The Secret History Of Chicago Salsa Salsa is most commonly linked to New York and Miami, but a neighborhood in northwest Chicago boasted a vibrant salsa scene in the 1970s. A new compilation explores this hidden era in the city's music history.
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The Secret History Of Chicago Salsa

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The Secret History Of Chicago Salsa

Review

The Secret History Of Chicago Salsa

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Well, now a new compilation aims to bring the music to a wider audience. Oliver Wang has this review.

OLIVER WANG: Carlos Ruiz arrived in Chicago from New York in 1950. The Puerto Rican native was a dancer by training and saw a need for a cultural and social venue to bring together the city's growing immigrant community.

P: the Puerto Rican Promenade.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LA JUSTICIA: (singing in foreign language)

WANG: By the late 1960s, the earliest salsa sounds from New York began to reach the Puerto Rican community in Chicago, then the second-biggest in America. Ruiz's Congress had become a local institution. So it was only natural that when a young band named La Justicia needed a place to play, the musicians approached Ruiz.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JUSTICIA: (singing in foreign language)

WANG: This seed grew when Ruiz decided to record some of the bands. Ebirac Records was born, one of the only labels anywhere devoted to Chicago salsa.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JUSTICIA: (Singing in foreign language)

WANG: Unidentified People: (Singing in foreign language).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WANG: Unidentified People: (Singing in foreign language).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WANG: The CD's 15 songs can only skim the surface of that dense history, but at least they document an era that otherwise may only have survived in people's memories. Chicago may be more famous for its blues, soul and house scenes, but this new compilation reminds us that other musics have been vitally alive in the city, especially along the Puerto Rican Promenade.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLOCK: Our reviewer, Oliver Wang, runs the audio blog soulsides.com, and you can hear more Chicago salsa at nprmusic.org.

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