New York what are you thinking ?

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New York what are you thinking ?

Postby OLSONGO » Thu Nov 10, 2011 5:28 am

A Week in the Life of Spanish Harlem Orchestra
(A Tale of Two Countries) - An Observation
By Oscar Hernandez
On the way to one of Spanish Harlem Orchestra's few gigs in New York City, I was excited and looking forward to our performance at the Copacabana. It had been a while since we performed at a salsa club in NYC — a city with rich history and deep connection to this genre of music - my city. There is nothing like performing or listening to live Salsa music at home in New York City — or so I thought.

However, after we completed our first sizzling set, I was called to the office by the club's MC and was stunned when the manager handed me our pay and then told us that we were done for the night; there would be no second set. The conversation that followed brought me to a painful realization about our beloved musical genre.

The manager and the MC explained that salsa music doesn't have much of an audience any more. The club's clientele is no longer interested in dancing to live salsa music - even if it is being performed by an internationally recognized act such as the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Instead, they would prefer to dance to a DJ's blaring selections of bachata and reggaetón music. It's ironic that this NY experience happened at a time when more people are dancing Salsa worldwide than at any other time in our history.

Following this unexpected treatment (that we have never experienced before as a band - let alone in our own hometown), my initial reaction was shock! Then I asked myself what was wrong with this picture? If a particular audience truly feels this way about our music - then this is NOT the kind of audience we want to attract. We want to reach out to an audience that is mature and thoughtful about their musical choices; people who appreciate music performed by live musicians; and who understands the value of such music.

I then began to reflect upon my musical life - the privilege to carry on the beautiful tradition of this music. Having devoted my life to this art form, and having experienced, first hand, performing with legendary musicians such as Ray Barretto, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Ruben Blades, and Cachao, etc. I know that this music — especially the live performances - brings joy to the audience and musicians alike.

In this era, where excessively loud music is prevalent and hundreds of genres of music are thrown to the public, it is a challenge for a band to stand out. Look no further than the commercial Latin radio stations in New York, where they feed their listeners with mostly distasteful music - music that does nothing to inform younger generations about the rich tradition of their roots and music. In spite of this, however, I remain convinced that the soul of our music will appeal to the right audience and that this interaction will live on.

In searching for an answer as to why things are different now, I think that as I was growing up in New York City (in the 1960s), this music that we now call "salsa" was an important part of our search for cultural identity. It gave us a sense of pride and unity. Has that changed?

Moving forward from the above experience — one week later….
The Spanish Harlem Orchestra is travelling to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the first time, as the featured band in a Salsa Festival on a Saturday night. "Salsa in Russia?" seemed to be the question in the mind of our musicians. Excited to be in Russia, we had no idea of what the music scene would be like in St. Petersburg.

We arrived the day before our performance, and after having been taken to dinner by the promoters, we were shown the venue where the festival had already taken place. The club held approximately one thousand people and was about half-full.

Prior to a scheduled performance by a local salsa band that night, a young woman DJ was playing music for the crowd. It was obvious that the she had a very good knowledge of the genre and its history. We were pleased to hear her play an excellent mix of old and new; at a comfortable volume that actually allowed us to carry on a normal conversation.

This was a diverse audience comprised of couples, singles, young, and old - all dressed to impress. We were amazed at the level of skill and sophistication of the dancers. It was clear that they understood and respected the music as demonstrated by their connection to it through dance — as well as their attentiveness to the music itself. Our overall impression was so pleasant that we decided to stick around in order to hear the local band. We were surprised to hear a group of Russian musicians who sounded remarkably sophisticated — and authentic.

The following evening, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra performed for close to one thousand people — many appeared to be in an almost trance-like state of euphoria — from beginning to end. The band felt the surge of energy from the audience. It was like the heyday of Salsa in New York City in the 1970s.

Later I spoke with several people. They conveyed how exciting it was to experience our performance; until this evening, they could only imagine how we sounded live.

Did they understand something about our music that we have forgotten? If so, then what could that be? Or, better yet, why could this be?

I wondered…perhaps might we have started to take our own music for granted? Why the contrast between performing in NYC and in Russia? Maybe the Russians felt that they were experiencing a bit of history, since all of us in SHO had performed with many of the great musicians and bands of years past? Did they understand something about our music that we have forgotten?

