Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Hector Lavoe, tu es eterno"

Still working on the next music update, but I wanted to hip you all to a couple of aftershocks in the world of El Cantante.

Willie Colon himself has had a few words to say about the film. Taken from his official website (and much thanks to La Onda Tropical for spreading the word):

The Creators of El Cantante missed an opportunity to do something of relevance for our community. The real story was about Hector fighting the obstacles of a non-supportive industry that took advantage of entertainers with his charisma and talent. Instead they did another movie about two Puerto Rican junkies. The impact of drugs in the entertainment industry is nothing new; look at Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Whitney Houston today.

I think Hector deserves the recognition the movie pretended to give him. However, as someone who advised the producers, it's painfully obvious that they didn't understand what made him so important. It was the music. It was his talent. They didn't understand or respect the true importance of our music to people around the world. It's difficult to comprehend how two individuals who are in the music business like Marc and Jennifer are not aware of the damage and the consequences of promoting only the negative side of our Latin music culture.

I was disappointed that there wasn't a minimal effort to correct what I felt were serious chronological and factual errors. This tells me that they expeditiously crafted the simplest cliché script in order to just make a film quickly.

After the premier of El Cantante in Puerto Rico there were several statements of protest by people who had supported and participated in the project until they saw it. Their complaints were not about sour grapes or J-lo and Marc bashing but from a sense of betrayal and disappointment.

We are all invested in the world that this movie represents. For many of us the hope of our story finally being told sank into the horizon with the final version of this film.

--Willie Colón


Ismael Miranda and Jennifer Lopez have had their say as well.

...and so have other fellow bloggers.

Though certainly authoritative, these voices are but a few of many being heard after the film's review, and I'd like to remind everyone who reads this that there have been numerous reactions to El Cantante beyond simple film criticism (including my own). Some, like Colon, consider it a scar on the history of Latin music in the United States; others consider it a worthy testament to a cultural and historical period that deserves attention. At the risk of implicating myself in what seems to be a rather heated debate (admittedly one that I really have no kind of authority to speak about), I would like to make an observation.

While I was cobbling the Lavoe discography together, I spent a lot amount of time revisiting the Lavoe I heard growing up as a child, and eagerly discovering the many corners of his discography that I'd never heard before. Even as I write this, the string ruminations and trumpet's herald of the epic El Cantante blares in my ears. Perhaps you, too, decided to throw on an old Colon/Lavoe record that you haven't spun for a while; or, if the music of salsa was new to you, you found your hips moving in ways never before attempted, your head nodding to the soul of la clave. Through all of this, our ears have heard a lot of mudslinging, but we've also heard something much more enduring and sublime that withstands the debates and cultural politics. Seriously guys, this is timeless music, and it's my opinion as the "lowest" among all critics--a fan--that there is no better way to hear the story of Hector Lavoe than how he told it himself: as un cantante, as a singer. Before long, this debate will be tidily filed away and forgotten. Will your Hector Lavoe records, CDs, mp3s, suffer the same fate? I trust that if you're here, they won't. Like Chapin over at La Onda Tropical recommends:

"Forget the movie, and go discover the music of Hector Lavoe, Willie Colón,
Ruben Bladés
and all other Fania stars."

I'll admit, there were moments where I became more caught up in the frenzy of El Cantante than in the music of the real Cantante. I've come around. I'm going to keep on with Hector Lavoe the musician, not "Hector Lavoe: The Debate." I think there's a reason why Ruben Blades made a musical clarion call for Latin solidarity on the seminal Colon/Blades album Siembra, as have countless artists before: because there is a kind of unity that you can find in art and creativity. Toward oneness with music; toward music with oneness.

What can I say, my soap comes in big boxes.

To close this, check out a hip poem by a messenger of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, courtesy of Lil' Mike's Last Known Thoughts And Random Revelations.

Willie Perdomo - The Day That Hector Lavoe Died



9 comments:

wacco said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wacco said...

Julio, Change "ES Eterno" for "ERES Eterno" I love your blog and I think your perspective is on the money. FYI: I produced most of Hector's solo recordings. That means I picked the material, arrangers (or arranged myself) and the personnel. At this point, I think I have distilled my commentary of the movie El Cantante more succinctly. Although they had the best intentions. They should have focused less on Hector's tragedy and more on his legacy.

Keep the good stuff coming

Un abrazo

Willie Colon

Sunny said...

Boy, this is about dead-on:

"...I spent a lot amount of time revisiting the Lavoe I heard growing up as a child, and eagerly discovering the many corners of his discography that I'd never heard before. Even as I write this, the string ruminations and trumpet's herald of the epic El Cantante blares in my ears. Perhaps you, too, decided to throw on an old Colon/Lavoe record that you haven't spun for a while; or, if the music of salsa was new to you, you found your hips moving in ways never before attempted, your head nodding to the soul of la clave. Through all of this, our ears have heard a lot of mudslinging, but we've also heard something much more enduring and sublime that withstands the debates and cultural politics. Seriously guys, this is timeless music, and it's my opinion as the "lowest" among all critics--a fan--that there is no better way to hear the story of Hector Lavoe than how he told it himself: as un cantante, as a singer.

Before long, this debate will be tidily filed away and forgotten. Will your Hector Lavoe records, CDs, mp3s, suffer the same fate? :

...go discover the music of Hector Lavoe, Willie Colón, Ruben Bladés and all other Fania stars."

...I've come around. I'm going to keep on with Hector Lavoe the musician, not Hector Lavoe: The Debate. "

*

I know I'm with you all the way. While I had a vague knowledge of who Hector Lavoe was in terms of his celebrity, i certainly had no notion of who he was/is/will forever be as a musician and sonero. What a timeless voice and sense of swing in front of a band!

Yes, it is unfortunate that the movie focused more on his tragedies (which were very, very real) and less on his musical talent and the connection he had with his audience everywhere. But if the movie serves as a portal and a catalyst for new listeners to discover the music of this great master, than it's done very well.

I know I've spent months and months since first seeing the film (and having my ears blown off and my heart touched deeply even by Marc Anthony's screen portrayal of Hector) listening and buying and going deeper and deeper into the very full discographies of both Lavoe and Colon, and I've been changed forever by the music I've found and heard for the first time.

So kudos for J-Lo and Marc for putting Hector up in lights for a new generation of fans who may not have discovered him otherwise. Such are the pitfalls of mass media like cinema, but such also are the reach of the same form as well as the transformative power of art, even those things that are sensational at best.

In the end, the truest testament to a complex soul like Lavoe that will ever exist is the music itself. Drink deeply of that music.

Viva Lavoe!

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Syed Muddassar said...

This is great post on this sort of lovely music. Can you write some about Ballroom dance music?


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Diana Diaz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diana Diaz said...

Excellent entry. Citing for an encyclopedia entry. Thank you, my fellow Nuyorican!

-=estrella=- said...

I stil listen a lot to Hector Lavoe's music. For me he is will stay one of the best performers od Latin Music / Salsa.
I liked the movie because i could read between the lines. I only hope that the people who never heard from Hector Lavoe before they saw the movie, will remember the great music from a talented Cantante.

-=estrella=-

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