‘FANIA All Stars Live in Africa’ captures the excitement that was la Salsa

FANIA Records

FANIA records was a New York City record label founded by Italian – American lawyer Jerry Masucci and Dominican – American composer and bandleader Johnny Pacheco in 1964.

New York City had just experienced the postwar Great Migration from Puerto Rico. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s helped Latinos feel pride in their heritage. Music was everywhere and the City was filled with little bars where musicians played. The drums never stopped in Williamsburg, Bushwick, South Bronx, Spanish Harlem (El Barrio), and Manhattan’s Lower East Side (Loisada).

FANIA tapped into that pride and began signing now legendary musicians like Bobby Valentín, Larry Harlow and Ray Barretto.

FANIA All Stars

The label put together the FANIA All Stars in 1968.

The original lineup was:

  • Ray Barretto (Puerto Rican)
  • Joe Bataan (African-American – Filipino)
  • Willie Colón (Puerto Rican)
  • Larry Harlow (Jewish)
  • Hector Lavoe (Puerto Rican)
  • Ismael Miranda (Puerto Rican)
  • Monguito (Cuban)
  • Johnny Pacheco (Dominican)
  • Louie Ramirez
  • Ralph Robles
  • Pete “Conde” Rodríguez (Puerto Rican)
  • Mongo Santamaria (Cuban)
  • Adalberto Santiago (Puerto Rican)
  • Bobby Valentín (Puerto Rican)
  • and others

Over time the FANIA All-Stars also included

  • Celia Cruz (Cuban)
  • Rubén Blades (Panamanian)
  • Roberto Roena (Puerto Rican)
  • Cheo Feliciano (Puerto Rican)
  • Ismael Quintana (Puerto Rican)
  • and others

FANIA musicians were from all over so you couldn’t call it Puerto Rican music. Leader Johnny Pacheco came up with the name Salsa to describe this international music.

Many people call all Latin music Salsa, but Salsa is actually this music of 1960s and 1970s New York City that was defined by the FANIA sound. Just as Rock led to Soft Rock ballads, Salsa led to Salsa Romantica, a softer, more romantic sound like Spanish bolero. The early Salsa sound is called Salsa Dura (Hard Salsa).

The FANIA All Stars sold out concerts in Puerto Rico, Chicago, and Panama. On August 24, 1973 they played a legendary concert at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx.

FANIA All Stars Live in Africa

In 1974 the FANIA All Stars played a concert at Stadu du Hai in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) as part of the build-up to the Muhammad Ali / George Foreman fight.

The FANIA All Stars played for an audience of over 80,000 people. The audience was thrilled by this sound that was foreign, but clearly African. American Latins are also Black. The artists were super amped up by the opportunity to play in our ancestral homeland.

Leon Gast made a documentary about the concert called FANIA All Stars Live in Africa.

FANIA All Stars Live in Africa in NYC

The documentary is screening at The Museum of the City of New York in East Harlem, Manhattan on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 at 6:30 pm. $10 – $12

A conversation with Academy Award-winning director Leon Gast (When We Were Kings, 1995) and Salsa musician and journalist Aurora Flores (Billboard Magazine, Zon Del Barrio) follows the screening.

The Museum prorammed this film as one of the answers to the question, “What makes New York, New York?” The screening was curated by Jessica Green and Edo Choi of Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem.


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