Over 40,000 music lovers packed the stadium on that beautiful night 39 years ago, today.
The world had BeatleMania but we were proud to have our FANIA ALL STARS. Yes we all felt that they were “OUR” FANIA ALL STARS.
I being born in Brooklyn, New York of Puerto Rican parents but not wanting to speak Spanish continued to tell my mother that I was Newyorican and wanted nothing to do with my heritage and would never speak spanish.
Wow, how that changed when my parents divorced and I found myself on this 100 mile x 35 mile island called Puerto Rico. Even though it was and is such a beautiful island I wanted out. I wanted New York.
But something happened when somehow I got these vinyl records of the night it all started. Another August night.
This time August 26, 1971 at the Cheetah in NYC. Three individuals, Jerry Massuci, Johnny Pacheco and Ralph Mercado put together a collage of musicians from various musical groups and called them after their new record label, THE FANIA ALL STARS.
What I felt when I first heard that record, was a feeling up my spine that has never gone away in 41 years. I still feel like I did at 15 years old learning my first song in spanish, “El Raton” by Cheo Feliciano, and the pride I have carried ever since of learning to speak spanish and el orgullo of being Boricua 100%. Today as I travel to concerts where Cheo is performing and as he sings that song, “El Raton”, I begin to shed tears because I remember how stuck I was in my ways, but am so grateful that because of this music, FANIA changed my life.
I share this story because many of you know what I do today. For the past 20 years my life is consumed with traveling 50 weeks a year, co producing 42 congresses worldwide in six continents. The feeling I continue to feel today is the same as I listened to not only that album but continued with so many others like FANIA at Yankee Stadium, FANIA In Africa, Our Latin Thing, Larry Harlow’s “Hommy”, Barretto’s “Indestructible”, Tipica 73, Roberto Roena Y Su Apollo Sound, Ismael Miranda, Adalberto Santiago, Santitos Colon, Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz, in addition to the special appearances of other greats like Alfredo De La Fe. But how can I forget not being able to stop moving at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente as “El Cantante de los Cantantes”, Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon and Barry Rogers were playing and then when the Queen came out singing “Bemba Colora”. The one and only Celia Cruz. Or later going to see the Mambo King himself Tito Puente. Wow, so many stories, but it was FANIA that changed my life.
Where am I going with this? I travel with much pride with my FANIA cap, FANIA hoodie, FANIA t shirts all over the world. I look like a FANIA billboard :). At every airport I get stopped by people asking me what ever happened to the FANIA, Where can I get the FANIA cap or shirt? It does not matter where I am in the world the FANIA ALL STARS touched us all.
What amazes me though is that many of the dancers today when I do my history seminars along with Tito Ortos, don’t even know the influence that Tito Puente and his great band that continues today as The Mambo Legends Orchestra was to us, with his 117 albums of dance music for all us dancers. I am not a musicologist but I am a music lover and love to study. I try to share on a daily basis these names and stories with our dancers today. If we share it with one child , we can help teach a whole generation. The bottom line is we can never ever let it die. What are we waiting for?
I do whatever I can to keep this music in its live form alive so these dancers can see who has brought us these amazing beats. But most of the time the dancers of this generation still don’t know. It seems sometimes that they are more interested in that sensual new shine, turn or move to impress their partner rather than acknowledging the arrangers and musicians that without their hard work and talent we would have nothing to move to.
It is my mission in life to keep the names and memories of those no longer on this earth alive forever. Arrangers like Tite Curet Alonzo or the great musician Arsenio Rodriguez or singers Tito Rodriguez, Pete El Conde, Hector Casanova or my good friend Manny Oquendo, VAYA. The opening of the Afro Cuban / Jazz world with Mario Bauza and Machito and Graciela. These to name just a few. And the recent passing of Yomo Toro. This door of music and knowledge would never have opened for me if FANIA had not changed my life.
Of the founders of FANIA which ones are still with us? Do you know which musicians are still performing of the FANIA? I know most of you don’t. This saddens me so much. We need to keep this music alive. No matter what! We need to keep FANIA alive.
The jazz world keeps their masters alive through the music and the world keeps the music of the Beatles and others alive but we have a treasure called FANIA and many are still with us today. But how do we keep this jewel alive? To be completely honest we need the help not only of the dancers but also of the musicians of FANIA and their management. We need for them to make themselves available and affordable so we can let this generation and future generations know who they are and perform and dance to their music. I want to thank those musicians that I have had the pleasure of working with over and over again and have helped make many of my dreams into realities. We need to bring the past to the present so it will be available for the dancers in the future as it was made available for me. I will continue to do everything in my power so that it never fades away.
We can do this. With the new and older generation of singers and musicians like Rafael Ithier & El Gran Combo, Papo Lucca Y La Sonora Poncena, Gilberto SantaRosa, Eddie Palmieri, Jimmy Bosch, Oscar D Leon, Victor Manuelle, Oscar Hernandez, Johnny Polanco, Herman Olivera, Jose Mangual Jr, Ruben Blades, Jose Alberto El Canario, Frankie Vazquez, Frankie Morales, Mambo Legends, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, New Swing Sextet, La Excelencia, Marc Anthony, India, Gilberto Velazquez, MercadoNegro, Orquesta Broadway, Grupo Latin Vibes, Choco Orta, Cece Rodriguez etc etc to name a few. So many more……
I beg those still with us of the FANIA to unite and pass this on through your music. This is really bigger than any individual, this is FANIA. We can keep it alive. Lets keep it alive forever!
If FANIA could change my life life over 40 years ago, lets make it a reality that today the music and musicians of FANIA continue to change many more lives as they did mine.
Que Viva La Musica De FANIA Para Siempre