Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Spanish Harlem Orchestra

I graduated on May 24.

I got to celebrate the day with my parents at Yoshi's in Oakland--Spanish Harlem Orchestra was on the bill. If you want to make this Puerto Rican happy, you give her the opportunity to dance salsa with her dad on one of the most momentous occasions of her life. Scholarship and salsa: what can be better than that?

I hadn't seen my dad light up like that to music in a long time. He and my brother are my two favourite dance partners of all time. They lead and when we dance it's a playful salsa. We incorporate our mood into our dance. We turn. We dance silly vignettes. We embody the lyrics with our dancing. It's not a show-off thing. It's a joyful thing.

El conjunto brought it. Of course, I didn't scribble notes into my notebook, like I normally would do if I enjoyed the concert by myself. I was too busy laughing and dancing with my dad. But I was keen on the bandleader, the bass player, and the powerful brass that filled that room. Woe to the person who came to just watch. Salsa is not a music form to watch. One embodies salsa. And we filled every available space -- the dance floor, the aisles, and even the audience at the tables was moving their shoulders, tapping on their tables in rhythm with the congeros. At a salsa concert the audience and orchestra are one band.

In the weeks since my graduation I have been caught up in finishing one assignment and getting ready for summer teaching. Although I have found myself drifting into music, wanting to whirl and laugh and be filled with the percussive power of live salsa. Spanish Harlem Orchestra have been unofficially crowned as the successors to El Gran Combo. Feeling their energy live again? I am prone to recognize them taking the reigns of salsa and moving it forward. I was lucky enough to happen upon this live concert in Montreal. This is the energy I experienced.

Que bonita bandera. Que bonita ser boricua. Spanish Harlem Orchestra trae la tradicion.

WEPA, senores y senoras!