Ruben Blades’ Salsa album “Son de Panamá” has (finally) new songs

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Latin music icon Rubén Blades released the Salsa album “Son de Panamá“, which, for the first time in 6 years, includes new songs.

Ruben Blades in "Son de Panamá" cover art.
Ruben Blades says “Son de Panamá” fills him of great pride as it’s a product made entirely with Panamanian talent.

The album, recorded with the orchestra of fellow Panamanian Roberto Delgado, is a fully Panamanian production. And let me say right from the start that this is an excellent Salsa album!

A Product of Panamá with Great Stories in the Songs

Rubén Blades went back to his semi-abandoned webpage to write extensively about the album. He wrote:

“Those of us who worked on this album believe in our country and in our ability, both individual and collective. The product that we present (here) for the world’s consideration, bears the stamp of that trust and is the result of discipline and professional dedication, fundamental elements to compete successfully and gain recognition and popular support, both national and international.”

He’s referring to “Son de Panamá“, but I believe it’s a clever metaphor for his upcoming Presidential campaign since he has openly announced his intention to run for it in 2019.

Son de Panamá” has 13 songs, one of them (“La Caína“) repeated to allow for a Medoro Madera version (Rubén’s fictional sonero alter-ego). Of the 12 compositions, 5 are from other songwriters (4 Panamanian). The only non-Panamanian song is a re-make of “Me Recordarás” from Cuban Frank Dominguez, which Rubén Blades recorded with Willie Colón on their debut album “Metiendo Mano” (1977).

In his website description of the song, Rubén only mentions he has previously performed the song but doesn’t mention Colón. Makes me wonder if one of his new original songs, “Caín” is actually a “tiraera” song in disguise!

I’ll let you decide that. Here’s the YouTube audio of “Caín”:

The Songwriters in “Son de Panamá

One of the Panamanian songwriters in the album is the famous and talented Omar Alfanno. In 2014 Alfanno released one of the most underrated albums (and DVD) that I have known off “De Panamá al Mundo“. Here he contributes “El Perdón“, which is a great song. Adding Rubén’s great performance of the song makes it a great combination! Rubén Blades describes it as “a dream come true for both of us”!

Latin music Ruben Blades "La Rosa de los Vientos"
“La Rosa de los Vientos” was the 1st album Ruben Blades did in Panama with full Panamanian talent.

The album has six new songs (well…at least one “Otra Canción de Amor” was previously performed by its songwriter, Panamanian Rómulo Castro. Castro is the author of “La Rosa de los Vientos” (1996). Therefore, Rubén wrote three of the new songs, but all these songs seem to carry his signature of “storytelling with a message”.

…and talking about “La Rosa de los Vientos“, one of the songs actually came from that album. “Vino Añejo” was a beautiful song composed by Panamanian Roberto Cedeño. Cedeño also wrote “Desde Panamá a Nueva York” for the Pete Rodriguez album of the same name. That album marked the debut of Rubén Blades in New York in 1970 before his return to the city for the Fania years.

Of the new songs, a noteworthy one is Ruben’s “En esa Casa“, which addresses the issue of domestic violence. Another “new” song, “Teresa Batista” is one of those songs you would swear were written by Rubén Blades. It tells the story of this brave and intelligent young woman who sidesteps her own mishaps to succeed in life. This song, however, is neither new nor Rubén’s.

Panamanian José “Pepe” Calderón wrote his one more than 20 years ago. Rubén heard it back then and asked permission to make some tweaks to the lyrics. As Rubén Blades describes in his website, he feels this song seems to be referring to one of the daughters from the woman in the balcony of “En esa Casa“.

Roberto Delgado’s Orchestra is 1st Class

Ruben Blades with Roberto Delgado's orchestra
Roberto Delgado’s orchestra demonstrated it’s a superb band by any standard.

The music in “Son de Panamá” is superb. Roberto Delgado’s orchestra demonstrated why it’s considered one of the finest. For instance, the beautiful arrangements by the Panamanian bassist and bandleader, add a great melodic sound to the songs. Additionally, the orchestra has instrumentation and versatility that can do it all!

At 66, Rubén Blades’ voice is still going strong, with the same wit he’s used in his soneos throughout his illustrious career in Latin music.

Son de Panamá” a Must-Have for Salsa fans

This is a must-have album for Salsa fans. I really like “Son de Panamá” as it contains some lesser-known old songs. Those songs were included in under-sold although highly rated albums and go along with the great new songs. I was hungry for some new songs from Ruben, as listening to more albums and concerts of his old Salsa hits was starting to get…well…old!

Note: I mentioned at the beginning that this was the 1st album in 6 years with new Ruben Blades songs (the previous being “Cantares del Subdesarrollo” in 2009). That’s almost correct; there’s one exception, which was “Inodoro Perez“, which Ruben Blades wrote for his album with Cheo Feliciano “Eba Say Ajá” and which Cheo sang.

Songs in “Son de Panamá“:

Ruben Blades with Roberto Delgado's orchestra
“Son de Panamá” features other Panamanian songwriters.

LAS CALLES (compositor- Rubén Blades/Arreglo: Roberto Delgado.)

CAIN (compositor- Rubén Blades/Arreglo: Roberto Delgado.)

OJOS DE PERRO AZUL (compositor- Rubén Blades/Arreglo: Roberto Delgado/Oscar Hernández.)

VINO AÑEJO (compositor- Roberto Cedeño/Arreglo: Roberto Delgado.)

PARRHESIA (compositor- Rubén Blades/Arreglo: Roberto Delgado. )

ME RECORDARÁS (compositor- Frank Domínguez / Arreglo: Roberto Delgado.)

OLAYA (compositor- Rubén Blades/Arreglo: Roberto Delgado.)

LA CAÍNA (version Rubén) (compositor- Rubén Blades/Arreglo: Roberto Delgado/Oscar Hernández.)

OTRA CANCIÓN DE AMOR (compositor- Rómulo Castro/Arreglo: Roberto Delgado.)

EN ESA CASA (compositor- Rubén Blades/Arreglo: Roberto Delgado.)

TERESA BATISTA – (Version Rubén Blades) (compositor-José “Pepe” Calderón/Arreglo: Roberto Delgado.)

EL PERDÓN (compositor- Omar Alfanno/Arreglo: Roberto Delgado.)

LA CAÍNA (versión Medoro Madera) (compositor- Rubén Blades/Arreglo: Roberto Delgado/Oscar Hernández.)

Video of Rubén Blades with Roberto Delgado’s Orchestra

Here’s a taste of “Son de Panamá“. Rubén Blades, who has been touring for some time with Roberto Delgado’s Orchestra, had already in the bag some of the songs for this album, back when he participated in the Estival Jazz Lugano in Italy in 2012!

By the way..this is a 2-part video of which I’m only including part 1 here, you can get part 2 in YouTube. As you’ll see, it’s professionally made and HQ video.

3 Comments
  1. Steve Potter says

    Ruben Blades is Dynamic, and an Incredible actor.

    1. Hector Aviles says

      Steve,
      Thanks for your comment. Ruben is one of my favorite artists.
      Best,
      Hector

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