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Pelanga Power

There’s a huge list of things I love about being a DJ with La Pelanga. One of my favorites is that each of us come from different regions and with different ears for incredible music. What excites us all the time is how so much of our different music is actually closely connected. This is true even when one of us thinks they did a mix that isn’t really “pelanga-esque.” I’m talking about my fellow Pelanguero, DJ Smokestack who just put together an amazing ultra-funk, beat-rock mix for one of his B-boys homies. (I’ll let him share if it if he wants). And just as we’ve begun to do in person when we feel inspired by what the other is playing, I’m gonna tag team with him on the virtual blog-turntables and slide the crossfader over to this sizzling track from Ray Barretto.


Right On is right! I wish I had a cleaner copy, but funk ain’t ever really clean. While I got Ray Barretto’s record Barretto Power out I might as well play the title track Power that is equally funky, but more in that old school Nueva York latin strut type of funk.

I can’t help but think that this instrumental jam was written just so you could tell your own “day in the life” urban monologue over it. You know the kind that starts off with “So check this out. The other day man, I was walking down 12th Street, when I saw…”

Alright who’s got the next record to throw on?


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…


Ray Barretto – Margie

I’m sure a lot of collectors can sympathize: I have a big pile of *great* records that I still haven’t had the time to listen to, not even once. Yeah, yeah, something about wanting to *really* listen to them… If you understand, you understand.

Anygüey, I tell you this because last night I had this really vivid dream where I *finally* played this incredible record that has been in that pile for more than six months. I figure that’s a sign, no?


Margie by Ray Barreto

Does it happen to you?



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.



Larry Harlow, el judío maravilloso


(este va para josh # 2, el judío maravilloso)

Amidst all the Nuyorican heavy hitters in the salsa scene of the 70s, it’s too easy to overlook the smiley white guy with a jewfro. If you did, go pick up this album now! I swear, I don’t even know what track to post.

Wampo by Orchestra Harlow


I especially recommend this album if, like me, you’re a salsero or a jazzero who never really managed to get into latin jazz. It’s hard to find such musicianship and such arrangements and (most importantly) such guateque in the same place!

No Quiero by Orchestra Harlow

No Quiero