Timba Goodness from Sweden !?!

 Playlist for September 2015

Song (iTunes)




Somos Calle Real – Calle Real  Calle Real Timba Sweden
Pesadilla (feat. Daniel Baro) – Petter el Chocolate  Petter el Chocolate Timba Sweden
Mambo Con Puente (Remastered) – Tito Puente  Tito Puente  Mambo USA
El Mismo Sol (Salsa Version) – Single – Croma Latina  Croma Latina Salsa Italy
Salsa & Choque (feat. Ñejo) – ChocQuibTown  ChocQuibTown  Salsa Choke  Colombia
Abrazame (feat. Anthony Santos) – Elvyn Soto  Anthony Santos, Elvyn Soto Bachata  D. Republic
Te Vas – Single – Grupo Extra  Grupo Extra Bachata D. Republic
Bésame Siempre – Henry Santos  Henry Santos Bachata USA
A Que Te Pego Mi Mania – Grupo Mania  Grupo Mania  Merengue D. Republic
Rico Boogaloo – Ray Lugo & The Boogaloo Destroyers Ray Lugo & The Boogaloo Destroyers Boogaloo USA

Calle Real New Album

Calle Real is back… For Real

Europe is not the first place people think of when the topic of Salsa comes up and especially the topic of Cuban Salsa or Timba.  The reality is that there is a vibrant Latin music and dance scene on the other side of the Atlantic.  This is attested to by the number of music and dance festivals held throughout the continent, the large number of Latin bands and artists that frequently tour there as well as the number of talented bands that are native to Europe.  One such band has been a favourite of mine since I first got into Latin music, the Stockholm based Calle Real.  Not only does Calle Real make fantastic music but they are one of the few bands outside of the Americas who make Timba that actually sounds like Timba.  There are a number of great European based Salsa/Timba bands but, in my opinion, many of them fall short when it comes to delivering Latin music that sounds ‘authentic’.   Timba is a rare beast; beautifully melodic, highly energetic and a lot of fun to dance to but also very dynamic and full of multiple rhythms, which can be overwhelming and even confusing to the uninitiated.   Because of this some would argue that only Cuban musicians who have studied music on the island and have grown up surrounded by Afro-Cuban culture can compose and perform genuine Timba.  Calle Real is the type of band that would prove those people wrong.   Granted they have one Cuban member, Rickard Valdés son of the great Cuban piano player Bebo Valdés.  However, the rest of the 12 members come from other parts of the globe and all of them grew up in Sweden.   Despite their mostly non-latin background, Calle Real is without a doubt the best Timba band in Europe.

Calle Real is, hands down, the most explosive salsa/timba band to ever come out of Europe. They take command as the leaders of the globalization of salsa/timba music, and their vision for their music has revolutionized the genre itself.” DJ Melao (Miami)

In addition to making great Timba, what really sets Calle Real apart is their ability to mix non-Latin elements into their music without losing the Cuban style.   That may help to explain why in Sweden their audience is not limited to Latin music connoisseurs and dancers but also includes people who are normally drawn to other genres such as hip hop.   In reference to this phenomenon the band’s founder Patricio Sobrado said “Of course we are influenced by Charanga Habanera, Michel Maza, Pupy, Los Van Van, Paulito, Manolito, Manolín and the likes since we like to listen to them, but being raised over here we have other influences as well. We are glad people think we play Timba ’cause that’s one of our influences we respect, but …our sound comes from having a need to express ourselves musically, and we use the Cuban music style to do it.”

That quote about “having other influences” wasn’t true though when the band first got started back in 1999 with 3 members and a repertoire devoted to traditional music similar to what had been popularized by the Buena Vista Social Club.  Thankfully, the band moved past this ‘copy-cat’ stage, got some more members and changed their focus to Timba.   By 2003 they were making a name for themselves in Sweden and around Europe and by 2006 they were ready to record a debut album – Con Fuerza (released by a hip hop label of all things).  Their second album, Me Lo Gane, followed shortly there after in 2009.  Both of these are fantastic and packed with a number of highly dancable tracks.  Con Fuerza was even nominated for a Latin Grammy for “Best Salsa Album of the Year” and picked up the title of  “Best Album” and “Best New Artist” from the popular Cuban music website FiestaCubana.net.  And then for 6 years nothing.  The band was touring and such but no new material was being made or at least it wasn’t been recorded.  That’s about to change.  Calle Real’s Facebook page has had a number of posts over the last few months with teasers of new material and just a couple of weeks ago at Stockholm Kulturfestival the band performed a few new tracks.  The word on the street is a new album entitled ‘Dime Que’, will drop later this Fall.

