The End of An Era:
The music of the Mambo Kings found its inspiration in the music that came out of Cuba and with Castro’s rise to power and the subsequent embargo, the parade of Cuban musicians traveling north was halted and even sheet music coming out of Cuba became a rarer and rarer occurrence.
The New 'Nuyorican' Music:
At the same time, New York’s Latin youth was more interested in the ‘twist’ and the R&B music being released by Motown than in their parents’ more staid mambo and cha cha cha. Additionally these young ‘Nuyorican’ musicians were experimenting with new styles of Latin music that had a more youthful energy like the boogaloo and what ultimately became known as salsa.
Pacheco Meets Masucci:
Johnny Pacheco was a Dominican musician whose family moved to New York in 1946. Jerry Masucci was an Italian-American divorce lawyer who had worked in Havana’s visa department until he had to leave the island. In 1964, taking inspiration from Berry Gordy and his Motown Records, Pacheco and Masucci met at a party and decided that what was really needed was a record label to represent the new Latin music that was so popular in Spanish Harlem and other Latin immigrant neighborhoods in New York.
Fania Records Is Born:
Masucci and Pacheco started Fania Records which would become the most influential record label in Latin music history and the name synonymous with the term ‘classic salsa.’
Fania Records accomplished the goal of its founders, popularizing and bringing the new music to a global audience and helping create the salsa explosion. Over time, it signed most of the major Latin musical artists to the label. Among the many artists that signed with Fania were Celia Cruz, Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe, Ruben Blades, Larry Harlow, Ray Barretto and Bobby Valentin..
Fania All Stars:
In 1968, Johnny Pacheco gathered together some of the label’s biggest names and promoted them under the name the ‘Fania All Stars.’ In fact, the first time the ‘All Stars’ performed together, they had only 2 days of rehearsals although they’d never before seen the music or performed together.
Discontent In The Ranks:
While Fania did an exceptional job of providing a recording and touring platform for these artists, the price was high. The schedules that were set for the musicians, between recording and tour commitments were grueling and apparently not in line with the pay. One by one, Fania started losing its most famous and innovative artists because of disputes over money.
By the time that Jerry Masucci died in 1997, he was the sole owner of Fania although the label was just a shadow of its former self.
Emusic Buys Fania Catalogue:
In 2005, Fania’s assets were sold to Emusica and the following year, Emusica began the remastering and reissue of many of the musical gems that were part of Fania and salsa’s glory days.
Emusica sold the Fania catalogue to Signal-Equity in May, 2009.
Of course, to really experience the classic salsa that was released by the Fania label, there's no substitute for listening to the music. Here's a list of 10 essential Fania albums that will beam you down to New York's Spanish Harlem in the 1970s.
You can also visit the Fania website for a look at their catalogue.