Welcome to LaVoz Magazine!

The Mission of "La Voz Del Mambo Productions" is to provide a global voice for the underground salsa and mambo dance community. Our website contains articles, interviews, polls, discussion topics, and various artistic expressions that concern the salsa and mambo dance community.

We encourage all individuals to submit works that relate to salsa and mambo dancing for publication.

The Salsa Lifestyle

That Salsa Lifestyle by J.D Smith

Well it’s official, in the northeast it’s definitely winter, so I’ve decided to take the opportunity to spend more time in the clubs dancing(As if I needed an excuse) Just about any night of the week you will find me on the floor executing shines and cross body leads to blistering Latin rhythms.

However, I’ve noticed something quite interesting. If I’m out six to seven nights a week, I see many of the same folks on any given night in any given club. My very crude and unscientific mental survey tells me that a goodly portion of the salsa crowd is out dancing 5, 6, and yes, even 7 nights a week!

I have been forced to conclude that for these individuals this is not just a pleasant way to spend time on occasion. If one is out doing pretty much the same thing most nights of the week from 9:30 to around 2:00 or so, one is arranging or re-arranging, many other details of one’s life around this activity. After all, anything that commands 25 to 30 hours of ones time every week must be considered a formidable presence indeed. Yes friends, for some of us salsa has become a LIFESTYLE.

Closer examinations reveal the true depth of this kind of commitment. Many take classes and privates as well; some are dancing with companies and other ad hoc organizations. All of us similarly affected spend on salsa proof wardrobe items, dance shoes and chiropractic appointments etc. If you’re one of the ones I’m talking about, just think of the number of things you blow off or relegate to secondary status below salsa.

Don’t tell ME… just think about it. If you’re only spending $10-$15 per night(not at all difficult to do), that’s between $3600-$5520 yearly and we all know it’s more than that when you take into account the road trips to congresses and other out of town salsa events that one occasionally attends when you’re in it this deep. I have not failed to notice that these folk seem to pick their partners from this grouping as well (My last three hook-ups were). It’s what I’ve termed “The Law of Proximity”. Friends and partners will ordinarily be chosen from among those closest in proximity to our main activities and interests. Rarely have I seen exceptions to this rule. Is this good, bad, or neutral? I don’t know, it’s just an observation, call it for yourself.

I do suggest however that more than a few of us live this way. I would like to believe we who choose this way, do so prudently and responsibly, but human nature being as it is, it cannot be so in all cases. For those who have some question about it, check into it and take any doubts you have seriously, after all, this scene we love and nurture so carefully should remain fun and not become a source of distress in anyone’s life. So please, as we all enjoy, safety first!

You Know You’re A Mambero If…

You know youre a Mambero if:
taken from MAMBEROS! Myspace Discussion Group!

*You have a collection of dance supply catalogs for your jazz shoes
*You hate when musicians don’t play a full bar
*You get excited when there is a distinct 2/3 or 3/2 clave in a song
*You can dance on2 to hip*hop
*People assume your always on2, even when your not
*People seek out your advice on transitioning between 1 and 2.
*Some songs are way too fast for you now
*All your favorite salsa artists and musicians are dead
*You’re considering taking a class to learn how to play the Congo
*Improving your shines is one of your New Years resolutions
*You’ve had a debate about whether dancing the ET2 was considered Mambo
*You saved the picture you took with Eddie Torres
*You think its amazing when you see kids dance on2
*When you see a new dancer, you watch their feet to see what count they are on
*People get upset at you when dance with them on1
*You have to ask the awkward question 1 or 2 before you start dancing
*People have lied to you and said they could dance on2 when they couldn’t
*Some people wont dance with you because they think you wont dance on1
*You don’t dance with people because they dance on1 (shame on you)
*Your favorite salsa dance routine doesn’t have any tricks
*You have graduated from jazz shoes to pointy toe dress shoes
*But you can still be seen out at a club with a t-shirt, jeans and jazz shoes
*You don’t know whether to call it mambo or salsa on2
*An old school mambero has told you that you’re not dancing mambo
*You comfort your friends and students when they can’t find 2 and 6 in the music
*You have to travel out of town now to get your salsa fix
*You remember when you thought on2 dancers were off beat
*You listen to the Eddie Torres timing CD like it’s not an instructional CD
*You once wrote a paper or article about dancing salsa on2
*You have become an On2 spokesperson in your local salsa scene
*You always find yourself exposing newbie’s to dancers from out of state
*Dancing mambo is a prerequisite before entering a relationship
*You’re secretly in love with a well*known Mambo dancer
*You’re currently involved in a peace treaty with the local on1 instructors
*You get in heated arguments with your mambo friends about who’s the best
*You see mambo dancers from other states more than the relatives in your own city
**All your social dances look choreographed
**MamboFateegz is your primary clothing line of choice!! :*)
**Every move or turn pattern you’ve been taught has been named
***You find yourself in conversations about which is better* on1 or on2
***You are well versed in the skill of switching your ears and feet from on2 to on1
***It takes about half a song to mentally register that a mambero wants to dance with you… on1.

