Martin Franco is a talented New York’s producer, sound engineer, composer, vocalist, percussionist and saxophonist who has had a big trajectory in music, which he shared with us in a half-hour conversation we had.
The artist of Colombian parents has been kind enough to reveal some of the most important details of his artistic career and the process by which he has managed to become the professional in the music field he is today, so we hope the information revealed here will be liked by those who usually follow our publications.
Martin’s interest in music while still a child
Something important we did not know about Martín is that, although both his parents are Colombian, they moved to Mexico when he was little and he spent the first eight years of his childhood in that country, before moving to Laredo, Texas.
At his new school in the US, he and his classmates were allowed to choose the instrument they liked most to learn to play it and the boy chose the saxophone, as he thought it was ”the most beautiful” at the time.
When Martin began his training, he discovered that he had a real taste for music and began to see it as a pleasant pastime and not an obligation, which led his mother to buy him his own saxophone and tell him to ”throw forward to music” if that was what he liked.
When he turned 12, the family moved back to New York, where Martin started to take music more seriously and meet people related to the industry. That was when percussion and tropical music also caught his attention, as Texas was packed with Mexican cumbia and other such rhythms.
On the other hand, New York had an immense Puerto Rican community and even his own aunts had married Puerto Ricans. Since this was the dominant community in the city in those years, Martin began hearing the conga, the keyboard, the trombone, the timbales and all the music made by the Fania. It was then when his musical tastes and plans began to change.
Martín’s beginnings in music in New York City
When he arrived in New York, Martin was not old enough to start a professional career, so he was engaged to play with friends in the streets, houses, apartments and private parties. However, this time helped him a lot to gain experience and his family was a great support in all this.
Martín, his family and some of his friends used to go to see live Latin artists and orchestras such as Celia Cruz, Héctor Lavoe, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, Mongo Santamaría, among others. This also represented part of his motivation to do salsa in the future, although he also liked American jazz, which features the saxophone, his favorite instrument.
The mix of Latin and American genres resulted in the music that became popular in those years, and the music Martin makes today has much of what he learned back then. It was a mix of Caribbean tropical rhythms, jazz and American funk.
The musician considers that American and Latin rhythms have complimented each other over the years and he always tries to unite them in his performances, just like English and Spanish.
Mambo Soul Band
The name ”Mambo Soul Band” is a mixture of ”mambo”, which means ”to greet someone” or ”to communicate” in some African dialects, and ”soul” in English. This resulted in something like ”to communicate from the soul”, a concept that fascinated Martin. At the same time, both are the names for well-known musical genres, the one Latino and the other American.
He selected these genres as the name of his band because they contain what influenced him musically speaking. Latin jazz, soul and funk were the genres on which Martin based his songwriting for the band he was creating and he hired musicians who had experience with these rhythms. And in case they do not master any of them, he teaches them.
According to Martín, guitarists and bassists are the ones who usually have more problems when playing or learning to play these genres, while a percussionist usually has a greater dominion over these areas.
Another variant of the same project also led by Martín is Mambo Soul Jazz, which offers music and songs much more inclined to the American way. Mambo Soul Jazz is more aimed at quiet events where people do not usually dance much and just want background music to enjoy the evening.
The choose of one or the another will vary depending on the public of the day, although the basis of everything is always Latin music.
The most challenging aspects of the Latin music scene
In the view of Martin based on his experience, one of the most challenging things for him and his musicians is the economic issue. At the level where they are, they do not make big profits from their work, which contrasts to the high cost of living in California.
This situation has led many of the musicians to have parallel jobs that allow them subsistence since it is very difficult to make a living from music. The only alternative is to constantly tour with famous groups, but not everyone is willing to do that, so they prefer to work on other things.
In his particular case, he can afford to live only from music because he is the leader of the orchestra and the one who is in charge of getting contracts and shows for the group.
What we took from the conversation
From the beginning, we have noticed that Martin is a man absolutely passionate about his Latin roots and all that comes with them, especially the musical part. He always stressed that everything he does is for his love of music.
It is our pleasure to have the opportunity to talk with this great exponent of Latin and Afro-Caribbean music and we offer him our best wishes for success from now on.
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