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Fania Tribute on Encanto Tropical 35

This summer marks sixty years since Fania Records was founded by Johnny Pacheco and Jerry Masucci.

[ Replay on SoundCloud ]

60 Years of Fania on Encanto Tropical

In the years which followed, Fania ballooned in size and power, with varying degrees of success but not without criticism, both in the way it treated its artists and in its business conduct with other record labels and independent artists. Regardless, Fania merits the undeniable role as an institution which helped put salsa on the music map.

Domestically, Fania served as a flagship for affirming identity and celebration among Latin American migrants in United States. At the international level, it gained a following for a standard sound while contributing to the popularization of salsa -- along with other labels in the industry -- across the Caribbean and South America. Several Fania artists became household names, and much of their album cover art and many of their songs now serve as icons and anthems, as it were, of a bygone era that some refer to as a golden age of salsa.

Fania would cease operations well before the millennium, but its catalog of songs numbering in the thousands is still in operation with full rights owned and protected by its present owner.

Personally, I developed mixed feelings about Fania . On one hand, as both a general listener and a budding DJ, many of its artists and songs influenced me greatly. On the other hand, it would later dawn on me that the market for salsa was dominated by this one label, and an unfortunate result was that talented bands or musicians unassociated with Fania (for whatever reason) did not receive the recognition they deserved.

In addition, one could say there was a uniformity of sorts in the Fania sound although it was still fresh, revolutionary, and important in the development of the genre. This would end with the advent of so-called salsa romantica, but during its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s -- and even several decades later, when there was a revival for appreciating 'older' salsa -- Fania was unrivaled. One had to go to great lengths to discover anything that was not part of the Fania universe. (This includes important sub-labels or other labels that Fania acquired, such as Alegre, Tico, Cotique, and Vaya).

ET 35
Some of the music on Encanto Tropical 35

My point is that during my formative years as a DJ while diving deep into salsa, I realized there was a lot of non-Fania material which was not only very different in sound but also very good in quality (technological limitations notwithstanding); however it meant many salsa players had been ignored, overlooked, or simply unfindable because, in simple terms, Fania was just so immense. Perhaps Fania is not a sole culprit; rather that it was the nature of the record industry, which is very different from today, where technical and networking advancements benefit independent artists and limit the influence of a label. Nonetheless, there was a disconnect between the music being made and its distribution or promotion among target audiences, and it was so pronounced that even today there is a reactionary taste when it comes to vintage salsa. By example, many seasoned DJs are likely to avoid Fania when playing music from the 70s and 80s -- leaning instead towards rare and very different sounds of other vintage productions. I say this from anecdotal experience.

With these caveats in mind, marking the occasion of sixty years of Fania still has relevance, and Episode 35 acknowledges this with a selection of iconic Fania material. However, choices will be pared down by avoiding big anthems because there's no point in a predictable track list that listeners can easily find on Spotify or elsewhere. Instead, I will attempt an original approach by striking a balance between personal favourites and lesser-known work in the Fania universe -- spotlighting individual artists with one emblematic song of my choice. In this way, song choices will be contextualized, following the approach in many projects here at Encanto Tropical. However, it goes without saying that a show limited to two hours cannot serve as a comprehensive tribute to Fania. It can only be just a small dedication.

I invite listeners to join me for this broadcast. Feedback and commentary are always welcome.

Episode 35, Encanto Tropical

ET 35

Thu May 9 2024

5am PT / 8am ET / 13:00 UK / 14:00 CET / 21:00 Japan

[ Replay on SoundCloud ]


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