Be sure to checkout Johnny’s new discussion group Mamberos located at:

*contirbuted by Johnny Johnson
**contributed by Garry Portugal
***contributed by Terra Seidule

Dance Performance Today

Dance Performance Today by JD Smith (Boston)

The other night after a really hard and satisfying salsa workout, one of my salsa dance buddies and I went out for a bite and a beer. I mentioned that I was trying to come up with a topic to write about for this column and if she had any ideas that I might develop. She immediately came out with a good one, the current trends in salsa performance.

This is a subject, as it turns out, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to myself. I began thinking about which performances at the various congresses I’ve attended stand out in my memory.

Invariably, the ones I remember best and enjoyed most are the ones that feature some kind of dramatic theme(s) worked in and around innovative and original choreography.

I am not alone in my enjoyment of this kind of performance if the strong audience response to this kind of thing is any indication. There are some truly fertile and creative minds at work out there.

However the more I thought about it, the more I pondered what I perceive as a disconnect between the musicians who create and play this music and the performers who dance it. Unless I’m wrong or very uninformed, I do not see the close association of composers and arrangers in the salsa field and the top flight dance performance groups.

In the so called classical world of music, there have always been these kinds of collaborative efforts between musicians and dancers. What I mean by this is the kind of cooperative unions that bring the most talented composers and choreographers together to present new and original performances.

The question I’ve been asking myself is why aren’t these two worlds communicating more effectively in the field of Latin Music? Given the long history of an extremely close relationship between Latin dance and music, I find this question puzzling.

If I were directing a dance company, or leading a band, I would certainly be seeking opportunities to work collaboratively by commissioning new and original music to be performed with new and original choreography.

Imagine if you will someone like let’s say, Eddie Palmieri, or Jimmy Bosch, composing a new work to be performed by Eddie Torres dance company or any of the great and talented dance performance groups currently on the scene. Now to me, that would really be something to see at a Conrgesso.

Heralded and trumpeted with a lot of fanfare and pomp, this kind of thing could have the potential to be major artistic events that could easily , if properly planned, gain solid mainstream support from established arts foundations and similar organizations who grant funding for these kinds of projects.

Personally, I think it is an idea whose time has truly arrived. Now who will be the first to step up to the plate?

The Essence (Mambo Diva)

by Johnny Johnson

She possessed great rank but this was no opera song,
Her nonverbal communication commanded our attention

She exuded everything stylish and symbolized elegance,
Most modern day Mamberos believed she was heaven sent

Her movements captured rhythms and captivated musicians,
Because she stressed notes behind bars like syncopated prisons

She ruled the mambo bliss that frequently took us over,
Her rumba motion awakened the melodies that bored us

She was sexy enough to dance in bars, just for her own amusement,
But filled with so much class, dancing only in the bars of the music

Convinced that in her past, she was a spiritual painter,
Because her movements interpreted melodies, that drew out inspiration

And from these descriptions, you’d think I stayed in her presence,
But all it took was a brief moment, to gather up all the evidence

Possessing essential properties, she’s a statement of equivalence
This woman truly exemplified… the essence of a Mambo Diva.

Dancers Beware

Dancers Beware

“If everyone could play like Jordan they would” – Mos Def

You are a dancer and you may not be the greatest dancer but you have some skill. You go to some social event and people are impressed. As well they should be you spent a lot of time and money to get those skills. But watch out…. In every scene there are always people who are envious and really just want what you have.

The Salsa S***

No other way to describe this person. Yep she will do just about anything just so she can avoid paying for lessons. Attractive and quite, she comes over and ask you to dance and warns “I’m not very good so take it easy one me”… “Sure, Sure…” you say and she’s right she is not very good. She continues to flirt with you for the rest of the night and finally goes for the hook. “You know I would love to learn how to dance but I just can’t afford it. Maybe we can go out sometime and hang out a little.” Please find the nearest exit and run for your life. I’m sure women can give similar accounts about men.

Don’t take the bait just tell them right off the bat I don’t teach but I know a few people who can help you out. Even if you go out and have a good time later try to avoid teaching them anything. More times than not they’ll find someone else in the scene that will teach them and move to next one that can teach them more.


