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The Philly Salsa Congress 2005: Pass, Kick or Punt?


DJ Jose:

�I want to make a brief comment -
The Philly Congress came about and nobody knew about it until the end, "Wow no support from Philly"...NO NOT TRUE! Philly Salseros are people who like to feel included and well informed when events go on. There are many vehicles that can be used to get the scoop on the hot happenings in the area. When I hear things about my supporters I have to defend all of you. I have approached several of you for suggestions and feedback on many things that I am involved in. This scene is a melting pot of knowledge. Why not use it? Lessons are sometimes learned to late. The scene we have here is small but verysupportive all of that goes on. Multiple events go on in the city and love is given by all.

Philly keep doing what you do...
I always thank you for you continued support

 The above quote is from DJ Jose Rodriguez, as taken from his website and his concern and dismay over this years Philly Salsa Congress. The entire thread (topic) was emailed to me as there is an air of disappointment over this year�s Salsa Congress.  However, let�s ask the question some individuals seemed to have already answered by putting the blame on the promoter for the lack of attendance at our second annual Salsa Congress. And the question is, since the Congress seems to have failed, now whose fault is it really?

Well, let�s do this- take a trip back in time to July 4th weekend, 2004 and retrospect about Philly�s first ever salsa congress, held at the Loews Hotel:

First, there was so much cow manure talking about the congress, the promoter and etc even before the congress began.  And with all that �negative talk� about the congress, the local Philly salsa dancing crowd even backed it up by not showing up at the congress.

The following is from El Viaje Music Notes Autumn 2004 �The Philly Salsa Congress Report Card:

Further Comments- Evelyn Figueroa from Salseros International Dance School was quoted as saying �The Salsa Congress came to Philadelphia, but Philadelphia forgot to come to the Salsa Congress.�  Prior to the Salsa Congress, Michael Andino from Arts in Motion Dance Group was quoted as saying �There are people saying negative things about the Salsa Congress, yet for years we talked about how great it would be for Philly to have a salsa congress. Instead of complaining about this or that, we should all be supporting it!  For those who don�t go, you�ll just have to hear about how great it was from the rest of us!�   

 "Now there was dissention within the salsa community prior to the salsa congress and that may have been a small reason for the low overall attendance at the 5 day event, however another fair reason was a lack of promotion for this first ever event. During the week prior to the Congress and the week of the Congress, there was great promotion and support for salsa as salsa was the labeled theme for a day on the Parkway and all the activities on July 3rd were salsa related as part of the �Welcome America Weekend Celebration.� However during the two weeks prior to the Salsa Congress there wasn�t any type of substantial promotion for the Salsa Congress itself. Outside of the Philly Salsa Congress website, very little advertisement was seen. But even worst than that, was the lack of �an educational lesson� towards the non salsa community as to what is a Salsa Congress. Sure, if you�re part of a dance school or dance group within the salsa community, you  know what  salsa congresses are all about, but if you are not part of the fore mentioned or not within the small salsa community in general then you really have no idea what a salsa congress is.  And what if you are just a frequent going out person? And if you just attendant the �big� dances or fiestas, concerts etc, then what is a salsa congress to you? The answer is: I don�t know. You can�t expect people to go to an event if they don�t know what the event is all about, the details of it and that comes from an educating of the masses, so to speak. One idea that was cast to the waste side was the idea of promoting the congress at the various clubs throughout community. Further ideas that were not used such as mass media blitzing of the salsa congress were not utilized either.   If more people were taught as to what a salsa congress is all about, perhaps more could have been drawn to it, if advertisement was used to its� fullest potential, perhaps more people could have been drawn to it.   The first congress can only be called a success if there is a second and third and fourth and so forth Philly Salsa Congresses. 

