Bay on Saturday, May 21 at Roccapulco, 3140 Mission St. in San Francisco. Oscar is still one of the dynamos to watch perform live…a tremendous show! Guayacan Orquesta from Colombia will also play on Friday, May 13 at the Mission Street hot spot. Also coming to Roccapulco Sat. June 11th…the Homenaje A La Musica Cubana featuring Mayito Rivera, Alain Perez, Yeny Valdes, Lily Hernandez “La Amaona” and Julio Cesar “JC Five” plus DJ Walt Digz (SF) and DJ Jimmy Rumba (LA) and on Thursday, July 7th…the explosive sounds of Pupy Y Los Que Son Son direct from Cuba.
Oscar D’ León will be in the San Frrancisco Bay Area on 21 May
SF JAZZ and the San Francisco Jazz Festival are featuring an impressive array of Salsa, Cuban and Latin Jazz starting Wednesday June 8 with Pacific Mambo Orchestra. Followed by Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Grammy nominee Aymee Nuviola 6/9; Chucho Valdes with Dianne Reeves and Joe Lovano 6/12; Changui Majadero 6/13, Danilo Perez Global Messengers 6/14; Issac Delgado’s Con Tumbao Project w/Miguel Zenon, Oscar Hernandez, Pedrito Martinez, Alain Perez, Tony Succar and more 6/18. SF JAZZ and Stanford University co-presents Eddie Palmieri and Arturo Sandoval at Stanford’s Frost Amphiteater on July 23. Info: www.sfjazz.org.
The Yerba Buena Gardens Festival will begin Saturday, May 7th from 1 to 2:30 pm with a free concert featuring local treasure Jesus Diaz y Su Habana Afro-Cuban Ensemble featuring a lineup of heavyweights from Cuba and the SF Bay including Ariacne Trujillo Duran, Leider Chappotin, Raul Pineda, Roberto Junior Vizcaino, Karl Perazzo, Jeff Cressman, Melecio Magdaluyo and Julio De La Cruz. The Yerba Buena Gardens is located on Mission Street between 3rd and 4th Streets in San Francisco. Visit ybgfestival.org for more information. There will also be an after party featuring Jesus Diaz and the Habana Afro-Cuban Ensemble and DJ Carlitos Way at the Elbo Room, 311 Broadway in Oakland.
The San Francisco Carnaval and much more
The annual Carnaval San Francisco is back on the streets of San Francisco on Sat, May 28 and Sun. May 29th with the theme Colores De Amor. The two day festival will take place on Harrison between 17th and 22nd Streets from 11 am to 6 pm. The grand parade will take place on Sunday, May 29th starting at 9:30 am on 24th and Byrant Streets. Scheduled to perform will be Jesus Diaz y Su QBA, Momotombo, Sambada, Javier Navarette & His Socially Distant Friends, Dos Four, Puro Bandido, Namorados da Lua, Annette Aguilar & West Coast Stringbeans, Susanna y Orquesta Adelante, Magna Fresq, Los Allegres Callejeros, Aqua Pura, Mariachi Juvenil, Azul Latino and more. Headliners TBA. Food, Beer, Crafts, DJ areas and Cannabis gardens on the grounds. Free! For more information: carnavalsanfrancisco.org.
There is a new Salsa scene happening on Thursdays starting May 12th at Charley’s LG, 15 N Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos presented by your friends at International Salsa Magazine. Opening night at this state of the art club will feature the swinging sounds of the multi-talented vocalist/conguero Edgardo Cambon and Candela. I, Luis Medina from KPFA/WSR and International Salsa Magazine will be your DJ. World Salsa Radio DJ El De La Clave will also be in the house. Dance lessons by Migi & Angel starts at 8:00 pm. Music starts at 9 pm. The upcoming schedule is the following: Julio Bravo and Salsabor 5/19, Manny Martinez and La Rebeldia 5/26 and the Charanga sounds of Orquesta La Moderna Tradición 6/2. Thursday nights just got hotter in the South Bay…be there!!
Edgardo Cambón at The Seahorse Restaurant, Sausalito
The Ramp at 855 Terry Francois Blvd in San Francisco continues to present Salsa orchestras on Saturday afternoons starting at 5 pm. The night is closed on June 7th for a private event, The Ramp’s first Salsa festival featuring 2 bands: Gary Flores y su orquesta Salsa Caliente and Eric Rangel and Orquesta America 5/14, The Latin Rhythm Boys 5/21 and Louie Romero and Mazacote on May 28th. DJ Mendy spins in-between sets and after the live music from 9 to 11 pm. The Ramp has a great patio overlooking the SF Bay and serves food and drinks.