I’m not going to insult anyone’s family but everyone has that one cousin always asking for lessons. Of course you can’t turn family down but they usually only show interest for about two weeks and then they move to the next project. They continue this routine after every family wedding. Not much you can do about this because it’s family. One thing that works out well is if you invite them to a group class. After an hour of trying keep up they usually get discouraged until the social event.


This is a very general term. I actually have a sub list but I’ll save for another article. In general, these people are truly envious of anyone who has something they want. In the dance scene they usually want attention. So they talk you down and belittle you as way of making up for the attention you are grabbing. You can’t avoid these people. So just do your thing and do your best to ignore them. (Easier said then done) But the real danger is becoming one. So check yourself.

I don’t like to dwell the negative but we all know life isn’t peaches and cream. Be proud of what you can do and do it the best you can. Don’t let people steal what you have. You have skill, you have fun, and you may get a little attention. So dancers beware, someone wants it badly enough to pull you down for it.

DJ Nik’s Tunes for the Dancefloor

“Contigo No” – Wayne Gorbea y su Conjunto Salsa

This is a very nice, in-the-pocket tune from groove master Wayne Gorbea. Many of Wayne’s songs are overplayed on the salsa circuit but this is not one of them. It features swinging bone riffs and Johnny Polanco on Tres! (Check out his interview in this issue). From the album “La Salsa y Charanga” on Disco.

“Mima la Pululera” – Pedro Conga Orq. Feat Tito Rojas

This is early Pedro Conga (circa early1974) featuring a very young Tito Rojas on vocals (apparently his recording debut). Sadly the CD version is now out of print. If you see it buy it. The whole thing is jamming salsa dura with rough trombones and up front percussion. This is a great dance tune. From the album ‘Mima la Pululera’ on Mavi.

“Salsa con Candela” – Miguel Yamba

This one fantastic and obscure dance tune. When I went to the NY Congress in 2000 I heard it a couple of times and thought, “What the F is that tune?”. I haven’t heard it since but it is one cool tune with a clear clave, guitars , and a laid back, African swing. It took me about a year to figure out what is was and to hunt down the CD. From the album “Karamba” on LusAFrica.

“Cuban Fantasy” – Estrellas Caiman

Just go out and get all the Estrellas Caiman (now called Cobo All Stars) albums. They’re all top notch salsa mambo jazz from NYC. This, for me, is the best version of this famous tune for dancing (originally written by jazz pianist Ray Bryant and made famous by Machito’s monster band in the 1950s). Check out the line up on this record (Ray B on conga, Andy G on bass, Jimmy Bosch on trombone, Fajardo on the flute, etc. etc.) Perfect groove and sweet flute and alto solos! Vaya! From the album ‘Descarga del Milenio’ on Cobo.

“La Receta” – Johnny Polanco y Su Conjunto Amistad

This is from Mr. Polanco’s first album and is one of his most jamming tunes. To get the full experience you must see him and his band live but this is pretty strong stuff nonetheless. The man plays trombone, vibes, tres, and arranges (and smartly features some of the best vocalists in the business). What can you say about that? Nothing; just go see him live and buy the CDs!!!! From the album, “LA Amistad”.

“Remordimiento” – Charlie Palmieri

Eddie’s older brother was one bad ass piano player. His music always has flavor, swing, and an elegance that is missing from most salsa music. I recommend all of his albums. This is a cooking mid tempo dance tune from a great album with yet another all star band. It features the great Menique on vocals. From the album “Con Salsa y Sabor” on Cotique.

“Como Lo Canto Yo” – Justo Betancourt or Spanish Harlem Orchestra

I mention both versions because they both cook and are worth getting your hands on. The Justo version is a bit more raw and a bit faster in tempo. The SHO version features Ruben Blades on vocals sounding at the top of his game. So clear and fluid. A joy to hear (hey Ruben how about a dura solo record!!!). Both are great dance tunes that typify 1970 take no prisoners salsa pa’ bailar! From the albums “Across 110th st” on Libertad and “Lo Sabemos” on Fania.

Quotes of the Month


Johnny Polanco: I never went to school (for music), I never had a formal lesson. I was adopting instruments and then playing them. I would buy instruments from the streets; One time I purchased an instrument from a drug addict, it cost me $10.00, then I made music from the instrument.It is very rewarding when you perform. The music that I play I like it to be danceable. Dancers are creative people and I like to feed that. I always watch the movement on the dance floor.

