Salsa singer Willie Colón returns to a stage in the Bronx, the neighborhood where he was born and grew up, to take to his audience the Puerto Rican Christmas music that he learned to love since childhood and successes that he has reaped in his five decades of career.
Colón returns on December 9th to the Lehmam Center for the Performing Arts with his “Christmas Assault”, with which he recreates one of the most celebrated and expected traditions of the Puerto Rican community: the parrandas or Christmas assault, which go from house to house, to surprise family and friends in their homes with typical music of the time.
The popular trombonist and composer picked up that music in two albums, in which for the first time he merged it with the salsa that was born in the streets of New York, and that he recorded in the voice of Héctor Lavoe, with whom he formed one of the most popular duos. important in the history of salsa ..
“I made those records out of respect for my grandmother who liked native music so much (from Puerto Rico) and had a lot of records, it was not fashionable with my generation, but I liked them too and coincidentally I worked with a jíbaro (as the name is Hector Lavoe, “he reminded Efe about the singer of his orchestra.
“It was the perfect opportunity to do that project, the marriage of street salsa music with the aguinaldo (musical genre), and with Héctor’s repertoire and nature was very easy,” he added in the telephone interview.
“Asalto navideño 1” (1970), to which Colón first added the cuatro, Puerto Rican national instrument, to the salsa performed by Yomo Toro, and “Asalto Navidad 2” (1973), the first Christmas records recorded for the label Fania, they have crossed the barriers of time and borders because they continue to be popular in Latin America, said Colón.
The discs were recorded in full swing of the salsa and its first part includes “Canto a Borinquen”, “This Christmas”, the full (autochthonous rhythm of the island) “Live your happy life” or “La murga”, in which highlights the trombone, one of its great classics.
In the second, the Christmas flavor comes with “Arbolito”, “Pa’los pueblos”, “Tranquidad” or “Cantemos” and that also includes “La banda”.
Columbus recalled that at that time there was a bar in the Bronx where the show of the cuatrista was announced to Yomo Toro. “I kept that idea in mind (to include that instrument on the record) and asked Héctor if he knew it and if he could get it,” he recalled about the debut of the cuatro in salsa and Toro with the Fania label.
The musician affirms that this project “was like a bridge between the New Yorkers and the Puerto Ricans on the island” and that beyond that, that music was received in Latin America, which also made it their own. “I play her whenever I go at Christmas,” she argues.
“Puerto Rican folklore and all this tumbao was universally accepted by Latinos, for me it is a compliment, an achievement because I feel proud as a Puerto Rican and as a musician,” said Colón, recalling that neither the musician Johnny Pacheco nor the lawyer Jerry Masucci , creators of the Fania label, knew what was going to record.
He also indicated that after rehearsing with Toro and Lavoe, the recording of “Asalto Navideño 1” was “very organic, very natural, just as it is heard on the album”, but also emphasized that although Pacheco and Masucci liked the album they did not know if the public would welcome him “because it was a novelty”.
However, “Christmas Assault” is the best selling project of the Christmas music Fania.
“In addition, the boys of my generation made fun of the guitarists and cuatristas who sat playing in front of the wineries and for me that was stupid because they did not understand that music, they were more jazz and many New Yorkers did not speak Spanish” , he indicated.
Colón added that Saturday will “dust off” old songs that the public turned into successes and that they can not miss in their concerts like “La murga”, or “El gran hombre”.