Spanish Harlem brings a Salsa Orchestra to the Cowtown?!

by Carey Rutherford

On October 27th, just after leaving New York, NY, and before arriving in Oakland, CA, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra took a little detour, . . . to Calgary, of course, the heart of Latin music in Canada.

Oscar Hernandez, the founder of the Grammy-winning Salsa band was kind enough to tell me why in the world they were heating up the Jack Singer Hall, of all places.

“This is the type of audience that you find all over the world. This band has travelled to places like Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Israel, not to mention almost every major city in Europe. . . . There’s fans of this music everywhere you go, and if they’re not fans they get turned on by what they hear and they go ‘Wow!’ There’s no doubt about the infectiousness of this music and how beautiful it can be.”

“Why Calgary? Calgary’s a big city, and if it needs to be educated about arts and culture, we’re addressing that.”

Well. It takes a New Yorker to tell me that Calgary deserves to hear live Salsa music. I’m a little embarrassed. And it’s not just any old Salsa, either.

“I have to explain because people say, ‘What, we can’t dance?’ This is music that deserves to be on a pedestal, on a stage such as (the Jack Singer) in order to appreciate it. The sound of the music, the sophistication of the arrangements, the harmonies that you hear and the chemistry in the different sections of the band: it’s fine that people want to party to it, but we feel we need to give ourselves the credit that it deserves. It’s on a world stage.”

And by that he means:

“In our band there’s a lot of creativity in terms of improvisation that goes on, which speaks to what the tradition of this was. That’s been lost in the last 15 years, because there’s lot of commercial style.. . . That’s the way it is. I understand it, but it kind of lost its way.. . . . We speak directly to what this music was before that occurred, 20 – 40 years ago, which you would see if you went into any Latin club on any given day in New York City. That’s the way it used to be, but not anymore.”

A Brief History of the SHOW:

“We went into the studio (in 2000) and recorded the first album (Un Gran Dia En El Barrio (2002): lo and behold it had an impact. It had success, it got nominated for a Grammy, and since then we have travelled all over the world, we’ve just released our 4th CD (Viva La Tradicion) and had a lot of success. As difficult as times are, and as difficult as it is to travel with 13 musicians all over the world, we’ve done it.

4 albums. 1 Grammy award. 3 nominations. 10 years.

Not bad.

Author: Allen Thai

Allen has always been a fan of writing. Specifically non-fiction. But he didn’t start off being a good writer by simply just “wishing to be one”. Nope. He took the initiative to get schooled at the prestigious University Of Calgary, attaining a Bachelor of Communications. Not, however, before getting a high school diploma through a great amount of summer courses to make it possible. Afterwards he turned his attention to SAIT, something that he thought could benefit and tune his writing ability: he was dead wrong. Digital Graphic Communications did not focus on any writing whatsoever (that was Journalism). It moreso was about printing and press. So from the beginnings of picking up a novel at age 8, to now writing for MUSICAlive!, Allen carries through the same passion and grit, to succeed and excel in anything he does. And not to mention his physical appearance is as pleasing to look at as the David was, artistically/aesthetically sculpted by the great Michaelangelo. (That was a joke btw: LOL!)