Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have Tito Puente and Ray Barreto play at your wedding or to have Charlie Palmieri as your grade school music teacher? Beats of the Heart – Salsa by Jeremy Marre is 1 of a 14 part film series that I finally saw recently that captures this and more. Filmed in 1979, BOH-Salsa doesn’t focus on the development of each rhythm or which one came first, but instead Marre aims his lens on the Puerto Rican people, their community (yo, the Bronx in 70s was no joke), and their history. It doesn’t take long to realize that this English filmmaker actually has a political point of view, which I really appreciated. No music officionados were interviewed, instead the person providing context was the founder of the New York City chapter of the Young Lords who offers his analysis on the connection between Puerto Ricans and salsa while being very critical of the music at the same time. The film also highlights Santeria, Bomba and we even get to see the homecoming celebration of Lolita Lebron upon her release after 25 years of imprisonment. It’s clear, for Marre it’s all about the culture from which the music comes from and the environment it exists in.
Here is the opening scene to the film that begins with Tito Puente tearing up the timbales:
So far I’ve only seen one of the other films in this series, Shotguns and Accordions which I highly recommend too. Check out Marre’s website for the full list. Many of which are available to stream on Netflix which I’ll be watching for sure.
Music serves many purposes in our lives. One of the most important is how it can perfectly express emotions that we struggle to convey with our own words. For example, no words that I could arrange together could ever come close to the simple but beautiful song Si Supieras, covered here in this 1974 recording by Colombian legend Alfredo Gutierrez. I’ve been trying to hunt down the original by Alfredo’s Panamanian equal Osvaldo Ayala, but no luck yet. (Perhaps one of my fellow Pelanguer@s has the original?) I’m in awe of how music that had absolutely nothing to do with you during it’s creation can over time become deeplly personal and practically essetional to living. Anyway, short of learning the accordion to serenade my sweetie with, I’ll continue to rely on records like this to play for her and to be grateful to the many artists who allow us to emotionally extend ourselves throughout our lives. Enjoy!
Next month — May 22, to be exact — will mark the fifth anniversary of the passing of world-famous oud player Hamza El Din. Born in southern Egypt, he studied in engineering in Cairo before tdevoting himself completely to preserving Nubian musical traditions. He played all over the world, recorded with everyone from the Kronos Quartet to the Grateful Dead, and eventually settled here in Oakland, California. I hope El Din’s many local admirers and collaborators are planning a musical tribute to conmemorate his passing. In the meantime, here’s a track from his 1964 debut of Vanguard Records, “Hoi to Irkil Fagiu”, performed with Ahmed Abdul Malik on the string bass.
Apologies go out to my fellow pelangueros for not posting. I offer these two tracks from a young Cuco Valoy and his brother Martín: in the 1950s they were the legendary Los Ahijados. Here’s “La lechuza” and “Al subir las escaleras”.
La Lechuza by Los Ahijados
Al Subir Las Escaleras by Los Ahijados
Al Subir Las Escaleras