Podcast – Episode 1

Please excuse our recent absence from this space. We’ve been doing some remodeling and maintenance, but we’re back now! We’re still very excited to continue sharing more music and culture. In fact, last week we got together and recorded our very first Pelangacast live from our LP clubhouse! The concept is not to have the typical radio “programmed show,” but instead to invite you into our cozy wall-to-wall collection of culture on vinyl as we share stories and discoveries from our musical addictions.

Below is our first episode with more to come soon. Have a listen, and let us know what you think.



  1. Intro
  2. Advice – I. C. Rock
  3. Ce La Vie – Les Difficiles De Pétion-Ville
  4. Ah Ah Oh No – La Protesta (ft. Joe Arroyo)
  5. El Preso – Louis Towers [NOTE: This unlabeled record was in a Grupo Kuwait sleeve, but it’s actually Louis Towers]
  6. (Where Were You) Last Night – Sumy
  7. Banana Juana – Ralph Robles
  8. Guami Guami – Sir Victor Uwaifo and his Melody Maestros
  9. Jessie – Kanda Bongo Man


Fruko . Tesura, Ayunando

I like the new year’s resolution, Pozole! I’ve also been feeling like it’s time to turn up the heat around here. Luckily Pozole and Smokestack have been doing just that for a while, but it’s time to do my share. Here are two records I’ve been meaning to track down for a couple of years (without paying a fortune for them), and finally got a hold of.

We keep coming back to Fruko; we’re neither the first ones nor the last ones to pay tribute to him. You probably know El Preso. Classic! But the man is behind so much more of our favorite Colombian music (Michi Sarmiento, Corraleros de Majagual, Wganda Kenya, Afrosound, Joe Arroyo, Latin Brothers…) and was pretty fundamental in shaping the sound of Colombian salsa in the 70s: rooted in the cumbia tradition, and incorporating a Nuyorican style horn section, a punk rock attack, and a good dose of flower-powered experimentation.


Fruko y sus Tesos started out heavy with “Tesura”, of which supposedly there are only 400 copies. How’s this for an introduction?

Teso! “Dude is wearing a pistol around his neck, a necktie as a belt, a giant gold medallion on his dog, and ready to throw down with salsa breaks so hard that they’re breaking bottles in the middle of the song.” Pozole, here’s your request:



Three years later, you can see Fruko is feeling pretty happy with himself. He picked up 15-year old Joe Arroyo and kept playing hard:

Fruko – El Ausente

but he got soulful too. If you don’t speak Spanish, you might never guess that now he’s heartbroken, telling the lady who left him how much she will suffer.


Sorry about the back cover, I had to share…

Much more Fruko here, and probably more later on.


Joe Arroyo, Sheila Degraff, Loketo

Our Tribute to Joe Arroyo at La Peña is tomorrow! (Friday Sept 9)

More Joe herehere, and here.

Sometimes I think that Joe Arroyo’s crazy versatility is one reason why he was not even more famous outside of Colombia. He was a massive salsero, but he was so much more than that! Hardcore salseros often like their music a bit more predictable. You never know where El Joe is gonna take you, or how you’re supposed to dance there. (But that won’t stop you – who else can get a bunch of stiff bogotanos to dance mapalé?)

I was thinking about this, and I remembered the stories of the Festival del Caribe in Cartagena in the early 90s where Joe Arroyo got onstage, completely unrehearsed, to trade verses with Haiti’s Rara Machine, Zaire’s Loketo, and a group from Cuba (forget which) one after the other. We thought we were pretty original when we started La Pelanga 3 years ago, to bring all these musics to the same space. But this man beat us by about 15 years! Well, we can still try our best.

Here’s Sheila Degraff with Clifford Sylvain from Rara Machine. (Short attention span? Your patience will be rewarded.)


And Loketo! Superstars of “TGV soukous” (the branch of soukous named after the French high-speed rail system), huge Pelanga favorites, and the only band I know to feature a car-honking solo:


Super K by Loketo

749167-Super K

Amanda, stop honking along, safety first!

See you all tomorrow,


Joe Arroyo – Rebelión, Mary, Tumbatecho

In preparation for our Tribute to Joe Arroyo on Sept. 9, I promised you that we would post a whole bunch of his music in the next couple of weeks. A bit of a slow start, yes, but it’s time to deliver.

Maybe we’ll start with the basics. Not sure if you’ve heard Joe Arroyo before? If you’ve been to  just about any “Latin night” in the US, you have. They probably played his classic Rebelión (“No le pegue a la negra”), about an African slave in Cartagena rebelling against his Spanish master after he beat up his woman. Here’s the video -which has a bit of an awkward time balancing the dancing and the history lesson- and a great interview (in spanish) of Chelito de Castro about his famous piano solo.


