Where’s The Music At?

September Playlist Highlights

Song (iTunes)




Un Loco Con Una Moto

Ralph Irizarry & Los Viejos De La Salsa



La Clave

Ralph Irizarry & Los Viejos De La Salsa



Rumba en Mi Barrio

Grupo Arcano



Lluvia Viene

Grupo Arcano



La Ambicion

Pacific Mambo Orchestra



Latin Soul Stew

Spanglish Fly



Adonde Va el Amor?

Daniel Santacruz


Dominican Rep.

Sacudete Nena (Merengue Mix)

Zacarias Ferreira


Dominican Rep.

Angolanamente Sensual

Don Kikas



Ça ne te convient pas




Where did you get that song from?

A question dj’s get asked all the time is “where do you get your music?”. I too have asked other dj’s the same question and the answer I get and the answer I give is “wherever I can find it”. As much as that answer is true it’s not very useful to whoever was asking the question. The fact of the matter is that dj’s can be secretive about where they get their music because on some level the value of a dj is his or her ability to find really good music that others don’t know about. If everyone went to the same places for their music the whole ‘crate digging’ aspect of dj’ing would be lost. However, on the flip side dj’s can often be quite willing to share the source of their music with you. To them it’s important that you are familiar with the music and thus more likely to dance to it. Also, besides playing music dj’s also act as music promoters especially for lesser known artists whose great music gets little media attention. As that is one of the main purposes of this blog I am going to share with you one of my favourite sources for great music by relatively unknown artists.

Up until recently, it was really hard for small independent groups to expand their fan base by getting their music to markets outside of their hometown. However, the recent explosion of social media and crowd funding has enabled small bands to raise awareness about and money to support their music and musical projects. One of the most popular places to do this is a website called Kickstarter.com. This website and those that are similar to it are a god-send for small, independent artists who want to breakaway from being funded and controlled by record labels.

Not only do relatively unknown bands turn to crowd funding to raise money but so do well established artists.  One of the amazing projects I found on Kickstarter was called Los Viejos de la Salsa created by the timbales player from Ruben Blades’ band Seis de Solar, Ralph Irizarry.  It should come as no surprise that the music on the Viejos del La Salsa album is top notch (there are a couple of their songs in this months playlist).  Another really cool music project I found was set up by Brooklyn based George Vélez Jr.   According to the promo video associated with the project he and his father really enjoyed making salsa music for fun and decided to take that hobby and passion and turn their music into an album.  The result is a killer disk called Desde El Otro Lado Del East River.   And yet another group that caught my attention was a project by the self-proclaimed premier Latin big-band in the San Francisco Bay area called Pacific Mambo Orchestra.  This is one of those cases where an amazing band has a huge following locally but just hasn’t been able to raise the money or awareness to prompt and distribute their music outside of their hometown.  Apparently, the band is a local favourite packing dance halls with their unique blend of salsa, cha cha cha, mambo and latin jazz.  Like the other two projects we just mentioned, the Pacific Mambo Orchestra’s project managed to raise the money it needed via Kickstart to enable them to release their first album.

Those are just a small sample of the great music projects you can find on Kickstart and there are a bunch more  (like the Motown tribute to Nickleback) but I will let you discover those on your own.

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

Hasta la próxima


The Differences between Cuban and New York LA Style Salsa

Over the holidays I had been teaching private Cuban Salsa lessons to a NYLA trained follow.  At our local Salsa dance club here in Edmonton called On The Rocks, the Cuban leads are more numerous than NYLA leads and my student was having trouble following Cuban leads.  By having to clearly delineate between the two for my student, it became clearer what the differences are and it comes down to four things:

  1. Circles – Cuban salsa dancing is about moving your follow around in circles.  For example, Setenta starts with the lead and follow trading places, and unlike NYLA, the follow ends facing perpendicular to the NYLA “line”.  From a follow’s perspective the difficulty is that the entire first eight count to Setenta means walking out a circle.  On 1,2,3, the follow turns to the right and gets into the hammer lock and on 5,6,7 the lead, pushing the follow’s hip, moves them around until they have switched positions.  In Rueda de Casino, the follow needs to walk such that they are down stream and face the lead so that the following enchuflas allow the lead to end up on the right side for Guapea.  However, in social Cuban dancing, the lead may take the follow around three-quarters of a circle or more, over multiple eight counts, before undoing the hammer lock.  That pull on the hip to start the follow walking around is what strictly NYLA dancers misinterpret as a lead to unravel the hammer lock.  Which leads me to:
    • Step out the turns – NYLA dancers love nothing better then to run through a triple spin on 5,6,7 where as Cuban dancers take it slower and with accentuated hip motion, walk out a single turn.  The typical problem beginner NYLA dancers face learning Cuban is that they turn much too fast and without knowing where the next “one” of 1,2,3 is, end up out of sync.
  2. Prep on seven – The basic NYLA prep is a downward rotation with the follow’s right hand and happens on 1,2,3 but the Cuban prep is on 7 with the follow’s hand going their left.  NYLA dancers expect to “follow the hand” and step to the left on one instead of preparing to turn on 1,2,3.  For a beginner NYLA dancer learning Cuban, that misstep means they get out of sync.
  3. The “Slot” – “Neutral Position” or “the pocket”.  This is where the follow ends up on the right side of the lead, unlike NYLA, where the follow is either in front of or behind the lead.  The “Pocket” is where Cubans start all sorts of moves, from Dile que no to Sacalas to Pasealas.  It is also the position that Cuban follows should end up when doing a vascilala, e.g. where they are prepped on seven and then turn in place as walk around to the right.
  4. Body motion – NYLA follows are about flowing arms and hands with accentuated flourishes.  Cuban follows are about continuous figure eights with the hips, two per eight count.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments below.

Although a fairly common ability, I have danced both NYLA and Cuban for years now and like them both.  What is more uncommon is that I also have training as a follow in both NYLA and Cuban.


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