La Excelencia, a young Bronx-based band that’s widely acclaimed for reviving the boisterous, socially conscious and highly danceable salsa dura of the ‘70s, plays the Hop’s Spaulding Auditorium on Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 07:00 p.m.
With free-flowing horns, blazing vocals, surging rhythms and original songs calling out the issues of the street and neighborhood, La Excelencia “represents something very significant, a return not just to the classic formula of salsa but to the virtues of it…going back to the more eclectic period when salsa was street music, playing with spirit and integrity and writing socially relevant music again,” said Aaron Levinson, a Grammy-winning producer best known for his work with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, in an interview with The New York Times. Building their audiences through tremendous live performances and a strong, savvy internet presence, the band is prospering in a challenging time for the music business.
Critics have taken notice since the band emerged seven years ago, prompting The New York Times to proclaim, “The real deal doesn’t show up that often, and here it is. Celebrate it.” The Washington Post described it as “a hot multi-ethnic band from the Bronx…[with] a hint of la revolucion.” Latin Beat Magazine featured a cover photo of the band taking scissors to the tuxedos they reject—along with the smooth, homogenized salsa romantica sound—and praised the band’s “raw, powerful and commendable arrangements” and pungent lyrics in songs with titles like La Lucha (The Struggle) and American Sueño (American Dream). “From immigration to infidelity, from prejudice to profiling issues; the selections evoke a straightforward and realistic look at everyday problems in the life of Latinos today.”
The band members, all in their 20s and 30s, are of Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Colombian, Argentine-Ecuadorean, Japanese and Anglo descent, and the band makes a point of fusing styles from across Latin America—powered by four horns, three vocalists and a six-piece rhythm section.
Founded in 2005, La Excelencia set the salsa world on its ear by starting its own label, Handle with Care Productions, Inc., and producing and distributing two CDs—Salsa Con Conciencia (“Salsa with a Conscience”) in 2006 and Mi Tumbao Social (“My Social Rhythm”) in 2009—that have scored worldwide success. In 2009, the band toured 16 countries performing at world renowned festivals, venues and dance congresses, and the band was featured in a four-part documentary series by the BBC’s Latin Music USA, representing the new salsa dura movement to a sold-out crowd in 1900-seat Barbican Hall. A third album is currently in production. La Excelencia has also been featured on numerous salsa/world music compilations and TV and film scores.