But there’s so many other great songs in that album! El Joe had just come out from a dark period of excesses and illnesses that he barely survived. He came out of it stronger than ever, with the album Me le Fugué a la Candela, “I escaped the fire”. (The next album,”Musa Original”, has almost the same songs – dunno what’s up with that.) Another classic salsa from that album is his love declaration to his wife at the time:

Mary by Joe Arroyo


El Tumbatecho is his first “Joesón” – his trademark fusion of salsa, Afro-Colombian, French-Caribbean music, and delicious 80’s arrangements. This is one of his many songs about partying so hard – and putting who knows what in his body – that he’s not able to sleep.

Tumbatecho by Joe Arroyo


¡Ponte bacano que hay baile hoy!


Sept. 9 Pelanga . Tributo a Joe Arroyo



La Pelanga . Tributo a Joe Arroyo

10pm – 2am . Friday Sept. 9

La Peña . 3105 Shattuck Avenue . Berkeley

All ages . $5-20

¡Sí hay pelanga!

Once again we’ll be bringing together our community around a crazy, positive dance floor and some really good music. We’ll be cooking up our tasty stew of cumbia, salsa dura, soukous, reggaetón, samba, plena, coupé decalé, merengue, champeta, konpa, funaná, currulao, and any other fresh ingredients that we find in our crates.This time we pay special tribute to Joe Arroyo, the man who could squeeze all these musical genres into one song. You can read/see/hear/dance more about him here:



La Pelanga officially declares this month El Mes del Joe, and we’ll be posting some (more) of our favorite tracks here. (Any requests? You can post them in the comments, or send them to info@lapelanga.com.)

Admission is $5-20 sliding scale. Part of the proceeds go to benefit La Peña Cultural Center.

¡Allá nos vemos!





¡Fuerza, Joe! (A heartfelt tribute to Joe Arroyo)


Joe Arroyo, one of our musical heroes, is (not for the first time) battling with serious health complications. The Colombian media and the fans, partly out of love and partly out of sensationalism, keep speculating about the nature of his illness and recovery, even (and also not for the first time) declaring him dead.

I was moved by an article talking about how Joe asked his kids to give him strength by staying by his side, and singing to him constantly. I’m thinking we can contribute to the cause, so let me try to get a few of his songs stuck in your head.

El Joe started his musical career as a pre-teen in Cartagena, doubling up as a choirboy in his catholic school by day and a child prodigy in the red light district by night. At age fourteen he dropped out of school to play with Michi Sarmiento (genio!), and La Protesta (genios!). He eventually joined Fruko (genio!) in the early 70s, at age 18 – the band that catapulted him to fame. With them he recorded one of his first compositions, a swinging salsa cumbiambera-rocanrolera for his daughter:

After his huge success with Fruko, Joe Arroyo recorded some killer albums with Los Latin Brothers. Here’s one of DJ Franz Tunda’s favorite tracks:

Finally, in the early 80s, Joe Arroyo formed his own band “La Verdad”, which recorded scorching salsa as well as some of the best executed fusion with Colombian genres like cumbia and mapalé, and Caribbean genres like compas and zouk (somewhat shamelessly rebaptized “Joesón”) A cumbia from his first album:

I’m not sure if they know it, but US salseros are big fans of Joe Arroyo. It seems that every single salsa night in this country will feature his *classic* song “Rebelión” (usually right before Oscar de León’s “Llorarás” and after Fruko’s “El Preso” – where Joe sings backup vocals). I always find it a bit awkward to see American salseros in their fancy outfits and shiny dancing shoes — spinning around like tops, and swinging their arms around like they’re directing traffic — while Joe is telling them about the time that the slave revolted against his Spanish master, screaming at him: “You’re not going to beat up my woman”.

An amazing track, no doubt, but you always hear that one. Instead, from the same album, un Joesón sabroso:

Joe Arroyo became the unrivaled star of the Carnaval de Barranquilla, winning the “Congo de Oro” award six times in a row. Eventually, in 1990, the organizers decided to introduce the “Super Congo de Oro” award just for him, and declare him out of competition, to give other artists a chance to win.

From this era are “En Barranquilla me quedo” (which I wake up to every morning, courtesy of DJ China Tu Madre), “La Noche” (a favorite of reggaetonero Don Omar) and:

The man has no intention to slow down, recording hit after hit and touring all over the world. I just read that, when the doctors get him off the sedatives, his close friends and bandmates Wilson Manyoma, Chelito de Castro, and Juan Piña are plotting to convince him to take it easy and retire. He insists he will die on stage.

¡Mucha fuerza, Joe!

Con inmenso respeto y cariño,