Conversation with Jesús “Chuy Martínez
I had recently spoken with broadcaster and event promoter Jesús “Chuy” Martínez about his beginnings, career, experiences, unpublished facts and other details concerning his brilliant career in the entertainment world. Without further delay, we will carefully read his words and enjoy the stories he has to offer.
Good morning, this is Karina Garcia, North America director for International Salsa Magazine. I am very happy today to have a very special guest, who is none other than broadcaster, promoter and organizer of events born in the Dominican Republic, specifically in the city of Pacheco, Jesus ¨Chuy¨ Martinez, with whom we will have the pleasure of talking. How are you today, Mr. Martinez?
Very well. I am here ready for your interview.
Okay, Mr. Martinez. You have a long and successful career in the world of the arts. Could you start telling us how it all started and what made you turn to the entertainment world?
It all started in New York City in 1970 when I began to do activities in lakes. In New Jersey, there were many lakes and we started doing dances with Pete ¨el Conde¨ Rodriguez and many other orchestras. After doing a few activities in New York, I moved to the city of Los Angeles, where I worked for a radio station called 107.1 FM KMAX starting with two hours of tropical music and we lasted about three years. We started with two hours and then we had five hours per day. We were supported by some record labels that gave us all the music, especially Fania Records and TH Company. We brought all the music to Los Angeles, which was practically in its infancy. There was no tropical music. There were only three stations that were only dedicated to playing norteño music, so we were an option for the California audience. We had salsa, Merengue, Colombian, Venezuelan, New Yorker, and Puerto Rican music. We started the program with two hours a day, came to have five hours a day and it was a success for the public, but at that time, FM radio stations were only present in the houses. At that point, FM did not yet exist, which started appearing in cars and cassettes in 1979 or 1980. Prior to that, a thing called cartridge was used, but with the coming of FM stations in cars with cassettes, this frequency began to become stronger because people could still listen to the radio in their vehicles and homes. That was a process that in which made the radio strong and able to work with FM. I worked at KMX radio for about three years and then I went to other places like Radio Cali KLOVE as an account executive before I started a new program at KFOX 93.5 FM in 1982. At that time, we did activities in nightclubs like Virginia, Los Globos, Sombrero, among others, and we used the different orchestras of the time like the Siba orchestra and Azuquita Y Su Melao. All that was a process in the 70s. Then, we started in the 80’s to do FM radio with all the guarantee of the radio in the cars, which was when we began to work in discos like Candileja, La Bamba, and Escondite. Something important was the experience gained and, in view of my studies as a sound engineer, I learned a lot about equalization and all that stuff. I went to Cali, Colombia a few times and then to Venezuela, where I learned equalization and the system for discotheques. We had not only the 80’s, but many South Americans in Los Angeles like Venezuelans, Colombians, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, and Central Americans. Something that helped to internationalize the rhythm in Los Angeles was to take Saturdays and most Sundays to make projections at KFOX 93.5 FM. In the case of Saturdays, we had four hours of Central American music, we had a large audience of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, who listened to our program.
All right. Taking into account the emergence of the FM frequency in cars, playback devices, the internet, and digital media, could you say that people like you have had to modernize and reinvent themselves to stay relevant in the market?
That’s right. At the time of the existence of record companies like Fania, Sony, RMM, MP, everything was easy and everybody could project their music in the 80s and 90s. First, people used LPs and cassettes, but the first CDs began to appear in 1986, so no one wanted the old LPs and cassettes anymore. Music was played on the radio where I did my show and at KLOVE, where salsa artists like Grupo Niche with their song Cali Pachanguero were played. Then Marc Anthony and many other artists appeared, so record companies promoted you and you had the ease of projecting a singer, but by the year of 1996, people no longer wanted CDs because modern technology came in and everyone started downloading music with the new internet system. All of this has contributed to a total change and it is the same thing that exists now, which makes it difficult to project an orchestra or a soloist. There is no longer the question of radio promotion and now everything is digital, so we have had to adapt to the new technical internet system with all its means of communication.
Would you consider that this new system has been beneficial to fans and detrimental to artists at the same time?
That is right. They do not have the opportunities they had before. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, there were many record companies with which everyone could be promoted, facilitating the projection of an artist in the market quickly. Now it is different and a determining factor was the death of most of the good artists from Fania and other companies like Pacheco and Larry Harlow, so young people who want to project themselves do not have the record label and the CD. They have to use other methods such as the internet, the downloading songs, and the sale of songs. There are some DJs who are experts at downloading music and there are many channels focused on providing DJs with both video and audio.
There are many web portals dedicated to offering music through which people can get songs without even spending a cent, so the artist makes nothing to offer his art.
That is true, but there are companies dedicated to selling songs on an individual basis. They can charge up to 99 cents per song and different things that have been invented. There are artists who gain some profit from selling their songs, but it is not what it used to be. In times gone by, people used to buy CDs, but now there are some DJs who are specialists in downloading music and connected to sites which offer the possibility to download videos and songs in exchange for a monthly allowance. I know about five DJs who have the ability to download songs, but it is not the same as before. We are in the year 2021 and things are not easy for new artists who are making themselves known because they no longer have so many benefits.
Modern salsa and memorable experiences
What do you think of current salsa?
There are quite a few orchestras here in Los Angeles, which perform at the Mayan, the Granada and Steve’s Steak House. There are many orchestras that project themselves through their performances, but with COVID-19, everything has gone way down in terms of concerts. We are doing concerts, but in a very limited way because the community had great fear of going to the venues, especially now that there is talk of the Delta variant. People are really scared and it is unbelievable what is going on in the California artistic scene, the world with the COVID problem and people’s fear of getting infected. That is why a large part of the population does not go to concerts, except for the youth that defies the moment and is not afraid.
Could you tell me which venues are open for dancing salsa in Los Angeles?
Granada, Steve’s Steak House and the Mayan are the most active for tropical music. The Mayan is hosting the largest number of concerts. Toño Rosario’s was a success and Jerry Rivera will come soon, so let’s see what happens. Other promoters are going to bring La Sonora Ponceña and different singers, but there is no certain that people will come for all that has happened.
Could you tell me which is the most memorable experience you have had in your career?
The most memorable experience was when Frankie Ruiz had a concert at the Bonaventure Hotel and the man went to jail the same day (laugh). That was the greatest trouble because there were so many people interested in seeing him and he never came. That was a really bad experience in life. I did a lot of dances with Oscar D’ León, Eddie Santiago, La Orquesta Inmensidad. The first time Grupo Niche came here in 1986, with whom we did dances with Oscar D’ León and La Misma Gente at the Hollywood Palladium. We also worked with Ray Barreto, Pastor López, Santiago Cerón, La Orquesta Inmensidad, Andy Montañéz, Lalo Rodríguez and many other artists. Before there were many orchestras in a single event, but now people get used to one orchestra and several DJs.
A final message to those who go into the arts
Tenacity and perseverance at work, Hard work, hard work, hard work. You should study the field when you want to do something, be sure that your idea is good and avoid failing.