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The Salsa Revolution

Chapter 1: The Birth of Boogaloo

[FOOTAGE: Fania All Stars Cheetah Club]

In 1971, a small New York record label pulled together its best artists for a performance at a club in the city.

[FOOTAGE: Fania All Stars Yankee Stadium Concert. VO: Izzy Sanabria introduces Fania All Stars.]

Two years later, they performed for over 40 thousand people at Yankee Stadium.

[FOOTAGE: Fania All Stars Yankee Stadium Concert.]

And one year after that, they were playing for thousands more across the globe.

[FOOTAGE: Fania All Stars Live in Africa Concert]

By the end of the seventies, the label, Fania, had sold millions of records around the world.

All the while, back in the US, most people barely noticed.

This is the story of what they missed.

A musical revolution.

The birth of Salsa.



[FOOTAGE: 1960s New York City B-roll]

The 1960s in East Harlem, El Barrio.

By then the city held over a half a million Latinos, mostly Puerto Ricans.

Many were young, part of a massive post-war generation whose search for identity would transform US culture.

New York-born Puerto Ricans would become Nuyoricans... and Salsa would be their flag.

The first step on that journey was away from the Latin Big Bands of the 50s.

FELIPE LUCIANO, Broadcaster: I was tired of traditional Latin music. I was tired of bands and frilly dresses and perfume -heavy musky perfume. (VO) I was tired of that.

[FOOTAGE: BW Archive of Rumba Band]

LUCIANO: (VO) We grew up immersed in it. (OC) And it's like your mother and your father, you're used to them.

[FOOTAGE: BW Archive of Smokey Robinson. MUSIC: 'Mickey's Monkey']

["Ah one, ah two, ah one two three..."]

LUCIANO: (VO) We had a Rock and Roll generation that was listening to Smokey and the Miracles, the Temptations, Elvis Presley.

["This cat named Mickey came from out of town..."]

Rock and Roll knocked us out (OC) and it knocked us out as much as it did any other American.

[FOOTAGE: BW Boogaloo dancers. MUSIC: 'Boogaloo Blues' 1966]

It didn't take long for musicians in El Barrio to make R&B and Rock their own. They called it Latin Boogaloo, a fusion of traditional Latin rhythms and the new sounds of a new generation.

JOHNNY COLON, MUSICIAN: If you listen to that what you hear is you hear is... kind of a funk and the very bottom of rhythm and blues... (sings riff) and then the rest of it is the Latin rhythm on the bottom.

[FOOTAGE: BW Boogaloo dancers. MUSIC: 'Boogaloo Blues' 1966]

J. COLON: (VO) But it was just putting the music together, the sounds that you were raised with and as kid from (OC) El Barrio born in El Barrio, you know, it just came out.

[Music Break]

LUCIANO: (VO) It filled the void (OC) because we had nothing. We were caught between Rock and Roll and Latin. It married the two.


Earlier hybrids had made it to the pop charts, like Mongo Santamaria's "Watermelon Man."

Latin boogaloo added more:

Joe Cuba's "Bang Bang"...

Or Pete Rodriguez's "I like it like that."

[FOOTAGE: BW Boogaloo dancers. MUSIC: 'I Like it Like That']

The musical simplicity of Latin Boogaloo, compared to the sophisticated mambos of the past, invited a new generation of musicians into the business.

[STILLS: Tito Puente on timbales and Machito and the Afro-Cuban Orchestra]

J. COLON: (VO) If you played with Puente or if you played with some of the other bands, Machito and stuff like that, you had to be really mature and kicking around for a long time, (OC) but now, you have this wave of young musicians coming in.

[STILLS: Joe Bataan & BW NYC B-roll]

One of those was Joe Bataan, a twenty-two year old just out of prison.

JOE BATAAN, MUSICIAN: (VO) And I remember walking down (OC) First Avenue and 99th Street and I said to myself, I'm gonna start a band and I'm gonna kick ass.


[FOOTAGE: BW New York City Subway b-roll. MUSIC: 'Subway Joe']

BATAAN: We put in the clapping of course, which was very instrumental in most of the Boogaloo songs back then, and uh, just to cause excitement.

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