Victor Mayovanex: When I decided to form my own dance company, I noticed that even though everyone was good at the time something was missing. I felt personality was missing, which explains the origin of Karisma (Spanish for Charisma). “Karisma” was the not just the attribute I wanted to express on the stage, but it was also the quality that I thought was missing from the scene. “Karisma” was meant to represent the details from the clothes we wore, to our elegance and potentially to our performances. Therefore, our goal when we are on the stage and everything that is executed on the stage is just simply Charismatic.

Mr. Marchant Birch: I don’t even know what I will be doing in 5 years time, but I would like everyone to experience dancing in such way where they hit that zone or Dynamic equanimity. It’s a feeling of Oneness where you, your partner and the music becomes one and rhythm is the glue to unify all three. You can’t even feel where your body ends and your partners body begins, you don’t even know if you are leading or following because everything is one. In that state, no forceful leading is necessary, you are both just flowing, and the energy is just flowing. I’m not even sure if the brain gets involved because the brain can get in the way of feeling. That is what I wish for everyone to experience.

Ms. Erika Occhipinti: To be an excellent instructor requires a lot more than just being a good dancer. Sometimes the best dancers are terrible instructors, and the best instructors aren’t always the most impressive dancers on the floor. Since the salsa world doesn’t have a standardized curriculum or certification program like other styles of dance, pretty much anyone can call themselves an instructor, which is unfortunate. I’m not saying we should have that standardization, because I think the very thing that attracts so many people to salsa is its “street” style and lack of strict rules, but it does make it difficult for beginners to know if their instructor is any good.

Mr. Eddy Deynes: Hesitant at first, my decision to teach came full circle when I picked up a friend at a dance studio. Waiting for her to finish her class, I noticed that someone was teaching a private lesson. As I watched the instructor teach what he called Salsa, I found out he was charging the student $100 an hour. The funny thing was that he wasn’t teaching salsa. He was teaching cumbia to salsa music. Shocked and upset that he would hustle someone $100, I decided right then it was time for me to teach. I was like, “I can’t believe this!!! I will teach people salsa the right way and for a reasonable price.” So, that is how I started to teach salsa.

New La Voz Del Mambo Correspondent

Meet Ms. Sharon German – Boston (La Voz del Mambo’s Artist Correspondent)

Johnny: For those who may not know you, can you tell us a little about your background as a musician?

Sharon: My musical background as a muscian started when I was 8 years old, I was going into the fourth grade and my school was initiating a new program for kids interested in instrument lessons, out of all instruments one of them caught my attention, it was here when I discovered the trombone.

Soon I joined the school’s marching band and concert band. Then two years later I joined my school’s jazz band, we traveled, entered state and national competitions, and for three consecutive years we held a state champion tittle for the best middle school jazz group. When I turned 13 years old my playing abilities were expanding and I was starting to notice an immense interest for salsa music.

My brother Grey at the time was playing with one of Boston’s local salsa groups, at the time they were called “Oquestra Carribe” but they soon split up and became “Mambo Magic”. This band was lacking a trombone player so I hussled and offered to be in the group. At first the director (Carlito “El Timbalero”) was very skeptical. I mean not only was I a girl but on top of that I was 13 years old, this band was gigging late nights, bars, clubs, and sometimes they would tour but he took his chances. When he heard me play he was impressed, and the more we played the more exposure I got.

Everytime I played, it was another opportunity for someone else to hear me. In events where other bands were featured, directors would ask me how could a 13 year old play like that? It wasn’t until I reached a certain level and the entire Boston musical scene knew my name. I interacted with people and connections came into play.

Along the way I also learned to play other instruments like guitar and piano. I also did and still do back up singing. However, salsa isn’t the only genre I play. I also enjoy other styles like jazz, rythm and blues, all forms of latin, classical, marching, rock and slow jams.

Johnny: Can you name some musicians that you have performed on stage with?

Sharon: I’ve had the pleasure to perform with “El Gran Combo”, Raulin Rosendo, Grupo Niche, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Oscar D’Leon, La India, Africando, Jimmy Bosch, and Rey Ruiz. In the Jazz field I’ve had the pleaure to work with two legends Maynard Furgesson and Wynton Marsalis. Last year I played with the Boston Symphony Orquestra and traveled with the American Navy Marching Band. I’ve had the honor and privileged to interact with Johnny Pacheco, Ruben Blades, Willie Colon, Larry Harlow, Johnny Polanco, The Spanish Harlem Orchestra and Frankie Vasquez.

Johnny: who are some of your favorite musicians?

Sharon: Honestly this is a very hard question because every artist delivers something different and special but I would have to say Johnny Pacheco, Cheo Felicano, Jimmy Bosch and The Spanish Harlem Orchestra.

Johnny: What is your background as a salsa dancer?

