By Kennia Ramirez
It's taken me a few days to gather my thoughts on paper and write a piece on my 100 Day Salsa journey. Perhaps I needed a little break or perhaps towards the end, I think everyone following the “100 day Salsa Madness” also needed a little break.
Cheo Feliciano's death this past week, however, inspired me to pick up my pen. It reminded me why I embarked on this journey in the first place. So, I dedicate and give you this piece in loving memory of the great sonero, my dear Cheo Feliciano. May he rest in peace and may this generation be fortunate enough to create talented musicians like him and the greats whom have perished before him. R.I.P. Cheo
100 Days of Salsa
On January 1, 2014, I decided to take on a 100 Day Salsa challenge with the objective of supporting the artists that are dedicating their lives to keeping Salsa music alive.
Salsa, in the United States, has seen a decline in its audience and unfortunately does not draw the same crowds that genres like Pop, Country, Hip Hop, or Rap do. The few Salsa songs that are given air play on the radio are songs that are mostly current, from artists who are paying upwards of $20,000 a month to have their song played over and over again, if they're lucky. In most cases, the song will only get airtime if it is in high demand. So, it’s clear that the radio stations are not the ones who are going to preserve this music. Salsa has been fortunate enough, however, to have a small group of aficionados in New York, who work day and night, to make sure that the music (the good music) is listened and danced to in select venues around the city. As wonderful as their efforts may be, people still need to go out and support their events. My mission in taking on the 100 Day Salsa Challenge was to go out and do just that.
At first, I was told that I probably shouldn’t do this because I would easily burn myself out. Some people offered to take on the challenge with me to give me a few days off. But I graciously turned them down. When you're passionate about something, a force bigger than you makes sure you accomplish your goals and that's exactly what happened.
There were definitely nights I would go home and get ready for an event, extremely exhausted, after having a tiring day at work and think to myself, "I can't believe I have to go out again." But even on my worst day, the minute I arrived at an event, I was reminded of why I initially started to do this and my exhaustion would magically disappear!
I was also warned to be careful of the politics that exist in the Salsa community; that I might anger one group by going to support another. While I did have people come up to me and say, "Don't go to this event--don't go to that event—the promoter is an asshole or the DJ is a prick." My response to it all was, “This project has nothing to do with personal issues. This is about supporting the people who work to keep Salsa alive." Needless to say, I survived without putting a dent on any of my relationships and actually gained friendships that will no doubt last a lifetime.
The lessons I learned through this challenge were too many to put in one article. So many stories to share that a book can easily be written and most likely will be—even if the “author” is the only one who reads it.
But, if I had to share a few things I discovered through this journey, it would be the following:
1. The places I thought I would least have fun in, were the places I had a blast in.
2. People over 40 are so much more fun to dance with than people in their 20's.
3. Dancing with a professional doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be more fun.
4. Musicians and DJ’s really do perform better when they see they are being appreciated on the dance floor.
5. Dancing with someone who was handicapped would make me realize how silly I was for ever being self conscious of my own dancing.
6. Legendary musicians are more inclined to talk to you about the history than you think.
7. After dancing for 100 days, my body can no longer stay still when it listens to music.
8. Smiling with someone when you dance with them makes a huge difference.
9. After 100 Days, I still LOVE Salsa!
10. This community can only survive if one hand washes the other.
a. Dance instructors give dance lessons and encourage people to go out and practice their dance moves.
b. Live musicians produce music that have provided DJ's with material for decades
c. DJ's keep the people on the dance floor.
We all need to support each other! Otherwise, this thing we call “Salsa” will only be known as food to our great grand children.
Thanks, again, to all in this community who work tirelessly to keep this engine running. This is definitely not a huge money making industry. Those who are dedicating their time to it are not compensated as they rightfully should be.
For those who are not familiar with the New York Salsa scene, I encourage you to go out and support-support the dancers, support the promoters, the DJ’s, the musicians and anyone else who is out there hustling every day. The pioneers of this genre are slowly leaving us. We need this new generation to keep the legacy going. If I did it for 100 days, so can you!