The Seahorse located at 305 Harbor Drive in Sausalito features live music plus KPOO-KPFA DJ Jose Ruiz on Saturday and Sundays. Sat, April 30th features La Clave Del Blanco, Rene Escovedo Salsa Band with Ric Feliciano Sun 5/1; Edgardo Cambon & Candela Sun, 5/8; Orquesta Timbalero Sat, 5/14; Louie Romero & Mazacote Sun, 5/15; Susanna y Adelante Sat, 5/21; Orquesta La Original w/Alexis Guillen 5/22; Pepe Y Su Orquesta Sat. 5/28; and Orquesta Taino Sun. 5/29. Enjoy the fine Italian cuisine, beer, wine and ambiance both indoors and the outdoor patio at this scenic spot just crossing the bridge to Marin County.
The Cigar Bar, 850 Montgomery St. in San Francisco is a favorite spot to dine, have drinks, enjoy a cigar in the courtyard and dance to hot Salsa music. The calendar for May includes Manteca 5/6, Orquesta Timbalero 5/7, Somos El Son 5/13, Josh Jones Latin Jazz Ensemble 5/14, N’Rumba 5/20, Edgardo y Candela 5/21, Orquesta Taino 5/27 and La Clave Del Blanco 5/28.
René Escovedo will perform at the Seahorse Restaurant, Sausalito, on May 1
DJ Walt Digz has a hot Wednesday night Cuban scene “El Timbon” happening at the Slate Bar, 2925-16th Street in San Francisco. Digz also hosts his own livestream called “El Timbon” featuring the latest Timba, Cuban Salsa and Cubaton videos every Tuesday night from 7 to 9 pm on Twitch. He also keeps busy by hosting the monthly Fresquecito Saturday nights at La Furia Chalaca in Oakland and the outdoor El Timbon En El Callejon Sundays from 3 to 8 pm at Vida Cantina, 56 Belden Place in San Francisco. Digz also continues his original Friday La Tropi-Cal monthly at Il’ Pirata in SF with Añejo Productions now going on their 21st year!
Berkeley’s Ecology Center will present the Berkeley Farmer’s Market Salsa Festival on Saturday, May 21 from 10 am-5 pm. This free event will feature Christian Pepin and Orquesta Bembe, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Peruvian keyboardist Erick Peralta and Band, Berkeley High School Youth Ensemble and the Latin Jazz Youth Ensemble. Dance performance and Dance lessons by Rebecca Galindo. Food, crafts and more. For more information, visit www.ecologycenter.org.
Don’t forget to check out my radio programs: Con Sabor now in it’s 25th Anniversary Year on KPFA 94.1 FM every Saturday night from 9 to 11 PM PST and Sabiduria Con Tumbao every Wednesday night 5 to 7 pm PST on WorldSalsaRadio.com.
That’s it for this month! Ciao 4 now!
An Independent Film With Great Contribution To Society
If we name you a series of words consisting of Family, Divorce, Suicide, and God, would you associate them? Los Angeles-based filmmakers Jess and Anayancy Thomas did. They devised, produced, and directed the film God & Salsa, a feature film that addresses the Mental Health of a teenager after the divorce of his parents and increases the Faith of a Christian woman.
“We are independent filmmakers based here in Los Angeles who met 9 years ago at church. Our film project is a story that is very close to our hearts as it mainly deals with the devastating effects of broken families, which can lead to depression and sometimes even suicide.” Jess commented on a digital medium.
He further added that “working on the story and the script was cathartic for both of us. We had friends who experienced the loss of their son to suicide at that time.
Currently, the WHO (World Health Organization) revealed that more than 280 million people suffer from depression in the world, a common mental condition and one of the main causes of disability.
God & Salsa present a positive solution to this disease. This drama feature film with heartbreaking characters fulfills the promise of Ecclesiastes 3:4 and was made on a really low budget so some of the crew members had to play multiple roles. “…Pre-production was crucial. Many details had to be ironed out long before production began, which was a challenge as we both have full-time jobs. It was nothing short of a miracle…” Anayancy Thomas said for this international medium.
But, what is the plot of the story?
God & Salsa unfold in a wonderful emotional meeting between two people with generation gaps. On one side is Raquel, a divorced single mother (40 years old) and grieving therapist who partially loses faith over the loss of her daughter to suicide, while Shane (16 years old) is an unhappy teenager whose parents are in the midst of a battle of divorce. Both characters are looking for answers, both are angry and hurt.
Raquel and Shane are in different phases of their lives; however, their lives intersect creating a beautiful collision where each one makes a valuable contribution to the other’s life with the interventions of a pastor who will not give up, an instructor of wise but extravagant dance, a wise old nun, and a sermon.
According to Jess and Anayancy Thomas, God & Salsa is the embodiment of Ecclesiastes 3:4, “There is… a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
How did the story come about?
The story is based on statements by Jess Thomas to a local digital media outlet.