Sharon: My background as a salsa dancer started with Ruben Gonzalez and Lisa Perez, two beautiful dancers who at the time were students of April Genovese. Shortly they stopped teaching and I ran to April, I’ve been dancing with this amazing dancer for 2 years; I’ve been dancing in total for 2 1/2 years. I currently dance with the Melaza Dance Company which is ran by April herself, but previous to being a salsa dancer, for five years I was a ballerina and tap dancer.

Johnny: Who are some of your favorite dancers or dance groups?

Sharon: Similar to what I said before this is also a hard question because every dance company is different and unique in their own way, but my top three are the Eddie Torres Dance Company, Yamulee, and Karisma. My favorite dancers are April, Lisa, Amarylis, Arlet, Thomas, Frankie, Juan, and Vitico.

Johnny: As the Musician Correspondent how do you plan to contribute to La Voz del Mambo?

Sharon: My expectation is to join all the voices of mambo by incorporating some of the leaders of the community. I hope to bring an element of diversity and of course I hope my contributions could leave a positive mark. I look forward for the experience.

Johnny: Any additional comments:

Sharon: Thank You Johnny for giving me the opportunity to work for your publication and thanks to the readers and participants who make this La Voz del Mambo possible.

Japanese Turn Saucy About Salsa Dancing

by Natalie Obiko Pearson – Tokyo, Japan

A pulsating mambo fills the air at a cavernous club near Tokyo Bay. ”Ayyy-esssooo!” the song calls in exhortation as a sea of dancers — sweaty, skin bared, clothes clinging — roll their hips and swirl into turns with increasing abandon.

The scene is a world away from the formal and orderly Japan that lies outside — and that’s exactly why these dancers love it.

Salsa, the catchall name for a variety of music and dance with Latin and Afro-Caribbean roots, such as the mambo, rumba and Cuban son, has found an unlikely group of hard-core enthusiasts in Japan.

”It’s like they’ve suddenly woken up. They’re shocked by the gap between their daily lives and life on the dance floor,” says George Watabe, 56, an events producer credited as the force behind Japan’s salsa boom. ”It’s a kind of revolution, a mass rebellion.”

The signs of the boom in Japan are unmistakable.

The monthly ”120% Salsa” has grown from a one-page flier in 1996 to a full magazine with a circulation of about 40,000. Its pages list 200 salsa-related events across Japan every month. Music stores sport sizable collections of salsa CDs, and salsa-based fitness classes are now standard at Japanese gyms.

The salsa rebellion was in full swing in Tokyo when 3,400 people converged for the sixth annual Japan Salsa Congress — a three-day sweat fest devoted to the serious business of dancing.

And serious it is….For more click here!

March Editorial Comments

Editorial Comments:

First and foremost I would like to thank Mr. Jose Alberto, Mario Hazarika, Emily Alabi, Samantha Erskine and Sharon German for their terrific interviews. I would also like to thank Jason Pacheco and Mr. Rafael Brito for their great articles; and thanks to Ivi, Myron, Rob, Boyd, and JD for their fabulous discussion responses. Your contributions make La Voz del Mambo possible!

Last month my dance partner Lucy Lu and I had the pleasure of traveling to Greenville, SC to teach workshops and debut our mambo routine. I just wanted to take time out to thank everyone in Greenville, SC for being so supportive! Thanks to John Morey for bringing us down to Greenville and showing us such a great time. The salsa environment you guys have created in Greenville is something to be admired. Keep up the good work John! We look forward to seeing you guys again real soon!

Also, last month Lucy Lu taught salsa workshops in Raleigh, NC and we got the opportunity to perform at the Salsa for U Social. I just wanted to thank Anita Walden for allowing us to perform at the social and being such a great host! In addition, thanks to all the dancers that gave us so much positive feedback, it really meant a lot! I also want to say a special hello to the young ladies I met at Lucy’s workshop from VA. Thanks for your positive feedback on La Voz del Mambo.

Last month’s the most popular question was by far: “who is the Mad Mambero?” Well, initially I was not going to address this, but since so many people have asked about it, I feel the need to respond. The Mad Mambero is a fictional character. The essay last month was not an individual e-mail sent to me. However, the material in the essay is a collection of real e-mails, postings and direct/indirect comments made to me over the past few months. I figure everyone one should have a voice, even those that don’t approve of La Voz del Mambo for whatever reason. Nevertheless, The Mad Mambero’s purpose is purely for entertainment, so please keep that in mind the next time MM decides it’s time for someone to speak up! :-)

Hope you enjoy this month’s issue. See you on the dance floor! Johnny Johnson – Editor

Leave Comments for the Editor!