Freestyler (music): An artist who can improvise off the top of the head. I bet some of you automatically think of some rap artists going toe to toe in a freestyle battle. I like those too, but freestyling can be found in any other genre of music.
In Salsa, the art of freestyling or sonando is a highly respected art form, which sadly seems to be slowly dying out. Derived from the term “son” which is one of the foundations of Salsa, this tradition has been the root of salsa music. You can’t have a good salsa song without a good sonero.
As mentioned, the art of sonando is slowly fading away with the modernization of salsa turning artists into merely pretty faces. I can honestly count on one hand, current salseros that are bearable at the least. That’s the way of the world though, right? As time progresses, there is change. It doesn’t mean, however, forgetting the past or where the music you enjoy came from.
We have artists like the Fania, El Gran Combo, Raphy Leavitt, Tito Rodriguez, Hector, Willie, Celia…I could go on. That hardcore salsa where you can get lost in the music and let it take you to another place in which you almost forget where you are. I advise any of you to find your nearest Salsa Social, not a club, a social, where people take their salsa seriously and you’ll see the appreciation they have for this style of music that is in danger of dying.
Nothing against new school salseros. It takes a lot of talent to do what they are doing, but to let this art die would be nothing short of a sin. We need to find artists that are making an effort to revive the art of sonando, support them, buy their records, go see them perform, request them on your favorite radio station. If not, all we’ll have is old ’70s tracks of legends long gone and future generations will never know what it is to see a sonero doing his thing in a live performance.
This week’s edition of Flashback Friday is a performance of, yeah you guessed it, La Fania All Stars. It’s a classic performance, you can find the album on iTunes, Amazon, or your local Latin music shop. These are all the headliners of La Fania, sharing one stage at the Cheetah Club back in the early ’70s taking turns going off on the mic. Keep in mind, these men are improvising, and think of how talented you have to be to be able to do what they are doing. I hope you not only enjoy this clip, but that you come to appreciate this beautiful art form as much as I do.