Salsamania: Ritmo Polar!
(p) 1993 Oy Amigo Music Finland Ab (AMF-CD-2007)
CD-Review by Rob Lücking
If Tito Puente, the one and only "King of Latin Music", hadn't left this world forever, I would simply believe Kleptomania to be one out of eleven(!) hit songs on his brandnew production RITMO POLAR! Well, to be honest, this CD isn't that new. So it could be Tito Puente? Or did they dig out some previously unpublished material? But would the master entitle his songs with such mysterious names as Kun Taivas Aukee, Rakovalkealla, or Avaan Kaasun? And let Santos Colón sing in a language that hasn't any resemblance with Spanish? Neither sounds like anything I have heard before?
He probably wouldn't. And in fact he didn't. The solution to this mystery is quite simple: it is neither Tito Puente nor Santos Colón to whom we are listening on RITMO POLAR! No, it deals with an orquestra which typically enough calls itself Salsamania, but is probably unknown to most of us. Unknown because of their origin, even when nowadays we are used to such exotic groups as the Japanese Orquestas del Sol and de la Luz. Believe it or not, this orquestra is from Finland. Which, by the way, explains the strange language, since the twelve musicians cheekily vocalise in their mother tongue (so far, the Japanese didn't, thanks God ...)
Well... So there is another band that takes advantage of the momentaneous salsa fever, recovering a few old Cuban classics while insolently imitating Tito Puente? Not rare, indeed. Not Salsamania, however! Especially since RITMO POLAR! dates back to 1993, and the band itself was founded in 1981. At this time, Cuba was still a Sleeping Beauty. On the contrary, what an orquestra! Straightforward Latin tunes full of improvisations, in the style of a classical salsa big band. From son to salsa, from mambo to montuno, from plena to pachanga. With a crystal clear brass section (except for the somewhat weak trombone in Mambomania), fine flauta solos and rousing timbales. And a final flourish, as it should be! Of course, this must sound like Tito Puente. Although the vocalists could still learn something from Santos Colón... And Cuban classics? Not on your life! Except for Jeriko and Turbolla, all songs are written by members of the band themselves, mostly by leader and saxofonist Markku Rinta-Pollari. And all this on the very first and, unfortunately, only production!
Without the fantastic compilation entitled SALSA MUNDO (Tinder Records / Candela 1998), recently reviewed in Bamboleo (Volume IX, June-July 2000), Salsamania would have passed unrecognized. But they didn't, and surprised with their hot montuno tune Rampa Rumba. And caused me to desperately search for the original source. Which wasn't that simple (see below for how it can be done). But it was worth all efforts and waiting. Everybody open to new experiences and a Finnish adventure (doesn't sound that bad when you get used to it), will have a lot of fun with Salsamania and RITMO POLAR! And DJ's will find well dancable music throughout.
How can you get hand on this juwel? Well, that's in fact "pretty" easy! The CD is available from Digelius Music, although it does not appear in their on-line catalogue (Nordic Music Gallery / Finland). So all what you have to do is send an e-mail to email@example.com, with the name of the band and the title of the CD, together with its number (AMF-CD-2007), and ask for further instructions (see also the Digelius on-line order page). You can pay by credit card, and the CD costs 65 + 20 Finmarks (including shipment inside or outside Europe), that is about 14, Euro or 12, US$. So lets have these hot polar lights! Or, to quote vocalist Timo Hietala's German in Son Se Son: "Son über alles! Son, jawoll!"
A final note: Salsamania are not to be confused with their namesake Salsamanía, a band from Würzburg in Germany that was founded in 1993 by piano player Eva Tilly and is predominantly composed of musicians from Hispanoamerica (see www.salsamania.de).
|Text: Copyright 2001
Layout: Copyright 2001 Klaus Reiter (firstname.lastname@example.org). Last update: 3.1.2001.