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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Spanish Harlem Orchestra salsas its way to UA

    Salsa music is a trend that has woven in and out of mainstream music culture making guest appearances on the ultimate of all ultimate mainstream venues, “”Total Request Live,”” and several top-40 radio stations. Our exposure to the Latin rhythms, however, is not exactly the real deal.

    Oscar Hernandez, the musical director of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, a 13-piece salsa band, said that salsa music as we know it is more of a commercial, pop genre.

    “”Our music is about New York, hardcore, hardball salsa,”” Hernandez said.

    Hernandez gave a little background explaining that the term “”salsa”” was coined during its cultural revolution of the ’60s and ’70s in New York.

    “”That’s the music that influenced that time,”” Hernandez said. “”Those elements have been lost in the past 15 years.””

    The orchestra makes a point of focusing on rekindling the music’s roots and, fortunately for them, their authenticity and talent has been recognized. In 2002, right after the release of their first album, Un Gran Dia En El Barrio, the band was nominated for a Grammy for Best Salsa Album of the Year. Although the band did not walk away with that award they won a Grammy in 2005 for their latest release, Across 110th Street.

    “”Since that time we’ve basically been acquiring success and gaining public awareness of what we’re doing,”” Hernandez said. “”Since those Grammys, things have just been building for us.””

    Golden trophies are not the only achievements the band has successfully gained. Spanish Harlem has toured internationally and has made between 14 and 15 trips to Europe to perform. One of Hernandez’s most memorable performances, however, was on our side of the Atlantic at the Montreal Jazz Festival.

    “”We were in front of an audience of 150,000 people. It was pretty incredible. You’d think you were at a Rolling Stones concert,”” Hernandez said. “”It was incredible to get that kind of exposure.””

    Although a packed house can boost any musician’s ego, Hernandez emphasized that the quality of their audience is just as important as the quantity.

    “”Even when we’ve had small audiences, those can turn out to be the most enthusiastic and you can feel like the place is full,”” Hernandez said. “”We’re about keeping the music alive in people’s consciousness and turning people on to the music.””

    The Spanish Harlem Orchestra will be performing Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Centennial Hall. General ticket prices are between $18 and $36. UA faculty, staff and student discounts are available.

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