I began to think about the broad range of audiences for whom we have performed (In countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Israel, Australia, as well as throughout Europe). It dawned on me that in virtually every country outside of the United States, our audiences have appreciated the opportunity to hear (and dance to) our music - performed live. Another example of what I am expressing is, we recently performed for a nice but reserved audience in California, and the very next evening we were at the Toronto Jazz festival where we received six standing ovations, playing the same repertoire.

It is my fervent hope that we can somehow bring about a change in the way some of our domestic audiences access music for their dancing and listening pleasure. If only they knew what they were missing!
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Re: New York what are you thinking ?

Postby b0ng0 » Thu Nov 10, 2011 9:42 am

Hmm interesting, but I think the answer to that is like the good book says, " nadie es profeta en su propia tierra"
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Re: New York what are you thinking ?

Postby RitmoBoricua » Thu Nov 10, 2011 11:43 am

Is kind of crazy that this happened in NYC. NYC was latin music biggest stage for decades.
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Re: New York what are you thinking ?

Postby RitmoBoricua » Thu Nov 10, 2011 12:27 pm

There is very little incentive for somebody to pursue music as a career.
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Re: New York what are you thinking ?

Postby ABAKUA » Thu Nov 10, 2011 1:29 pm

At the risk of being flamed.. and my early apologies for going somewhat off topic and back in and out of it...
while I respect the bands (SHO) virtuosity, skill and history and contribution of its members, their repertoire bores me to the point of yawning, in fact, myself and several other musicians walked out of one of their gigs here after about 4 songs. Straight, old school salsa. While I can appreciate it, and studied it and played it for many of my years, it simply bores me. Most the stuff coming out of the US bores me in fact. To me personally, it lacks that extra kick, that aggressivenes, its as though it simply aint evolved, with exception to the likes of Timbalive, Gonzalo Grau y la Clave Secreta, the work of Ralph Irizarry with Timbalaye, there are many more etc..

I respect it (Salsa) as a style and give credit to its musicians, many of whom are legendary figures, but in its essence, it just bores me.

Tough blow for the home town gig, sad to see it not supported in its home town. Sign of the audience tired of hearing the same old stuff over and over again with no evolvment.
NYC Salsa evolved out of the sounds of the Mambo, Charangas, Son Montunos etc of earlier Cuban groups, the music evolved into Salsa in the US, however since then little has changed. Sooner or later its own audience will tire of the sound and look towards something new, same way those early 'salsa' musicians tired of the old sound and evolved the music into the 'salsa' sound they made popular. (FYI, I loathe the word Salsa.)

And leedy, Cubans are not looking for a change in music or inventing today, Im tired of seeing you write that, fair enough, its your personal opinion, however you write it as though it were fact, and sorry, this is not the case. Their music has been evolving since the closing off of the country with the blockade, and branching out as it continues to do so to this day, there is a clear line of evolvement through all the bands in which the sound 'changed' and evolved as did the different styles of dancing through to today. From when Pello came out with the Mozambique that revolutionised the dancing styles, through to all the subsequent groups including but not limited to Aragon, Orquesta Sensacion, Los Bocucos, Los Chukis, La Reve, Ritmo Oriental, Son 14, Opus 13, Original de Manzanillo, Conjunto Rumbavana, Orquesta Riverside, Irakere and so many many more.
Because that timeline of sound (in its greater mass) was lost to US mass market ears through the post Cuban revolution period and all of a sudden reaching further international ears (in particular the US) in recent times it may seem that they are looking for a change or invent something, the truth is, it is not an invention or new creation, their music has been evolving non stop and all of a sudden is overpowering much of the other softer styles which seem to run out of steem with nothing new.
Cuban groups have been touring all over Europe, Asia, Sth America and even Australia for over 35 yrs, their music has not been blocked off to the mainstream audiences here by the govt, their is no anti Cuba policy here, nor salsa business mafia trying to control the dominance of their market with their own artists... The music and artists have always reached other international shores for many years.

SHO sound great, awesome musicians, tight outfit, they got their shit down tight, however their music is in the same style of everything since Fania and the like, what we call 'straighty 180' salsa.. Zzzzzz Time to step it up a few notches and re-engage your crowd.
Dont get me wrong however, there is plenty of hard salsa/salsa dura out of the US and Pt Rico, which I do like, but most the genre in general, bores the hell out of me.

*flamesuit on*

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Re: New York what are you thinking ?

