Joey Pastrana – Let’s Ball

Here’s some more heat from my recent trip to Colombia.

As I told you a couple of years ago, I spent a few (pre-internet) years trying to figure out who played this incredible song, and several years after that trying to track down a copy of Joey Pastrana’s brilliant debut album. This wasn’t easy – I like to buy my records in person, and don’t like to pay a fortune for them – but I finally found it.


Man, I love the sound of this group. From the fat rhythm and horn sections, to Joey’s breaks on the timbales, to Ismael Miranda’s voice, to the groovy “Rivera sisters” – who aren’t really sisters, and are definitely not just ‘backup singers’ – I feel like I’m hearing Cortijo’s younger, crazier sibling. (And Cortijo is pretty crazy himself.)

It’s hard to choose a song or two from this album. Every song is gold! Anyway, here’s a soulful boogaloo:

Bien Dulce by Joey Pastrana/Let’s Ball

a savage descarga:

Mani Picante by Joey Pastrana/Let’s Ball

and please go check out Rumbón Melón if you haven’t.

Joey tells the story of how Cotique’s George Goldner sent him straight to the recording studio after hearing his band play just one song. Dude was so excited with what he heard, that he rushed to get the album out as quickly as possible. It seems that he didn’t even have time to check the spelling of ‘Pastrana’ on the cover…


Joey Pastrana – Rumbón Melón

Here’s a tribute to the great Joey Pastrana who, rumor has it, visits La Pelanga every now and then.


I first heard this song in El Goce Pagano when I was starting to get into salsa in the early 90s. For weeks I wanted to hear it again so bad! But all I could remember about it was the catchy chorus, and I couldn’t even remember the words to that. I turned to the Colombian Google: singing the chorus to every street vendor in downtown Bogotá to see if anyone knew it.

The street was pretty empty (!) and I was having no success. But after a while I found my guy: “Claro, ese es Joey Pastrana: ¡El Rumbón Melón!” He told me to follow him, I asked him where. He said “My warehouse. You know, the police is really cracking down on this street since last week, when they came to harass us, and a colonel was beaten”. (Futbolista grammar! He didn’t need to explain that “us” meant “me” and “was beaten” had something to do with the first person.)

I’m not sure why I trusted the guy. I think it was my empty pockets and his childish enthusiasm for the song. He brought me to the back of this empty warehouse in San Victorino, and sold me the best salsa compilation I own (handpicked by him). I’ll spare you the cover; let me just say that, aside from pirate CDs, he also sold teen pornography.

Enigüey, too much blablabla, here’s the song. One thing that sets it apart for me is the raw enthusiasm: I haven’t heard many bands on record who are this excited to just play some fat salsa. I just found out in this great interview that this, Joey Pastrana’s first album, was recorded three weeks after the band was formed. Maybe that explains it.

Rumbón Melón by Joey Pastrana

Rumbón Melón

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