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Rubén Blades returns to Boston with SALSWING! Nov. 28

Rubén Blades returns to Boston with SALSWING! Nov. 28

Jose Masso

After nineteen years, Rubén Blades, Panamanian icon, returns to Boston for a concert with the Roberto Delgado Big Band.

I have a profound belief that musicians are living angels placed among us by God to use their musical talents, skills, and creativity, to bless us with peace, love and happiness to our hearts and joy and harmony to our lives.

I also believe in the healing power of music.

Musicians and music bring us together for a community gathering and celebration, bring us light when there is darkness, hope when there is despair, therapy when our bodies and hearts are in pain, and uplift our spirits with inspiration.

Rubén Blades, the Panamanian icon, was honored last week by the Latin Grammy® as the 2021 Latin Recording Academy’s Person of the Year for his continued commitment over several decades fighting for social justice around the world by supporting initiatives that raise awareness towards political oppression, racism, hunger, poverty, and much more.

A 10-time Latin GRAMMY® and nine-time GRAMMY® winner, his latest recording, SALSWING! with the Roberto Delgado Big Band, was awarded Album of the Year and Best Salsa Album.

Forty-three years after the release of the historical multi-million selling album Siembra, with Willie Colón, Rubén continues to stretch the musical envelope by releasing three versions of SALSWING! – (SALSWING!, SALSA PLUS! and SWING!) presenting Delgado’s Big Band as capable of broadening its original Panamanian roots and Afro-Cuban music to include other musical genres including jazz and swing.

Rubén shares with us that this recording, “presents his interest in exploring other vocal directions and thus eliminate the stereotype that affirms that we are conditioned to only exist artistically within specific boundaries, according to our nationality. As artists, we address our music to the world, not just to a specific segment of its population.”

The first time I saw Rubén perform was at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, October 27, 1974 with Ray Barretto. It was an event that gathered over 20,000 people for a National Day of Solidarity with Puerto Rico.

I have known Rubén since July of 1975, a few weeks after the beginning of “¡Con Salsa!” on WBUR 90.9FM when the late Barretto introduced us in the offices of Fania Records at 888 7th Avenue in New York City.

The legendary conguero had a new album soon to be released featuring the late Puerto Rican singer Tito Gómez and a new vocalist from Panamá that he wanted me to wait around for, suggesting that it would be worth my while.

As Rubén and I started an interview he asked “Where are you from? Puerto Rico? Don’t ever forget or stop playing the music of Rafael Cortijo, Ismael Rivera, Mon Rivera, El Gran Combo, Tito Rodríguez, or Joe Cuba and Cheo Feliciano! They were the ones who brought this music to Panamá and I’m always going to remember that!”

Prophetic words that would serve as a core value of “¡Con Salsa!” paying tribute to all who have contributed to our music, culture, history, and quality of life.

Four years later, on the 4th anniversary of “¡Con Salsa!” on Friday, June 22, 1979 Rubén performed in Boston for the first time at the Sheraton Boston Hotel with Puerto Rican trombonist Willie Colón.  Alfredo De Jesús, one of the Spanish language radio pioneers in Boston and the owner of Casa Noel, a record shop that was at the corner of Dudley Street and Columbia Road, was the promoter.  Alfredo passed last year in Puerto Rico at the age of 89. He is fondly remembered not only for his pioneering work in radio for over thirty years and entertainment, but as a community activist and founding member of the annual Puerto Rican Festival of Massachusetts that will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary next year.

Orquesta Trópica, under the direction of our good friends Edgard Nevárez and the late Tommy Villariny were the opening act. I shared the emcee duties with Salvador López, a radio announcer on WUNR 1600AM.

Since that concert dance, Rubén has performed in Boston 11 times, his last presentation 19  years ago, on November 17, 2002 with the Costa Rican Editus Ensemble in support of his GRAMMY® winning album Mundo.

This past Saturday, Blades and the Delgado Big Band began their 8 city SALSWING! Tour of the United States and will be performing in Boston this Sunday, November 28 at the Boch Center Wang Theatre in downtown Boston at 7:00 p.m. with his wife, Luba Mason as the opening act with her group Triangle.

José Massó, host/producer of “¡Con Salsa!” 46 years of the very best in Afro-Latin Music, WBUR 90.9FM, Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame and Jazz Journalists Association Award 2021 Jazz Hero.

Jose Masso, Latin Music, Reuben Blades, salsa, SALSWING