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Willie Rosario: Mr. Afinque

The great salsero to play at World Salsa Congress, May 26

By Dena Burroughs
Published on LatinoLA: May 25, 2005


Willie Rosario: Mr. Afinque


I discovered Willie Rosario‘«÷s music in 1999 while researching for a class paper about the influence of the Santeria religion on the music we know as Salsa.

I was browsing the web for Sons, Cha-Cha-Chas and Salsa songs that made mention of Santer?°a gods (such as Chang??, Obatal?Ū, Och??n, etc) in their lyrics. Between all the songs that popped up, I found one by Willie Rosario entitled ‘«ˇArrepenti‘«÷os Pecadores‘«÷, from his, at the time, brand new CD release ‘«ˇBack to the future‘«÷.

Most interesting to me was that ‘«ˇArrepenti‘«÷os Pecadores‘«÷ was not promoting worship to the Santer?°a gods, but rather encouraging the listeners to forget about them and worship Jesus instead. The lyrics go: ‘«£La gente se est?Ū olvidando de la religi??n, y resuelven sus problemas llamando a Chang??‘«™.Olv?°date the Chang??, tambi?ģn de Obatal?Ū, busca el rostro de mi Cristo, y as?° te salvar?Ūs‘«ō. [Translation: ‘«£People are forgetting religion, and try to fix their problems calling on Chang??‘«™ Forget Chang??, also Obatal?Ū, look for the face of my Christ, and then you will be saved‘«ō.]

The song contrasted perfectly with the ones that sang to the Santeria gods, and it allowed for a great added angle in my paper. I will never forget the note the professor wrote on it: ‘«£I am giving you an A because there isn‘«÷t anything higher to give you. This paper is outstanding‘«ō. As you can imagine, I was thrilled, and it was due to that paper that I became a fan of a few artists, one of them Mr. Afinque himself, Willie Rosario.

Perhaps now you can understand my excitement when Mr. Rosario was willing to answer a few questions from me, just before his show in Los Angeles tomorrow, Thursday May 26th, as part of the West Coast Salsa Congress.

[For more information see http://www.Salsaweb.com/LA and http://www.atpevents.com]

But before I go into the questions, let me give you some information on this great artist and his outstanding career.

Mr. Rosario‘«÷s complete birth name is Fernando Luis Rosario Marin, born in Coamo, Puerto Rico, on May 6th, 1930. His career has gone on for over 45 years now. In fact, the CD mentioned above, ‘«ˇBack to the Future‘«÷ was his 40th anniversary release.

Mr. Rosario‘«÷s orchestra was the stepping stone for singers who eventually became stars of their own, such as Gilberto Santa Rosa and Tony Vega. Incidentally, the latter is going to be in L.A. this weekend, as well, for the Salsa Congress.

If you have ever heard the term ‘«ˇSalsa monga‘«÷ it will interest you to know that this title for romantic Salsa was attributed to Mr. Rosario, who meant it to describe the rather soft, flaccid feeling of such Salsa style.

To learn more about Mr. Rosario, you can visit his website http://www.willierosario.com. And now, let me share my conversation with him!


Q. Mr. Rosario, first of all, Happy belated Birthday! If my math is correct, you are brand new into your 75th . How incredible it is for me to talk to someone who has been making this beautiful music for longer that I‘«÷ve been alive. And I say that with the utmost admiration!

We are in great expectation of your visit to Los Angeles. While here, you will be playing and socializing with artists who are well acquainted with you, such as Tony Vega, Domingo Qui??onez, and Bobby Valentin. How would you describe these men?

W.R.: ‘«£Well, I know Tony Vega as a great singer and as a great human being. Domingo Qui??onez is a talented singer and a brave person, and in my opinion, Bobby Valent?°n is the best arranger in Salsa music, a talented musician and a great person.

Q. I recently purchased the latest Domingo Qui??onez CD and in one of the songs he sings to ‘«£Willie‘«ō. I was wondering if he would be referring to you, do you know if that‘«÷s the case?

W.R.: ‘«£Probably‘«™ but I think he is referring to Willie Col??n‘«ō

Q. I already know you are not too fond of ‘«ˇSalsa monga‘«÷, so how do you describe the Salsa that you love and perform?

W.R.: ‘«£The Salsa music that I play, I believe should be exciting, should invite to dance. The performance of my band is based on the entire band.‘«ō

[Comparing his answer to previous interviews, I understand he refers above to the contrast between giving attention to an entire band, versus the concentrated, singled-out attention to a singer‘«÷s voice and looks, which ‘«ˇSalsa Monga‘«÷ once gave.]

Q: Out of personal curiosity Mr. Rosario, about the song mentioned above, ‘«ˇArrepenti‘«÷os Pecadores‘«÷, is there a story behind it?

W.R.: ‘«£There is no story, it‘«÷s just based in daily life.‘«ō

Q: What have you and your band been up to in the last couple of years?

W.R.: ‘«£I have recorded two live performance CDs, and have been playing my music in South America, Europe and Puerto Rico.‘«ō

[The two live performance CDs are ‘«ˇThe Master of Rhythm and Swing ‘«Ű Live in Puerto Rico‘«÷ recorded in Arroyo e Isabela, Puerto Rico in 2002, and ‘«ˇEn vivo! Desde Cali para el mundo entero DVD plus 2-CD set‘«÷ recorded at the Jorge Isaacs Theater in Cali, Colombia in 2003.

Q: What is coming up for you in the near future, say, for the rest of 2005?

W.R.: ‘«£The band has several performances in Puerto Rico and in the United States. We are also planning to record a new CD.‘«ō

Q: One last question‘«™.for those new musicians who may read our conversation, those struggling to develop a career hoping theirs‘«÷ will be like yours, and for whom I‘«÷m sure you are a great source of inspiration, do you have any tips or words of encouragement?

W.R.: ‘«£Be honest, study, believe in your dreams, and always respect your fans by being a good example.‘«ō

Q: Mr. Rosario, from someone who is incredibly star-struck at the moment, I sincerely thank you for your willingness and your time. Thanks as well for working hard towards preserving the more driving style of Salsa for the newer generation. From me, who ‘«ˇde coraz??n se considera Salsera‘«÷‘«™ mil gracias.

Like Willie Rosario would say: ‘«£Que siga el afinque!‘«ō. Remember, tomorrow is your opportunity to see his 45 years of Salsa experience in action! Do not miss him!







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