Postby JohnnyConga » Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:50 pm

As a Nuyawka myself and a musician that did grow up in the 60's and 70's when 'the music' was the best ever..it's not reasonable to believe it would stay that way...when by 1972- 75, there was a huge surge of Dominicans that came to the city...they created the whole Merengue scene and the Salseros lost out ..because the Dominican musicians up to 13 piece bands were working for 30 bucks a man for a gig...NY Salsa musicians weren't gonna do that....and the Salsa scene suffered...What also carried the whole Latin music scene was the Puerto Rican(2 million had come from Puerto Rico and settled in NYC.)-Cubans-Italians-Jewish- and Black people that all went to the dances and concerts...today the people that have replaced the above are now Pakistani-Korean-African-Japanese and Russian.....who have no interest in the music at all...NY today is not the NY now, that I grew up in. All over the World Latin music is more popular than here in the states..Abakua is right about the lack if creativity and involvement with our music here...I haven't seen it myself either and im on 'the inside' of things...I just see everyone 'redoing' the same classic Salsa tunes we have heard for over 40 years or more...I felt Oscar's pain when he got the 'money envelope' from the Copa, and was told 'its over!"...and in a way saying--your not credible anymore and not needed...that hurts....for sure...
My wife just got back from spending 2 weeks in the city after a long time and said to me when she got back...."It's not our NY anymore!"....
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Re: New York what are you thinking ?

Postby JohnnyConga » Thu Nov 10, 2011 9:26 pm

A post from latinjazz@yahoogroups.com

Friends,
I thought you (Sonny and Arturo in particular) might like the clips of "Los originalitos de Manzanillo" to see what la juventud is up to...It should be the second video when you scroll down: http://www.muchoswing.com/MS_MusicandDance.php.
Also, vis a vis Orlando and Sonny's discussion of salsa there are some interesting clips of Alexander Abreu and Habana D'Primera that underscore the way that many contemporary Cuban bands are doing their thing today with respect to tumbaos, "breakdowns" et al.
BL


what are our young musicians doing today to advance our music in our area of music?...just a question, don't take it personal...
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Re: New York what are you thinking ?

Postby ABAKUA » Fri Nov 11, 2011 1:42 am

Again leedy, way to go missing the point completely.
And this is the last time I ask you, stop assuming what I do and do not know.
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Re: New York what are you thinking ?

Postby jorge » Fri Nov 11, 2011 6:35 am

Yeah, facts are facts. Leedy knows all and the rest of us know nothing. Maybe we should start a new section of Congaplace called Leedy's True Facts for Leedy to post the truth about everything. No need for any replies, and Leedy, no need for you to post anywhere else, it will be your very own protected space. As long as we can read and remain curious about the realities of drumming, we can get our dose of the true facts a few times every day, quick and easy. No thinking (or questioning) required.
Asere no te pongas bravo, I am exaggerating (slightly), but please, tone down your gospel preaching attitude just a little bit.
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Re: New York what are you thinking ?

Postby niallgregory » Fri Nov 11, 2011 1:25 pm

leedy2 wrote:
jorge wrote:Yeah, facts are facts. Leedy knows all and the rest of us know nothing. Maybe we should start a new section of Congaplace called Leedy's True Facts for Leedy to post the truth about everything. No need for any replies, and Leedy, no need for you to post anywhere else, it will be your very own protected space. As long as we can read and remain curious about the realities of drumming, we can get our dose of the true facts a few times every day, quick and easy. No thinking (or questioning) required.
Asere no te pongas bravo, I am exaggerating (slightly), but please, tone down your gospel preaching attitude just a little bit.

Jorge quote:
""Yeah, facts are facts. Leedy knows all and the rest of us know nothing.""
It's not that I know it all it's the lack of respect that you people have,You do not live of the music business yet claim to know what is going on in the music business. I live off the music business do you? I depend on Jingles, Arrangement, Sales and an Occasional job what do you do? Play rumbas in someones basement or store front I do not do this type of playing that is just for enjoyment Mine is business.

Abakua does not respect the opinions of others yet he a good conga player but still has a lot to go, He is hot head and his opinions are all valid and if he does not like yours he get annoyed . Has to leave to other country's to see what is going on in the rest of the world not only Cuba in the music industry . I under stand he likes Cuban music I like some but not every one like it. and you can not shove down some ones throat.

Here in conga place the a bunch of Anglo's that comment yet the only thing they comment is rumba and who has what drum , who made it, but of really learning very few. And once they learn a bit it's like the hunter being hunted by the pray. and the few that really know how to play are just leaving because of the crap that is talked here.

