Oro de México


This past August my fiancé and I treated ourselves to 3 weeks of traveling through Mexico. It had been five years since we were there last and my only regret from that last trip was that I didn’t go hunting for records. I wasn’t about to make that same mistake twice. We traveled through 4 states: Mexico (DF), Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Chiapas. My expectation was that I would only find records in the tianguis (outdoor flea markets) of Mexico City which I did thanks to Franz’s friend. Thankfully I relearned the most valuable lesson in record digging—records are everywhere. The key of course is making friends. Below is small sampling of what I returned with.

The photo above was taken in Oaxaca after finding the bazar that I had been told about from a friend I made in another bazar. On our last day I stumbled across it after having no luck earlier. The place was dark, dirty, and filled with mosquitos. However, this bazar was also filled with stacks upon stacks of records. The only problems was we had a bus to catch with only minutes to spare. Digging at top speed I managed to find a fair amount of good stuff including this gem of a 45 from Acapulco Tropical called La Pollera Amarilla.


By the time we crossed from Oaxaca to Chiapas I really didn’t expect to find more records, but again making friends is the key. This time there was no getting lost. After making friends with the owner of a vintage shop we were guided straight to a record store filled with deadstock vinyl. (Mil gracias Edgar!) Musically Chiapas is most known for marimba. To be honest, a lot of marimba music from Central America just doesn’t do it for me. But how can you pass up Marimba Seguridad Publica De Chiapas, with it’s 8-man horn section covering La Sonora Dinamita’s Macumba? 


For those who have never been to Chiapas I highly recommend visiting if you get the chance. The natural beauty there is stunning beyond words. Of course we went to the Mayan ruins of Palenque. And it was only fitting to find this great record by Los Royang’s with Noche Palencana to provide the perfect soundtrack.


Without a doubt my absolute favorite state in Mexico is Veracruz. I’ve managed to collect a wealth of favorite memories over a short period of time there. And of course Veracruz is the home of Son Jarocho which we’re all big fans of here at La Pelanga. Here is one of the great standards from Veracruz, La Bruja by Conjunto Villa Del Mar De Angel Valencia. I can listen to this over and over.


Mexican salsa: tomatos, onions, garlic, chiles and limes are one of the best conjuntos of ingredientes ever! But in Veracruz you also have another legendary type of salsa—Sonora Veracruz. Here is a spoonful of their sound from the late 70s, El Pescador.


As any record digger will tell you, unearthing and breathing new life into a record is the rewarding part. But the real treasures are all the memories of the places and people you meet in the process.



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!


¡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,



Mon Rivera

I was superhappy to finally find this record at a reasonable price in Puerto Rico last month! Mon Rivera’s monster track Lluvia con Nieve has always been a Pelanga favorite – from Eddie Palmieri’s badass piano intro, to the horn section consisting of a trombone, a trombone, and a trombone, to the eloquent lyrics on the boricua experience in Nuebayol (“Lluvia con nieve, lluvia con nieve, lluvia, nieve, lluvia con nieve”.) If you like the hard-hitting, trombone-heavy sound of the salsa orchestras of the 70s, say thank you to Mon Rivera y su Orquesta – they were doing this in 1963, you understand?


This is an incredible album, where he is really pushing the possibilities of the plena and of Puerto Rican music in general. I can’t recommend it enough. I had a really hard time choosing what song to post, but the chorus of this song has been stuck in my head for a couple of weeks, so that’s a good sign. (It’s also the scratchiest one on the record, sorry ’bout that! That is how it is.)

Monina by Mon Rivera


I’ve also gotta show you what he was doing with the plena:
Qué Gente Averiguá by Mon Rivera

Qué Gente Averiguá

In case you don’t know what a plena is (or if you do), I’ll let him explain:



Frankie Dante & Orquesta Flamboyan – Dante Presidente


If Frankie Dante was president, there would be no armed forces, wars would end, and the kids would come back home, where they belong.

Taxes would be lowered, and that money would be used for the benefit of the community. And on top of that, a raise for the musicians who work so hard for so little money.

Frankie Dante for president!

USA, 1972.

Presidente Dante by Frankie Dante & Orquesta Flamboyan

Presidente Dante