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About this item
The 1973 album “El Violento” was the fifth full-length salsa LP led by Julio Ernesto Estrada Rincón, aka Fruko, and the second credited to Fruko Y Sus Tesos. Though it did not contain hits like ‘A la memoria del muerto’ or ‘El Preso’, it’s a collector’s item today in places like the US, Europe and Japan, perhaps precisely because it is obscure yet full to the brim with unrelentingly hard and heavy salsa bangers that never let up from start to finish (hence the title, which translates as “The Violent One”).
A mix of originals and interesting covers, the LP is “all killer and no filler”, purposely designed to set the dance floor ablaze. It features Fruko’s two main vocalists that took over from the first pair of Humberto “Huango” Muriel and “Píper Pimienta” Díaz, namely the beloved duo of Álvaro “Joe” Arroyo and Wilson “Saoko” Manyoma.
Los Tesos were a talented “wild bunch” who listened to their fearless leader, with Fruko holding down the bottom end on electric bass, Hernán Gutiérrez in the piano chair, the Villegas brothers on hand percussion (Jesús tickling the bongos and Fernando slapping the congas), augmented by Rafael Benítez on timbales and an ace horn section of Freddy Ferrer and Gonzálo Gómez (trombones) and Jorge Gaviria and Salvador Pasos (trumpets).
The super aggressive sound comes directly from the South Bronx playbook of Willie Colón. The snarling trombones and soaring trumpet are somewhat sweetened by a nice little Puerto Rican cuatro guitar solo. Sonically lightening the mood somewhat, ‘Nadando’ (‘Swimming’) is a bouncy tune in the ‘Mercy’ genre (basically a hybrid of pop, funky soul, cumbia and salsa, in the style of Nelson y Sus Estrellas), gleefully sung by Joe Arroyo.
The beats are complex and ever changing, with a little bit of mozambique, conga, bomba, jala jala and of course salsa thrown in for good measure. The side closes out with a brilliant, uptempo salsa reworking of the venerable ranchera chestnut, ‘Tú, sólo tú’.
Side two explodes with the frenetic descarga jam session ‘Salsa na’ ma’—which is exactly that: nothing more than the hottest “sauce” to make the dancers go crazy. Fruko’s tune is dedicated to the Latin community in New York that listens to salsa from everywhere and dances to it so fervently on the weekend. The relentless percussion propels the listener along at breakneck speed as if hurtling down the Bronx Expressway, demonstrating that Fruko y Sus Tesos have mastered the ‘violent’ form of urban salsa that was having its transnational moment in the early 1970s.
While “El Violento” may not be as well known as some Fruko records, it certainly deserves a new look and should be assessed on its own merits as a very powerful, confident entry in the historical evolution of Colombian salsa dura.
1. Tronco Seco
2. El Violento
4. La Nueva Bamba
5. Tú, Solo Tú
1. Salsa Na' Ma
2. Alma Navideña
3. Lamento Cubano
4. Mosaico Matancero