Various Artists – Cult Cargo: Salsa Boricua De Chicago

January 01, 1970

Numero Group)


Numero Group’s ongoing quest to
uncover and document obscure music scenes has led them a treasure trove of home
grown salsa right under their noses on Chicago’s
near-north side. Salsa Boricua De Chicago documents the work of
promoter, scene-maker, label-owner, cultural facilitator and all around good
guy Carlos “Caribe” Ruiz, a major feature in Chicago’s Puerto Rican community in the 1960s
and ‘70s.


a former professional dancer and musician, founded the social and cultural
outreach organization the Puerto Rican Congress of Mutual Aid. More importantly
for archiving purposes, he also founded the Ebirac label to record numerous
neighborhood orquestas that he founded and put together, including La
Justicia, La Solucion, Juventud Tipica ‘78 and the Ebirac All-Stars. 


most of these acts never had much of an impact outside of Chicago, they were big in their own scene and
provided a source of considerable pride in their neighborhoods. They also went
a long ways towards keeping instruments in kids hands instead of zip-guns and
knives, one of  Ruiz’s reasons for starting the PRCMA in the first place.
And they were real players, as well: although perhaps not as slick as the big
touring orquestas of Tito Rodriguez, Johnny Pacheco, Perez Prado and others
that regularly played in Chicago,
they could certainly hold their own. 


documents this vital scene with 14 tracks by 6 acts and a spectacular
60 page booklet of localized information, sociopolitical history, photos and
reproductions of flyers and more. Like New York
and Miami’s
salsa of the period, most of these tracks are piano-led, percussion heavy jams
with punchy horns and passionate vocals. There is, however, a distinctive
flavor to these tracks that mark them as Ebirac releases, not Fania or other
salsa labels of the era. They are perhaps a bit more laid back and less brassy
than some of the bigger name acts of the time, but still basically groove
oriented. They switch out on tempos, points of entry and overall approach; in
other words, there is diversity. For example, the electric guitar solo in
“Under The Sun” by the Under The Sun Orchestra comes totally out of the blue, a
bracing contrast to the  percussion and horns that take the lead on most
of the tracks. Master percussionist Mongo Santamaria sits in on one track, “Mozambique” by
La Solucion.


archivist geniuses at The Numero Group
have compiled and yet another eye-opening document of a time and place and
we’re again all the richer for it.


DOWNLOAD: “Plena Matrimonial,”
“Stone Flower,”  “Under The Sun,”  “Donde Estabas.” CARL HANNI


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