Here in this forum peoples opinions should be respected and starting with mediators If they do not like your opinion so be it it, An opinion and must be respected not because he has a bit of power delete it or make derogatory comments respect starts by the house not from outsiders.
And also not many of the knowledge play have left or don't bother with people here in conga place why because of your Arrogance and disrespect..


Thats an incredible response from you once again :shock: I have stated on previous occasions that you have lots of experience in the music business , and you have lived a life full of music and percussion etc but your constant preaching is becoming unbearable on this forum . You have no respect for ANYONES opinion , and this " ANGLO " bullshit is getting tiresome . What the fuck is " ANGLO " anyway ? So you have more respect from people of " Latino " origin , we all get that , is this not total reverse racism ? If i came on here and stated to bad mouth Latinos i would be banned in an instant . I have busted my arse for 2 decade to learn and immerse myself in Latin music and percussion from Cuba . I have many trips to Cuba and the USA to both study and perform this music , but because i am an " ANGLO " i am somehow below you and other Latinos :oops: Although you have never heard me or the majority of the people on this forum play ? Maybe we should have a youtube section on the forum exclusively for members to play for you and prove that we are musicians and can play Congas , bata etc ?
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Re: New York what are you thinking ?

Postby niallgregory » Fri Nov 11, 2011 1:34 pm

leedy2 wrote:here so you know what anglo means: Anglo is a prefix indicating a relation to the Angles, England or the English people, as in the terms Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-American, Anglo-Celtic, Anglo-African and Anglo-Indian. It is often used alone, somewhat loosely, to refer to people of British Isles descent in The Americas, Australia and Southern Africa. It is also used, both in English-speaking and non-English-speaking countries, to refer to Anglophone people of other European origins.


Yeah in other words it means NOTHING ? And well done for ignoring the rest of the post ! You want me to write it in Spanish ? LOL .
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Re: New York what are you thinking ?

Postby niallgregory » Fri Nov 11, 2011 1:42 pm

You mean " Its in English " ? I said do you want " me " to write " MY " post in SPANISH so that you can understand it and maybe respond the the points i made instead of ignoring it ? :oops:
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Re: New York what are you thinking ?

Postby jorge » Fri Nov 11, 2011 4:03 pm

Relax, Niall and don't take it personally. Let's get beyond the English grammar issues, to be honest there is a lot of bad grammar used on this and other forums by lots of other people. Leedy's English is a lot better than most forum members' Spanish and he does try to communicate clearly, so cut him some slack. The central problem here is that Leedy doesn't seem to respect ANYBODY but himself and a few selected friends (sometimes), but I would point out that in the past he has been just as condescending on this forum to Latinos and people of mixed ethnic descent as he has been to non-Latino White people. He has actually been pretty even handed (with respect to ethnicity) when he doles out his disrespect for us. He also seems to correlate how a person makes a living with whether the person can play or not and doesn't seem to believe that there are people who can play, who don't make their living as professional musicians. Leedy, please prove me wrong in your future posts, not by arguing back, but by changing some of your attitudes.
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Re: New York what are you thinking ?

Postby niallgregory » Fri Nov 11, 2011 5:19 pm

jorge wrote:Relax, Niall and don't take it personally. Let's get beyond the English grammar issues, to be honest there is a lot of bad grammar used on this and other forums by lots of other people. Leedy's English is a lot better than most forum members' Spanish and he does try to communicate clearly, so cut him some slack. The central problem here is that Leedy doesn't seem to respect ANYBODY but himself and a few selected friends (sometimes), but I would point out that in the past he has been just as condescending on this forum to Latinos and people of mixed ethnic descent as he has been to non-Latino White people. He has actually been pretty even handed (with respect to ethnicity) when he doles out his disrespect for us. He also seems to correlate how a person makes a living with whether the person can play or not and doesn't seem to believe that there are people who can play, who don't make their living as professional musicians. Leedy, please prove me wrong in your future posts, not by arguing back, but by changing some of your attitudes.


Fair enough Jorge , i dont want to piss off you or any other valued members of this forum . I have been on here for many years and value the contributions of yourself and lots of other posters . In general the forum has been very informative and well worth logging in for a regular look but lately its gone done hill rapidly due to leedys constant preaching and bullshit talk of anglo nonsense , i have just had enough of it . MODERATORS need to step in ASAP ! Enough is enough :oops:
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Re: New York what are you thinking ?

Postby burke » Fri Nov 11, 2011 5:39 pm

"Enough is enough"

Man I so agree.
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