As an avid music lover, and not necessarily of any given genre but of music that is vibrant and full of heart-wrenching stories as told by the people that created it, I was lucky enough to have grown up in the early sixties in NYC, coming from the Spanish-speaking extract of the Caribbean, and fortunate enough to experience this dynamic happening musically and culturally that was NYC in the sixties.
While geography and segregation play a part to the music that you were exposed to on a daily basis, there was a special interchanging of ideas musically between the Afro-American communities and the Spanish-speaking Caribbeans who have been arriving steadily since the 40's, from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and to a lesser extend South America. While our parents were listening to more traditional Latin sounds like Bolero, Charanga and Merengue to name a few, their offspring were gravitating towards the Afro sounds of R&B and soul music.
In Spanish Harlem particularly but not exclusively, a new sound was emerging, called Latin Soul, which is a broad umbrella of a term that encompasses an array of Latin styles and fusion, the core being Afro-Cuban rhythms – with the mix of Boogaloo, Shing-a-ling, Mambo, Son Montuno etc. – and the African American sounds of R&B and soul music.
This new genre crossed the different communities of New York, especially with the incorporating of English and Spanish lyrics to the sound. Some of the great exponents of this sound, the likes of the Joe Cuba Band, Harvey Averne, Joey Pastrana, Johnny Colon, Lebron Brothers, Ray Barretto, Ralfi Pagan, Tito Ramos, etc., etc. and of course Joe Bataan who I will be coming to in a minute.
This sound and the musicians, who created it, are as far as I'm concerned still relevant, and their music still sounds fresh and vibrant compared to what's being consumed by the masses today. Which brings me nicely to Joe Bataan and a friend and music lover Alex Puddu.
Joe Bataan encompasses everything that Latin Soul meant in El Barrio and to the Spanish-speaking people of NYC and beyond. Bataan who is of Filipino and African American extract shares all the attributes and attitude that a young gun of East Harlem in the 60's and 70's would need to rise to the heap of the pile, on the streets and musically. His early work from Gypsy Woman, Subway Joe, Poor Boy and Mr. New York & The East Side Kids is testament to his New York roots, but specifically to his Harlem roots. Melodies accompanied with his sweet soulful voice are everything a Latin soul-singer could wish for. Even today, Bataan's sound is as relevant as 1969 NY, and Call My Name, Young, Gifted & Brown, and King of Latin Soul are perfect examples of his longevity.
The next piece of the puzzle is trailblazer and drummer and everything else that's nice about being Italian: Mr. Alex Puddu. Alex who has been living in Copenhagen for almost 30 years and to his credit, has been doing his own thing to connect his roots for that great 60's and 70's sound that Italians did so well, and everything from Danish porno scores, to funk and of course Latin Soul. We have had the good fortune and blessing to have Alex do a collaboration with Joe Bataan for the album Alex Puddu Soultiger.
Close your eyes, and listen to this collaboration. Whether you were born and raised in Rome, Paris, London, Copenhagen or any other city, listening to Bataan and Alex’s production and musical input, you will be taken back to Spanish Harlem and the mean streets that Bataan and myself were raised in, and which shaped our future and filled our very soul... Latin Soul still lives today, and Joe Bataan with some help from Alex Puddu brings us a little closer to that wonderful time that I cherish so much... Bravo and grazie mille, Joe and Alex.
DJ Ramon Santana
released April 15, 2015
Alex Puddu electric guitars
Joe Bataan vocals
Enzo Frassi electric bass
Giovanni Guerretti fender rhodes, organ, synthesizer
Luciano Cantone drums and percussion
Marco Brioschi trumpet
Rudi Manzoli tenor sax
Morten Grønvad vibraphone
Maja Muhlack vocals on “I Want You”