Latin Music USA

S1 E6 | CLIP

The Birth of Salsa

Witness “the Birth of Salsa” at the Cheetah Club: the moment when many strands of music converged in New York to create “the Latin Sound of the 70s.” LATIN MUSIC USA airs Friday, April 28 and Friday, May 5 at 9/8C on PBS (check local listings).

AIRED: October 12, 2009 | 0:02:40

SMITS: By the early '70s, Fania was set to explode.

The catalyst was a single night's concert

in a former roller-skating rink in midtown Manhattan,

the Cheetah Club.

The label had gathered its best talent

to create the Fania All-Stars, led by Johnny Pacheco.

They were a supergroup, the cream of New York's Latin scene,

though they didn't sound like it at the afternoon's rehearsal.

MASUCCI: That day, when they were rehearsing,

it was horrendous.

And we were saying, "This is gonna be terrible."

It was like a...

a corral full of peacocks.

Really, it-it was not easy.

Uh, the egos... I remember that I had brought a chart

that Hector and I had written

and I won't say who did it,

but one of the old timers took it and threw it on the floor

and we couldn't play it, so I was very pissed.

But Jerry said,

"Ah, take it easy, Willie..." So I went and I played.

And we did it and it was great.

SANABRIA: The place was completely packed.

The police and firemen came, you know, they blocked...

people couldn't get in, there's a line around the block, boom.

After the third number, we knew it was a happening.

MASUCCI: That was one of the most

amazing nights that you could ever witness in music.

SMITS: That night at the Cheetah

has been called the Birth of Salsa.

It was the moment when many strands of music converged

in New York to create the Latin sound of the '70s.

(song ends, crowd cheering)


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