On Friday night DJs Joe Bryl and Supreme Court are hosting an evening at Sonotheque dubbed “We Got…Latin Soul.” Together they’ll be focusing on boogaloo, the once wildly popular variant of New York salsa with heavy strains of soul and R & B. The style peaked in the late 60s on the strength of ultra-catchy hits by folks like Joe Bataan, Joe Cuba, and Pete Rodriguez, but by then the sound was so ubiquitous that just about everyone on the scene, including vets like Tito Puente and Celia Cruz, was tapping into it.
A few years ago the Rough Guide folks issued a superb collection of the genre, Rough Guide to Boogaloo. Propulsive, hypnotic montuno grooves are accented with tight brass patterns taken from soul, and lots of exhortations (in English) to hit the dance floor. Silly chants are another trademark, perhaps due to the monster success of a song like Cuba’s “Bang, Bang,” where the titular phrase seems to lift the groove higher with every pass.
Most of the songs on the comp were licensed from the great Fania Records, the family of New York salsa labels that dominated the market from the 60s through the 80s. In fact, it’s hard to think of another imprint that so embodied an entire genre. Among its roster: Eddie Palmieri, Willie Colon, Mongo Santamaria, Ray Barretto, Cheo Feliciano, Ruben Blades, Johnny Pacheco, Ismael Rivera, and, of course, the Fania All-Stars. Last year a Miami firm called Emusica acquired the label’s huge holdings and has been reissuing remastered versions of the catalog at a furious pace. Naturally, boogaloo is well represented. In particular, the recordings of Bataan, who is actually an Afro-Filipino, make the links between salsa and soul more explicit. His classic album Riot! opens with an extended take on the Smokey Robinson hit “It’s a Good Feeling,” transporting the tune to Spanish Harlem with passing sirens screaming and stoop-dwellers yelling. Other songs deliver pure brown-eyed soul, where the Latin grooves accent rather than dominate.