 Was the Congress overpriced, nope! Most Congresses are costly, well the bigger and better ones anyway. The West Coast�s, Puerto Rico�s and Chicago�s have grown to be some the �bigger salsa congresses and it definitely isn�t cheap to get to them, as well as be a part of them. I think the rates for Philly�s first salsa congress were fair, although perhaps more enticing packages could have lured more folks to the five day event.   Does everybody go to other salsa congresses from our area?  Well, instructors, DJs and members of dance groups go, because they want to experience it, learn from it or are performing in it. But most people who do not fall into the categories I mentioned do not attend the salsa congresses as a whole. In other words, you won�t see a massive swarm of people from our area that does not fall into the above categories at the congresses. So, should we have expected more people from our locally salsa community, YES!�  - EL VIAJE'S MUSIC NOTES AUTUMN 2004      


The funny coincidence is that the same thing that happened last year, happened this year, nobody from Philly came to the Philly Salsa Congress again! Please don�t blame the promoter without hearing the facts, because blaming the promoter is the easy way out.  Let us look at some pertinent and very true facts:

     A-   Philly has a very small salsa dancing community, proof: The Stardust and  La Luna use to go head to head on Saturday night, literally splitting the salsa dance crowd in half, which means no two events came be successful on the same night ( successful means having a club/ social/studio dance full to the max) .  Ok, so far, we know Philly has a small salsa dancing community

B-   Philly salsa dancer will support their own events/functions, like when there is a summer, Christmas or whenever showcase at La Luna, people fill the place house till it overflows. Same applies whenever some of the many dance groups in our area have a fundraiser, they are also very successful! Ok, so if local salsa dancers, salsa students support these two and many other local salsa related events, then for heaven sakes, then why not support and go to  the Philly Salsa Congress?!

 Again, so what was the problem, why didn�t the local Philly salsa dancers come out to support the Salsa Congress?  Price was cheaper than last year, locations of events and workshops were more accessible and away from the mayhem of all the 4th of July weekend activities happening around center city Philly.   So location wasn�t a problem.    And regarding the promotion of the event, well, although it was not as bad as last year, but it could have been better. But let�s see, it was on,, flyers were placed at all the major dance studios, and key record stores. Media advertisement was seen in all the local newspapers so it is not like it wasn�t advertised. I covered it on my radio show and it was even aired on television.  Ok, so again, what�s the excuse this year for not going? So, the live acts were not on the same level as last year, but salsa dancers don�t really care about the live bands (only a true bred salsero bleeds that kind of passion!)   So it wasn�t in a prestigious hotel like last year, ok, so what? Salsa dancers don�t care about that stuff, oh wait, that�s salseros who don�t care about that stuff, salsa dancers complain about everything and demand more than the limit that infinity can provide.    

 You can blame the promoter because maybe the acts weren�t up to par, you can blame the promoter because the event was in three different locations and you can blame the promoter if you felt you were not properly informed about the congress and certain details of it, but you can only blame yourself for not showing up to the congress. My pop use to say � la unica manera de saber si la sopa esta buena es probarla� ( the only way to know if the soup is good , is to taste it)  Come on now, how can you berate something if you did not attend it, that would be like rating a movie based on what someone else said.   

I could go back to the entire thread of this topic as posted at and counter against several of the responses, however, everyone is entitled to their opinion, no matter how wrong they may be, but one young lady said it best   and to quote Evie This whole "Philly Congress" thing seemed like a perfect example of "choosing your battles". You can't expect to change certain aspects of the salsa scene. You can only hope that Philly will be opened up to bigger and better things in the future. The saddest part of this is that the Philly/NJ Salseros(as) were excluded and turned away from this event and we, unfortunately, will be looked upon as non-supportive by outsiders. Aw well, live and learn....... and look forward to the next organized, successful event because I'm sure it will happen.� 

 I don�t if I agree with the fact that local salseros were excluded, because free help is never turned away, however her positive outlook says it all:

�Aw well, live and learn....... and look forward to the next organized, successful event because I'm sure it will happen.� 

