Mon Rivera

I was superhappy to finally find this record at a reasonable price in Puerto Rico last month! Mon Rivera’s monster track Lluvia con Nieve has always been a Pelanga favorite – from Eddie Palmieri’s badass piano intro, to the horn section consisting of a trombone, a trombone, and a trombone, to the eloquent lyrics on the boricua experience in Nuebayol (“Lluvia con nieve, lluvia con nieve, lluvia, nieve, lluvia con nieve”.) If you like the hard-hitting, trombone-heavy sound of the salsa orchestras of the 70s, say thank you to Mon Rivera y su Orquesta – they were doing this in 1963, you understand?


This is an incredible album, where he is really pushing the possibilities of the plena and of Puerto Rican music in general. I can’t recommend it enough. I had a really hard time choosing what song to post, but the chorus of this song has been stuck in my head for a couple of weeks, so that’s a good sign. (It’s also the scratchiest one on the record, sorry ’bout that! That is how it is.)

Monina by Mon Rivera


I’ve also gotta show you what he was doing with the plena:
Qué Gente Averiguá by Mon Rivera

Qué Gente Averiguá

In case you don’t know what a plena is (or if you do), I’ll let him explain:



Tu Canción! Good Morning :)

Buenos dias de ChocQuibTown 🙂 Listen closely for the marimba, it’s in there.



Enjoy your week, and thanks again for bringing your beautiful smiling faces and shaking booties to La Pelanga on Saturday! You guys were amazing, you danced to music from five continents, and with such incredible spirit.


– djchinatumadre

… y Mas Taller Pelanga

While we’re on the topic… here is over 12 minutes of bootymoving for your enjoyment. It goes to double time after 10 minutes, so don’t be fooled by any repetition. It keeps changing as it moves along. Watch, try, repeat. Then come to our the Pelanga en La Peña Tonight! Saturday, May 7th



Improving the world by moving more booties at a time,
– chinatumadre

Taller Pelanga

Hopefully you all aware of our upcoming Pelanga en La Peña this Saturday, May 7th. Pelangas have blessed us in many ways, one of which is the joy we get from seeing so many of you dance and lose yourself in the music. But one thing we haven’t been able to ignore is seeing so many beautiful women dancing solo. Now it needs to be said that we really love that Pelangas have a culture of everyone being very respectful — especially toward women who very much appreciate not feeling hounded and harassed by men. But men, that’s no reason to be wall flowers. We understand that dancing can be intimidating, especially with someone you may not know. But don’t worry su pelangueros are here to help, or rather Oscar De Leon (Venezuela’s most famous salsero). Here he is performing his merengue hit Juanita Morel backed by Conjunto Quisqueya. Now take note, he’s just dipping and rolling with a simple spin. Watch, repeat and practice in front of a mirror. Men, you can do this and have a line of dance partners waiting on you all night. Gold medallion is optional.


Beats of the Heart – Jeremy Marre

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.



Martín Perna introduces the music of Bluefields, Nicaragua

Another guest Pelanga post: this time, it’s our friend Martín Perna, saxophonist, flutist, founder of the afro-beat group Antibalas and most recently, Ocote Soul Sounds. He has recorded and performed with TV on the Radio [you can hear him on this track, one of my favorites from Dear Science], Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, the Roots, Angelique Kidjo, and many other artists. He is a citizen of the world, with family roots throughout the Latin diaspora, but calls Philly his birthplace, Austin his home, and Brooklyn a home away from home. 

Mango Ghost, courtesy of


The music of Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast may or may not be on your radar. After a ten-year civil war that shredded communities and families, and a merciless hurricane in 1988, the coast and the Creole, Miskito, Rama, Sumu, Mayagna, and Spanish-speaking Mestizo inhabitants have seen their share of hardships. Like the ancient caoba trees in the battered plaza of Bluefields, traditions and cultural roots have endured. One of the most enduring of these traditions is the May Pole celebration, a unique hybrid of May month celebrations instilled by the British (who controlled the Atlantic Coast from 1700s- to the early 1900s)  the African roots of the Creole people, and the cultural cross-pollenization created by weekly visits by boats ferrying timber, rubber, gold, and bananas to New Orleans, Galveston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

During the Somoza dictatorship (1930s-1979) members of this older musical generation, in bands such as Barbaros del Ritmo, shuttled around the country performing at nightclubs belonging to the dictator and his extended family. The Somoza family owned mostly everything important, so they were hard to avoid. In 1979, the Sandinistas ousted the Somoza family and began creating a new future for the country, which quickly spiraled into a bloody civil war. During this time, two groups Mancotal (fronted by the Mejia Godoy brothers, the bards of the Sandinista Revolution), and Soul Vibrations (an Atlantic Coast group) were Nicaragua’s musical ambassadors to the world. Snapshots of 80s era Bluefields music can be seen in musician/filmmaker Greg Landau’s documentary “Rock Down Central America.”

At the same time, the effects of the war destabilized the Atlantic Coast and forced many musicians to flee the violence to other countries, such as El Salvador, and Honduras. MC/singer Kali Boom, a child during the war, recounts stories of leading his brothers and sisters to safety in Limon, Costa Rica 50 miles down the coast through swamps and military ambushes, ON FOOT!

The Sandinistas were voted out in the early 1990s, and the Atlantic Coast suffered through 20 years of neoliberal reforms and neglect which made times even harder. During this time, more and more Bluefieleños left the coast, seeking work in Managua, or “shipping out” on First World cruise ships who were eager to snap up English-speaking workers from desperate circumstances. In the words of Dexter “Dex” Joseph, a singer for the Bluefields reggae band Caribbean Blue, working on ship “was like slavery.” Through all this strife, musical traditions survived maintained by neighborhood elders, barrio marching bands, and in the band programs schools such as the Moravian School.

Five years ago, two Americans, multimedia artists Edwin Reed-Sanchez and Zander Scott made their way down to Bluefields and linked up with older musical legends such as Mango Ghost and Sabu the Cat Man to stage a series of concerts, build a functional recording studio, and create the Bluefields School of Music, an institution that will allow local youth to study with the surviving legends of Atlantic Coast. [more info/donations here]

The videos below represent both the traditional May Pole style, as well as newer fusions with electronic pan-Caribbean dance styles like soca, dancehall, and reggaeton favored by younger coast artists like Kali Boom, Kila B, Papa Bantam, Mad Angels, and Lion, and American expat producer Evan Rhodes who is creating a fresh new club sound together with this music.

¡Ya tú sabes!

– Martín Perna


Mango Ghost and the May Pole Legends: Putchie, Claudio Hodgson Weil and Rene Cassells

“Song for Mango Ghost” by Osvaldo Jerez (Los Gregory’s)

Sabu the Cat Man LIVE! at Bluefields Jail

“El Motor” – Aramis Camilo y La Organizacion Secreta


So what we have here is one Aramis Camilo y La Organizacion Secreta’s classic albums from the 80s. They seemed to have borrowed Willie Colon’s persona idea of being mobsters (on the back cover you’ll notice the guy in the car is actually holding a gun). By no means is this gangster merengue, in fact Aramis’s music embodies so much of what I love about merengue from this period. Unlike long self indulgent salsa intros, this music kicks into gear right from the start and packs more energy per note. This song El Motor was one of Aramis’s biggest hits. To be honest I preferred some of the other songs on the record UNTIL I saw this video of it performed live back on DR’s legendary TV show Medio Dia. I’ve probably watched this video at least a 100 times. Time to get on su motor and ride. More merengue videos to come. Enjoy!

As always, big shout-out to William—the only person at our parties that knows every merengue song we play.