“Anayancy and I met at an Entertainment Business Ministry event that our church at the time, Bel Air Presbyterian, was hosting. She expressed to me that from her personal experience, she had it in her heart for quite some time to write a book or make a documentary about the long-term negative impact that contentious divorce can have on both children and parents.
It immediately intrigued me because when I was a kid, my parents went through a horrible divorce and I was able to relate to it from a kid’s point of view. I remember as a preteen and teen I was really confused, depressed, and lost. I acted in many ways, anger, lethargy, drugs, and alcohol, and over the years I contemplated suicide on more than one occasion.
We met several times to follow up on the idea and both decided that a narrative feature film showing characters going through this would be a much more effective and impactful way to make the point.
We got to work on the plot and although the film is not autobiographical, numerous are things that both Anayancy and I experience: the sense of loss, depression, hopelessness, not to mention faith, and Salsa dancing.
But over time, something beautiful happened; we fell in love and got married. Now, nine years later, with the help of many talented people and organizations like Film Independent, we have a complete movie.”
Knowing A Little About The Cast
Shane is played by Javier Luna. He is a young model, actor, and singer from Madrid known for his role as Felipe Díaz in Disney’s “Violetta”.
“I play a 16-year-old boy who is struggling a lot since his parents are divorced. He has a lot of pressure and starts to take drugs. It is a story about overcoming these struggles,” Luna told a European digital media outlet.
For this leading character, the Spanish actor pointed out that he lost weight and was intensely involved. “It was a bit difficult to have that mindset at first, but I hope this movie can help a lot of people. As an actor, I tried to make it as authentic as possible… I’m excited about this movie. I gave it my all,” he added.
Raquel is the character played by Jovanna Vidal, an American film and television actress, presenter, producer, broadcaster, and businesswoman. She has ventured into shows like Disney Vacations and Girls Night Out, as well as representing Dr. Sánchez in TLC’s Evil Things and participates in the YouTube series Dahr Mann.
Enio Córdoba & Terryl Jones
Enio and Terryl are married and they are also partners on the dance floor. Both are professional dancers, have participated in numerous championships, and took part in Dance With Me (1998). Since then, Enio and Terryl have performed in more than 26 countries teaching Salsa around the world.
“My deepest congratulations to Jess and Anayancy for risking so much while trusting that this would be a hit. In the dance scenes, we had to show beginners learning. I told some of my old students to dance like they used to before taking lessons. Several scenes later they get to dance normally. OMG, they made me look like the world’s greatest dancer teacher”. Enio Córdoba expressed in his Facebook account for the award obtained for God & Salsa as the best narrative feature film at the Los Angeles Film Awards.
Navarro performed and composed two of the original songs for God & Salsa. Carlos Navarro is the founder/singer/percussionist/producer of La Orquesta “Son y Clave”, which has been a part of the Salsa-Latin-Mambo dance genre in the United States for many years. This band is well known for being dancer-friendly from beginners to professionals with their tight, contagious rhythm and impeccable elegant presence. One of Hollywood’s best, this band has participated in many media events including, dance competitions, festivals, concerts, etc. They also featured in the film Almost A Woman which won two Imagen awards and one Peabody award. The Fragment was taken from the official website of Film Independent.
Jess is the Writer, Director, and Producer of God & Salsa. Jess Thomas studied Drama/film at San Francisco State University. In 2000, he wrote, directed, and edited a B-Action-Movie titled Checking the Gate, which was picked up for distribution by Echelon Entertainment. Since then, Jess decided to focus on more uplifting and inspirational films such as The Seeker (2004), a human interest story, which was his first documentary feature film. It won the award for Best American Documentary at the Rome International Film Festival. In 2007 he co-wrote, directed, and edited the short film Forever, which premiered at the Dances With Films Film Festival. That same year, the second documentary feature Beijing Girl: Made In China was an Official Selection at the Santa Fe Film Festival. Jed (2010) is his third documentary on opera singer Jess Thomas senior. In 2017, his short Love Always was nominated for five awards at the 168 Film Festival. The fragment was taken from the official God & Salsa website.
Anayancy was born in San Salvador (El Salvador) and is the writer/producer of God & Salsa. Anayancy went to Watterson College, a vocational school in Pasadena, California. She has worked in the healthcare field since 2001 at various organizations based in Los Angeles and currently works as a contract administrator. In 2007 she was certified as a domestic violence support group facilitator working with battered women. In 2011, Anayancy joined a mission trip to Mexico with the Bel Air Presbyterian Church, where she helped build a home for a family in need and served as a translator. Under the instruction of Enio Cordova and Terryl Jones, she participated in dance exhibitions and joined a salsa dance team trained by Enio and Terryl, the team won first place at the Aloha Ball in Kona, Hawaii. Anayancy Thomas produced Love Always in 2017. Part of the fragment was extracted from the official page of God & Salsa.