 I totally agree, because the fact that we had a second salsa congress is only proof that there is something more to build on, and through the rubble of discontent and after the complaining party is finally over, let us move on and realize one very important factor: the salsa congress is in the hands one promoter, and whether we agree or disagree with the method to this madness that will make up the salsa congress( hopefully?) next year, we should all support it. And is it an obligation to support it, YEP!!!!!!!!! IT SURE IS!  It is easy to knock down the sandcastle, but ever try to build one, with just two hands, on a crowded beach, and the tides coming in and the winds blowing strong.  Criticism is as easy as breathing, but praising is always a challenge and �supporting a cause or event always seems like an overwhelming task to many people when it shouldn�t be.   From now till next year, here�s a thought, give a voiced opinion, a volunteered hand, and help to make next year�s congress a success. And Philly salsa dancers, come on out to the congress, you can give up a private lesson, a pair of dancing shoes, or a few nights out and get the finances together to attend. Don�t make up excuses make a promise instead to actually show up next year.      


   Frankie Morales

 Frankie Morales is an artist who has perfected his craft with every stop along the way of his career. This talented vocalist has sharpened and shaped his sound for most of his life, starting on the streets of "El Barrio", New York City's Spanish Quarter and climaxing now-on the stages of the world. His mom sent him to Boys Harbor Conservatory in East Harlem to study voice and percussion after she realized the raw power and talent that her son displayed singing his "Salsa Concerts", those first performances for the family at home that give birth to, and nurture the entertainers of the future. At the age of fourteen, he sang backup for Latin legend, Joe Bataan. By fifteen, he sang backup for Latin legend, Joe Bataan. By fifteen he was singing with Hector Lavoe, and this opened other doors. Over the next few years, he would sing backup and coros for artists such as Ismael Rivera, Ismael Miranda, Celia Cruz, Pellin Rodriguez, and Cheo Feliciano. "I learned a lot during this time... inspirations, how to always sound your best, even when your voice may not be at its' best". Meeting Jos� Pintor, who also played with Joe Bataan gave Frankie the opportunity to record his first album, "Sabor del Barrio". Soon after, he started recording hits with the group Bad Street Boys. This was an association that would continue for almost ten years. There was still room to grow for Mr. Morales. Growth comes to a Salsero through "work, work and more work". So when the Lebron Brothers needed someone to record in place of a sick vocalist, it was Frankie who did the recording Caiman Records then produced two albums featuring him as a solo artist, entitled "Frankie Morales: En su Punto", and "Standing Out". These two albums exposed Frank to great audiences, and enhanced both his experience and reputation. This would lead to him being an invited independent vocalist with "The Fania All-Stars". Frank spent a year singing back-up for Tito Nieves. The notoriety he gained singing for Tito Nieves also bought opportunity as well. With a recommendation from Ralph Mercado, Frankie was offered the job of Lead singer for the orchestra of "El Rey del Timbal", Ernest "Tito" Puente. This "gig" would not only be the ultimate training but also the ultimate feature for Frankie Morales, as he traveled around the world with Maestro Puente, singing for people of all cultures. Even now after "El Rey" passing, Frankie hold the position of Lead Vocalist with the Tito Puente Orchestra. 1998 was a real "indicator" as to how much Frankie Morales had grown as an artist. That same year, he was featured vocalist on Caiman Records ACE Award winning recording "Son Boricua". Led by musical director Maestro Jos� Mangual Jr. and producer Humberto Corredor, this production gave Frankie a platform to show his versatility., as he tore into the world of Latin Jazz. Frankie was a featured Lead vocalist on the "Caiman All-Stars". Frank next recorded "Dance mania '99" Live at Birldland with Puente's Orchestra "Dancemania '99" as nominated for a Grammy Award. Some of Frankie's "finest hours" had to be the recordings of "Tito Puente Mambo Birdland" and "Masterpiece", Puente's final album and collaboration with "The Great Eddie Palmieri, which both won Grammy Awards. So now that you know about Frankie Morales' hard work and history, it is time to learn a bit about what is within this vocalist's heart. And as you listen to his recording you will know. When you wonder why you feel like dancing, you'll know exactly what Frankie brings to the people: rhythm for the dancers, and through his voice, the passion of a true Cantante.


