Salsa’s New Generation: Honored at Día Nacional

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This post is also available in: Español

It was a fantastic idea to dedicate the 2022 edition of the Día Nacional de la Zalsa in Puerto Rico to Salsa’s new generation of musicians. However, I don’t agree with Salsa radio station Z-93 in honoring just one person; Luis Vazquez.

Salsa’s New Generation is Not One Face

The intention of honoring the up-and-coming Salsa artists is a great idea. But they could have been honored as a group, without highlighting anyone in particular.

As a group, the new generation of Salsa artists are the ones the will keep the genre alive. They, as a group, will need the support of radio stations like Z-93, which does a pretty good job of playing their music. These young artists need the opportunity to expose their music and then let the audience be the ultimate judge.

Placing that honor on one young artist misses the point. I have nothing against Luis Vazquez, who seems like a very polished artist at just 16 years old. This is not about him in particular.

…this is not I arrived and I'm a hit, this takes its years…to play it the right way.

El Gran Combo (Arroz con Habichuelas) author: Juan Jose Hernandez

As the saying goes (translated from Spanish), “the important thing is not to make it, but to maintain it.” It’s not about getting there (to the top, to a point of recognition), but about staying there for years to come. That’s the hard part. There are many artists that come, have a hit or two, then disappear. They can’t sustain it.

Recognizing a group, in this case, the new generation of Salsa artists, would be a new thing for Z-93’s Dia Nacional de la Zalsa. But it’s not a new concept.

Time Magazine honors the Person of the Year every year since 1927. Back then it was called Man of the Year. But by 1950, they honored the first group, instead of a single person. That year it was “The American fighting-man”, representing troops involved in the Korean War. Ten years later they gave the honor to the “US Scientists”. And in 1966 to (precisely) a new generation called the Baby Boomers, which Time represented as “The Inheritor”. More recently it has been “The Silence Breakers”, honoring the figureheads of the “Me Too” movement, and then “The Guardians”, representing journalists who faced persecution, arrest or murder for their reporting.

Z-93’s Dia Nacional de la Zalsa could apply the same principle. Instead of honoring one person, honor the group. Highlight them when it’s their turn on stage. Not only the Luis Vazquez, Ricky Ricardo (Colon) or Son Divas, which all where there. But also the young musicians in the bands that performed there. Who knows where the next Luis “Perico” Ortiz, Barry Rogers, Roberto Roena, Mongo Santamaria, or Tito Puente may come from! The new generation of Salsa artists is not just singers.

Support for the New Generation

Time Magazine Man of the Year 1966
The 3rd time Time Magazine honored a group of people was in 1966 for the then new generation (baby boomers) they called “The Inheritors”.

As a group, the new generation of Salsa artists deserves support. Established artists like Gilberto Santa Rosa, Victor Manuelle, Willie Rosario, Bobby Valentín, and others, give their support by collaborating with younger artists or giving them an opportunity in their bands. Radio stations like Z-93 seem to dedicate a certain percentage of their airtime to playing music from these up-and-coming artists.

But the road for the new generation of artists to get these collaborations, recording opportunities, or radio airplay is difficult. More needs to be done. Those close to the industry can probably come up with better solutions than what I can propose.

For us Salsa fans, it’s important to give ourselves the opportunity to listen to these new artists when they emerge. It’s only natural that they will bring their own perspective to the Salsa genre. Artists like Luis Vazquez, Ricky Ricardo (Colón), Son Divas, Willy Calderón, Tony Succar, and others bring different perspectives to the genre.

That is precisely the topic of my next blog on Salsa’s New Generation.

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