che che cole

When it comes to salsa, I’ve always been biased towards the Nuyorican and Colombian salsa dura from the 70s. Understand: I learned about salsa in the seedy billares of Bogotá from a bunch of drunk dudes, dancing with their billiards sticks, singing out of tune: “Mete la mano en el bolsillo, saca y abre tu cuchillo, ten cuidao.” No salsa romántica there.


Back then, as a 15-year old, I considered myself a punk rocker – though I don’t think anyone noticed. I really didn’t want to like salsa, but there were some songs I could never get out of my head. One of them was Willie Colón’s “Che Che Cole”, from the album “Cosa Nuestra”. You’ll have no trouble finding the original recording in your nearby music store or on the internet. Here’s a great video from back in the day (with a little Bang Bang Lulu at the end, nice!)

I’d always heard that Che Che Cole was based on an old African tune, so I was psyched a couple of weeks ago when I stumbled upon this (Ghanian?) record which I knew nothing about, except that it had a track called ‘Che Che Kule’. For $4.50, why not?


Che Che Kule by Kumbi Saleh

Che Che Kule

Ok, that’s pretty cool too.
But do they have anything on these kids?

PS – As a bonus track: Here is an incredible recording of Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe’s band (see Chapters 9-12) at their prime, courtesy of my teacher Louie Romero. He’s the timbalero in the bee outfit on the video, and also the timbalero on the ‘Cosa Nuestra’ record. (And also the corpse on the cover!) If you are lucky enough to be in the SF Bay Area like we are, go check out his current musical project ‘Mazacote’. Ataca, Romero! (This is where you plug into some good speakers or headphones if you have them.)

(On that same page you also get to see 1972 footage of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Tito Puente, Taj Mahal, Earth, Wind & Fire, Max Roach, Ron Carter, … Massive thanks to thirteen!)


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the family treasures

So one day my grandfather arrived home from work to find that my grandmother had thrown away his whole record collection – just put it in boxes and left it outside for anyone to pick up. The kids’ records too. I love her to pieces, but I do dream of buying these treasures back from the lucky person that happened to walk by.

Decades later, I found this great little 45′ in a flea market. (In a puddle, you can hear that…) I like this song a lot, but the real beauty was getting home and finding my aunt’s signature on the record.


Rosa by Charanga 76


Now my uncle Gerardo, the self-proclaimed “Rey del Bugalú”, owned every record by Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz. The other day he saw I picked up Jala, Jala Boogaloo Vol. 2 and pointed me to this hot track I’d never heard before.


Iqui Con Iqui by Richie Ray Y Bobby Cruz

Iqui Con Iqui

And my mom? So much of what I know I learned from her… I’ve gotta give her her own post later.

– Papicultor

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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

– papicultor

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“Exodus”, Ray Barretto and his Orchestra


“Exodus” from 1962  is one of my favorite Ray Barretto tracks: so laid back, so eerie, and that repeated violin riff is just hypnotic. Perhaps it’s a little too contemplative to be the first song on an album called Carnaval, but it’s still a banger…

Exoduos by Ray Barreto


— juancho