Salsa is still rolling along �.. @


 Closing in on its 4th year of hosting Latin Wednesday nights is no small feat, but yet here they are And  DJ Jose Rodriguez has this place salsa-fyed to say the least. Starting earlier now (free mambo dance lessons around 7 pm with Isabel Garcia) this is sill the spot to �butter up you roll� in salsa dancing. In other words, �to get you salsa fix on!�  In a very non-competitive relaxed atmosphere, salsa dancers swerve the night away. Attire is casual, price is just right ($5.00) and the place is situated in the historic Mt Airy section of Philly.  So, what�s not to like, oh yeah, it is not open for Latin night seven days a week. So check out this lil� slice of salsa heaven on Wednesday nights. Information:



 Second only to Silvy�s in longevity, this place has been hosting Latin night for well over 10 years. Wednesday night is the hardcore salsa night where apparently all the �salsa upper classmen dancers� go.  It can be down right fierce in there as the intensity is hot and so is the music as provided by DJ Rockswell. And yet, Wednesday is not the only night for Latin night, as there is Thursday (with a live salsa band as well as DJ Rockswell) plus Friday and Saturday to end your weekend just right.  Brasils is located in the old city part of Philly on Chestnut St, right between Front and Second Sts.  If you are into competitive salsa dancing, then Wednesday nights at Brasils is where you�ll hear the battle cry: �Let�s get ready to salsa rumble!�   And so you will, so you will.     


 So is salsa really dead? Nah, I don�t think so! 


A couple of months ago in an issue of Latin Beat Magazine there was a topic entitled �Is Salsa Dead?�  And of course Latin Music promoter Albert Torres and the owner and editor of Latin Beat Magazine Rudy Mangual stated strongly NO!   Well, where salsa may not be dead, it is hurting a lot. I�ve argued and mention before in past El Viaje Music Note articles how the downloading of salsa music from the internet, the bootlegging of salsa CDs by street DJs and the overall piracy of  salsa  music had put a dent in the profits of salsa music and the survival of the music as a whole. Well, the ill effect are felt extensively. So, if salsa is not dead, then how is it hurting a lot? First, major recording labels like Sony and Universal have abandoned salsa in favor of Reggeton (a Spanish version of reggae). Yeah, yeah, some major salsa artists are still on Sony and Universal Records, but some is not a whole lot. And there exist no label totally dedicated to salsa the way say RMM Records was during the 1990�s  or prior labels like Fania, Rico, Top Ten/Rodven, Top Ten Hits and Combo did during the 1970�s through the early 1990�s. So, that shows that salsa is not as strong profit wise as it used to be.  Also, today, because there are no major record labels recording salsa per say, more and more salsa artists are recording on independent lesser known labels or are forming their own record labels. Also, distribution of a recorded artist is the first key to success, and today the �hustle� of moving/ (distribution) of one�s recorded product is left in the hands of the individual artist or band.  Radio airplay which is the second key to a successful product (which hopefully leads to another release after the initial one) is again left to the individual�s own hustling power. So how do you get a salsa release to be aired on commercial radio stations that have Latin music as the programmed format and feature merengue and reggeton? Well, you really don�t get it played there, but there�s no need to fear, public radio is here!  Like that same issue of Latin Beat that talked about salsa and the death, there of, well, the issue mentioned the numerous public radio stations which feature and support salsa! So, is salsa dead, nah, I don�t think so. Commercial radio may have turned its� back on salsa, but public radio, the ever supportive crutch, is helping salsa to survive as best it can.   You, the reader can do your part as well, how simply by buying salsa music from your record store, and not a bootlegged copy from your friend, neighbor or street DJ, and finally by most definitely not downloading salsa from the internet. So is salsa dead, not if I and millions of other hardcore salseros can help it!


- David Ortiz     

Host of El Viaje



Keeping it all the way real, Latino style.

You can contact David Ortiz at

Copyright � 1999 .  All rights reserved.

Revised; April 10, 2005

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