Salsa Suprema, “En La Conquista Del Mundo Latino”
By Richard Villegas · March 19, 2024 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Prolific crate-digging label El Palmas Music is back with a brilliant reissue of Venezuelan orchestra Salsa Suprema‘s cult classic En La Conquista Del Mundo Latino (In Conquest Of The Latin World). As with previous reissues of crucial records from Los Calvos and Frank y Sus Inquietos, the label continues to underscore the South American nation’s legacy as a vital crossroads within the canon of salsa, boogaloo, rumba, and diasporic music as a whole.

Salsa Suprema’s legendary vocalist Larry Francia epitomized this cultural melting pot. He hailed from Barlovento, a bastion of Black Venezuelan heritage, and was raised in Caracas’s bustling neighborhood of San Agustín del Sur. Marching to the beat of the region’s booming drums, and finding an instinctual second language through song, Francia was discovered at 12 years old by big band vocalist Víctor Piñero. Throughout the 1960s he sang with beloved ensembles like Los Kenya, but Francia helped cement Venezuela as a salsa powerhouse with Salsa Suprema’s 1979 opus En La Conquista Del Mundo Latino, both a celebration of joyful homegrown tunes and the rhythmic influences of their Caribbean siblings.

The record kicks off with a cover of Arsenio Rodríguez’s Cuban rumba standard “Papá Upa,” weaving together cascading percussion, blaring brass, and wordless chants that evoke Afro-Caribbean spirituals. “Que Corto Es El Amor” hones in on heartbreak as a recurring, catalyzing force in salsa, unspooling the tragic imbalance of short-lived romances and drawn-out mourning. The orchestra again nods to their Caribbean peers on “Estamos En Algo,” shouting out “Por Puerto Rico van/ Y también pa Venezuela,” noting Borinquen’s foundational role in salsa’s global rise.

While Francia’s charismatic vocals usually garner most of Salsa Suprema’s praises, he certainly didn’t work alone. You can hear the deftness of pianist, arranger, and band leader Mon Carrillo on subtler cuts like lurching salsa ballad “Contribuciones,” as well as melodramatic bolero “Nieblas de Riachuelo;” majestic, meticulously crafted monuments to big band artistry. Trombonist José Plaza also greatly enhances the dramatic quotient of tearjerkers “Por Que Llora” and “Que Voy Hacer.” And though Larry Francia died in October 2023, this is the kind of loving reissue that will ensure his memory lives forever.

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