Arts & Entertainment

New generation of Puerto Rican recording artists keeping salsa on musical map

By Esther Alaejos

San Juan, Jun 1 (EFE).- A new generation of Puerto Rican salsa artists are helping to keep that genre alive and thriving on the United States commonwealth, where it remains a highly popular musical style at dance clubs and nightspots.

More than 60 years after salsa emerged in New York City thanks largely to the talents of Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians, doomsayers have been forecasting its demise on an island known now as the cradle of reggaeton.

But salsa’s newest stars are defying those predictions and proving it still has plenty of staying power.

One of its current practitioners, 34-year-old singer, producer, composer and arranger Carlos Garcia, a native of the northeastern Puerto Rican coastal city of Carolina, told Efe that salsa is “doing super well” and is just as relevant as before.

The most internationally recognized Puerto Rican salsa artists are now elder statesmen but, according to Garcia, they are now supporting the younger generation so they too can make a living as musicians.

“Salsa is the genre I identify with, the one I love, live, breathe and believe in, and the one in which I now work in, thank God,” said Garcia, who began playing piano at age nine and first became a member of a salsa band at age 15.

Since then, the artist has forged his path in that genre thanks to collaborations with renowned Puerto Rican artists such as Charlie Aponte, Norberto Velez and Pete Perignon, as well as Peru’s Tony Succar and the Dominican Republic’s David Kada.

Garcia is proof that the new generation can live from salsa in Puerto Rico: he works as a producer and arranger for other artists, composes his own songs and has performed live on stage weekly for the past 13 years, either as a soloist or as a member of a band known as Grupo Sin Nombre.

The pianist, who recently released his latest single titled “Loco enamorado,” said new salsa artists have an advantage in that they are able to leverage digital platforms to distribute their work to audiences anywhere in the world.

His friend and colleague, 33-year-old Carlos Nevarez, said their generation is “filled with talented artists, who have extremely strong musical backgrounds … (there are) lots of arrangers, lots of composers and instrumentalists who can sing.”

One of the emerging figures on the salsa scene, Nevarez was nominated in 2018 for a Latin Grammy along with Pete Perignon for the album “La esquina del bailador” and also has collaborated with other recording artists such as Ronald Borjas, Manolito Rodriguez and Wiso Rivera.

The young salsa star has given concerts in Mexico, Colombia, the US and some African countries and soon will be on stage in Bari, Italy, to perform his latest single “Se esta regando” and other hits.

Female recording artists also are making waves in the salsa world, which has traditionally been male chauvinist but now is seeing the emergence of figures like Amor de Jesus, Zayra Pola, Tanisha Galarza and Michelle Brava.

Another rising star is 26-year-old Merari Rivera, who told Efe she is receiving the support of well-established salsa musicians like Victor Manuelle.

Rivera, who was a member of the San Juan Children’s Choir between the ages of nine and 17, released a song in early March titled “La carta” that was initially intended as a ballad but later became a salsa track.

“I’m doing fine, honored by the exposure and the love they’ve given this first single, and they won’t be disappointed with everything I’m coming to bring,” said Rivera, whose work Venezuelan singer-songwriter Franco De Vita discovered on social media in 2017.

She named salsa legends Eddie Santiago and Celia Cruz as influences and said her dreams include performing in Colombia and giving a concert at the Jose Miguel Agrelot Coliseum in San Juan – the Caribbean island’s biggest indoor arena – “because of what it would mean as a Puerto Rican.” EFE


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