Moving along to Part 3 of my picks for notable music in 2021, this chart covers tracks which got my attention in the summer. (Part 1 is Early 2021; Part 2 is Spring 2021; Part 4 is Late 2021). Salsa is my focus, but other genres are included. Listed here are 140 songs, just as in Parts 1 and 2.
Lists 1 to 8 are about salsa, with ten songs each. The other lists have five songs. For information on how lists were organized, see the project description.
All lists are on Spotify and Apple Music. Just click on either button after each list.
These tracks were added to the lists made for Early 2021 after they were updated with Spring 2021, so they will be numbered on Spotify/Music as 21 to 30 (Lists 1-8) or 11 to 15 (Lists 9-18).
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1. CONTEMPORARY SALSA - New
Released in 2021
Still Hot from 2020
Special Pick: "Mi Guaguanco Sabroso"
Still fresh from last year are several great tracks, among them work by Ricardo Lemvo, Tromboranga, El Timba, and Filosofia. These will certainly be very playable for quite a while. Of special note is a track which seemed to appear out of nowhere by a favourite band of mine from quite a while ago (the 1980s and 1990s!). I am referring to Orquesta La Identidad, of Colombia, from the lovely Zeida label, redubbed as Orquesta Original Identidad. Two decades into the 21st century, here they are with a cracking dance floor filler with band lead Carlos Navia back on vocals. It's an upbeat, powerful, multilayered track demonstrating a slight departure from their signaturely smooth sound from the several albums I possess.
2. CONTEMPORARY SALSA - Recent
Still Hot from 2020
Winners from the 2010s
Special Pick: "Rumba Nueva"
'Anthems' for me are songs which have stood the test of time from the 2010s. A few make great company here, such as work by Ricky Campanelli, La Candela, and La Maxima 79, but these are all from the latter part of the decade, so their selection is slightly muted since they have been around for only a few years. To emphasize the point about anthems, then, the special pick for this list is from 2010: the title track of Rumba Nueva by Cubanoson, led by Papo Ortega and dubbed "New York's Cuban Orchestra". The song used to sweep me off my feet by its astounding energy and catchy melody. I found myself experiencing the magic again when preparing a playlist for a set commemorating the 20th anniversay of my social event. The power is certainly there, evident with vocals, the melodic chorus, and a strong brass section. Above all, however, is the piano solo halfway through the track--just captivating. It's a very moving song. Much credit then, goes to Papo Ortega himself, credited as composer, piano, vocals, chorus, and bandleader. Truly among the best in the 2010s, I believe.
3. CONTEMPORARY SALSA - Anthems
(Winners From the 2010s)
The Millenial Era
Special Pick: "Xiomara"
In this category of songs from the millenium are tracks which I call 'nostalgic' because they remind me of the time when I started deejaying seriously and collecting a lot of music, especially newly released work. Some heavy hitters are listed, such as tracks by Jimmy Bosch, Africando, Son Boricua, and Louie Ramirez. Especially nostalgic is the cover of "Xiomara" by La Exclusiva, with the incomparable Herman Olivera on vocals and arranged by Oscar Hernandez. The point can be made that since this album was released on vinyl in 1988, it does not fit into this category, but the CD in my possession has a release date of 2005, and that is when it came under my radar, with a very strong impression. This song was among my signature tunes in the mid- and latter 2000s, which explains its inclusion here.
4. Contemporary SALSA - nostalgic
(The Millennial Era)
The Golden Era
Special Pick: "Sujetate La Lengua"
There are so many meaningful tracks among the classics, and it's perhaps an injustice to select only ten here. But this list is about a few songs from the 60s and 70s which had some relevance to me in 2021. I never get tired of Eddie Palmieri's "Sujétate La Lengua", which was included in a set a few months ago. His piano work behind the message in the lyrics is just sublime. It never gets old although it is from 1965. The whole album, released on the Tico label, is fantastic, actually. Among the crew are Barry Rogers (trombone), Manny Oquendo (bongos/timbales), and Ismael Quintana (vocals).
5. CLASSIC SALSA
(The Golden Era)
Songs for my Father
Special Pick: "Elije Tú, Que Canto Yo"
The next list highlights songs from my childhood and played by my father, a lover of Cuban music, especially from the 50s and 60s—evidently my basic foundation for what would become a love for salsa and Latin music in general. When I played a tribute set shortly after my father passed away in January 2021, I compiled songs which I recalled as his favourites. The playlist pool grew rather long, and I present a few of them here. Without question, included are some absolute essentials: Arsenio Rodriguez, La Sonora Matancera, Trio Matamoros, and Orquesta Aragon. For this chart, I will spotlight Beny Moré, with his "Elige Tú, Que Canto Yo", a song that states simply the true genius of his imporant contribution to the rich fabric that is Cuban music--and also among the roots of what we call call salsa today. A truly verstatile vocalist who could tackle a range of genres, the lyrics state it simply: choose the song--from whatever genre, whether a son, a guracha, a bolero, a cha cha cha, etc--and he will sing it masterfully. Not truly boastful, it was simply a fact--such was the talent of the incomparable Beny Moré.
6. THE ROOTS OF SALSA
Songs for my Father