That is still a few weeks away so for those of you who can’t wait that long the next best thing might be the latest offering from Petter el Chocolate Linde.  Linde, a trumpet player who has performed not only with Calle Real but also with the Soneros All Stars has just released his first material as a solo artist.  I’ve included one of them , Pesadilla, in this month’s play list – definitely worth checking out.  Regardless, new Calle Real music is coming soon and if we’re lucky the next blog post may even include a track or two from it.

Questions, comments, requests? Send me an email



El Combo Más Grande

November Playlist Highlights

Song (iTunes)




Buena O Mala El Gran Combo Salsa Puerto Rico
Mas Feo Que Yo El Gran Combo Salsa Puerto Rico
Acangana El Gran Combo Salsa Puerto Rico
Compadre Pedro Juan El Gran Combo Merengue Puerto Rico
Chua Chua Boogaloo El Gran Combo Boogaloo Puerto Rico
Timbamania Mayimbe Timba Cuba
Mátame Anthony Santos Bachata D. Republic
My Way Henry Santos Bachata D. Republic
Ole y Ole Milly Quezada Merengue D. Republic
So Na Natal Loony Johnson Kizomba Portugal


Salsa of Puerto Rico – El Gran Combo

When it comes to the music of Puerto Rico one of the genres that has been the most popular and the most commercially successful is salsa.  And when it comes to Puerto Rican salsa and the artists making this music the most popular and commercially successful is unquestionably El Gran Combo.   So successful has the group been both locally and internationally that any serious discussion on the topic of salsa would be incomplete without mentioning them.

El Gran Combo of Puerto Rico or simply El Gran Combo was created by Rafael Ithier back in 1962.  Before then Ithier had been a member of a group lead by Rafeal Cortijo called Cortijo y su Combo whose leader singer was none other than Ismael Rivera.  Sadly, Cortijo’s group suffered a huge loss when Rivera was incarcerated for drug related offences in the early 60’s.  The group eventually broke up and Ithier took the opportunity to form his own band with some of the members of the original Combo. When he first brought his musicians together it was suggested the band be called Rafael Ithier y su Combo.   Ithier agreed the band’s name should reflect the fact that it had come from Cortijo’s.  However, he wanted the name to communicate that his band was new and improved and that his Combo was grander than any of it’s predecessors and thus El Gran Combo was born.

Their first album was released on November 20, 1963 with the playful title Menéame Los Mangos or “Shake My Mangos”.  But it was their third album, Acángana, released in 1964 that really got them international recognition.  Acángana was a hit from New York to Panama and opened the doors for El Gran Combo in a number of other Latin American markets.  Many other successful albums followed including a gold selling boogaloo album from 1967 called “Boogaloo con el Gran Combo”.

The band has taken their music all over the world from Europe to Japan to Australia and even a visit to Alaska in 1984 as part of the promotion for their first grammy nominated album “Breaking the Ice”.  In total El Gran Combo has produced over 60 albums, is arguably Puerto Rico’s most successful musical group and is considered by some to be the most popular salsa group of all time.  The band is also referred to as “La Universidad de la Salsa” because of the number of famous musicians that have either been members or who have performed with the group:  Andy Montañez, Roberto Roena, Celiz Cruz, La India, Hector Lavoe, Ruben Blades, and others.

It has been over half a century since the inception of El Gran Combo and with that it mind it should come as no surprise that the band’s membership has changed significantly with with the only original member being Rafael Ithier himself.  Though he continues to perform he has taken a back seat for live performances and just conducting the musicians rather than playing the piano. However, he is still very much the leader of the group, a group that shows no signs of slowing down.  They released a new album in 2010 called Sin Salsa No Hay Paraíso or “There is no Paradise without Salsa” and did a world tour last year in celebration of their 50th anniversary.

50 years in the music industry has resulted in a lot of music and a lot of well known classics.  I have included a small sample of some of their lesser known songs in this months playlist.

That’s it for this month.  Questions, comments, requests? Send me an email

Hasta la próxima,



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