Salsa is the sultry, hot, and heavy beat of life on the dance floor. It is the joy and the pain, the intimacy and lust, the freedom of spontaneous invention, and the emotional turmoil of love, loss, and all that's great in being human.
Melina Almodovar aka La Muñeca De La Salsa is a Miami recording artist and entertainer who has dedicated her life to it. She was born in San Juan Puerto Rico, her mom was a flamenco dancer, her dad sang boleros, and her grandpa had his own radio show.
She has recorded with Ruben Blades, performed with Gilberto Santa Rosa, and she has her own orquesta too. And these are her top 10 salsa bands in the world today.
10. Mario Ortiz Jr All Star Band
"Mario lives here in Miami and is the son of a really famous Puerto Rican family with a big band from the 1960's. This man is a teacher and he's incredible. I've performed with him and he's just great. His music is like a danceable 60's big band. Every time I listen to him I travel to Puerto Rico in the 60s dancing with a little bonnet hat. I have this crazy imagination. The horn lines are so old school, big band, tropical music that you can really dance to. He just put out an amazing record on the 50th anniversary of his father's music. It's the recognition of this wonderful period of music in Puerto Rico that's amazing....this beautifully rich period of Latin big band. Amazing."
9. Bio Ritmo
"They're from Richmond, Virginia and they're an incredible fusion of the South and salsa. They have a very definitive taste to their music. Their band has people from Peru, a Puerto Rican singer named Rei Alvarez. They just put out a record called Puerta Del Sur, everybody has to hear it. They're not a straight ahead salsa band. They're very bluesy sounding, with synthesizers. You can tell they're from the South. It's a different thing from what's going on in Latin America, a very soulful, different sound. They're so spontaneous, it's kind of like a jam band. Their live sets are really long and people dance, and it's very bluesy. It feels like you're on Beale Street actually."
8. Timba Live
"They're a Cuban band. And my favorite part of it is their singer, Jessie. I admire her so much. Their sets are so high energy that you come out wanting to take over the world. It's amazing. I love timba music, but I can't sing it. It's such a Cuban cultural thing, I believe you almost have to be Cuban to sing it. They do such a great show. I sang after them at Calle Ocho, and I was like "you're gonna put me on after them?" They're such a great band with such high energy. It's a tough act to follow."
7. Marlow Rosado y La Riqueña
"Marlow and his band are so powerful. They have two of the best singers in Miami, Joe Arroyo and Javier Moreno Jr. And I just like how the band is so innately Marlow. When you hear La Riqueña live or on record, you can tell it's them right away. Even when he has other singers singing for him. The arrangements are so unique, they sound just like their leader, big guy, very strong. Their "Salsa Animal" just came out and its fantastic. It's a great mixture of what's going on Miami. They're a straight ahead salsa dura dance band with members from Peru, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. Marlow knows exactly what he wants, and how he wants it to sound. He has a great reputation and he won a Grammy as an independent over all these major people in the same category."
6. Orquesta Femenina D'Cache
"This is an all female band from Colombia. They're beautiful ladies who really bring it. They can do hard salsa, or slow romantic salsa. I love how they bring out the femininity and the sexiness. They went on tour with Gilberto Santa Rosa. There's not one man in their band. And it's very difficult to play percussion. All of their horn lines are great, really danceable and sensual and sexy, and I find that very appealing."
5. Marc Anthony
"I have to say it because I love him and his musicians. Their show is spotless every time I see it. The music is not salsa dura, it's romantica, but his shows are the reason why he's famous. The guy is a showman, and the band too, because without the band there's nothing. I never miss him when he performs. It's an incredible experience. People criticize him for not doing the "sonero" parts, tha adlibbing and improvising, and the call and response. But to be able to do what he does is truly unique. In the end, it's all about what the people like, and people love his shows. He's a salsa entertainer."
4. La Sonora Ponceña
"This is a band from Ponce, Puerto Rico who are an instituion. They are one of the oldest bands in Puerto Rico. Their city is one of the biggest cities in Puerto Rico, and the slogan there is "Ponce is Ponce, and the rest is nothing." Very humble people. But that's what they say. The leader of the band is 100 years old, maybe 101. His name is Enrique Luca. They call him Kike, and his son Paco Luca is one of the most famous piano players in salsa music. He was in Fania Allstars and all that. They're an institution, they play all the time, and they're one of the hardest hitting salsa dance bands in the world. If you wanna dance, that's it, they're the band for you."
3. Grupo Niche
"They're one of the premier bands in Colombia. Their songwriting is amazing. Their director, who just passed away, Jairo Varela wrote one of my favorite songs of all time, "Sin Sentimiento." The music is romantic, but so danceable at the same time. I feel emotionally invested in the music. People know every single word to that song, and the band is amazing. It's the perfect meeting of salsa dura and romanticism, and the lyrics are just beautiful. It's a real accomplishment on their part."
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"I really appreciate when someone can take romantic music and interpret it in such a way to make it danceable, so that you wanna just hit the floor and blow it up. He expresses himself so well in every single line of his songs. And his swing is phenomenal, he improvises endlessly with the clave (fundamental rhythmic pattern). In 2010, I performed backup for him and I was so nervous it was like a dream. His voice is so rich and beautiful. He's always so in the pocket with the rhythm and you never know what's going to come out of his mouth. He is one of the best soneros in the world. The sonero is the person that comes up with lyrics out of nowhere, out of whatever situation, out of whatever is happening in the room. He's an urban poet, a salsa poet. I just admire him incredibly."
1. El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico
"This band has to be number one. They've traveled every single part of the world with salsa. They've taken it everywhere. And it's danceable! You are not gonna be sitting down if you see them. It's something magical. The leader of the band, Rafael Ithier, he's like in his 80s and started this band when he was super young. And every singer who is anybody has sang with Gran Combo. It's like the university for singers. If you want to learn what Puerto Rican salsa is, they're what it is. In Puerto Rico people like to party a lot, there's dances everywhere all the time, and Gran Combo are constantly playing. People come in and out of the band but there are two singers, Charlie Aponte and Jerry Rivas that have been constants. I really admire them two. They're just the institution of salsa. Real Puerto Rican salsa, real danceable music. I love to dance, my people love to dance and they're the inspiration that makes salsa what it is."