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.