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Sushi, sake and Salsa.

Since the early 1950s, world-touring Latin American musicians have returned home to the Western Hemisphere with rave reviews of their reception in the Orient, particularly Japan. By the 1970s, Japanese fascination with tropical sounds reached a fever pitch. Local bands began to perfect the Afro-Cuban beat, Latin music clubs sprouted throughout Tokyo and the city even boasted its own magazine devoted exclusively to the salsa movement.

Thus, it was only a matter of time before the Japanese would be tempted to take their brand of salsa to the most demanding audiences in the world, those in New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 1989, the 11 member band Orquesta de la Luz made its Big Apple debut, and what could have been just a momentary flirtation fanned by natural curiosity blazed into a genuine romance. The New Yorkers loved the Japanese band and their debut recording, Salsa Caliente Del Japon, quickly raced to the top of the Latin music charts.

When lead singer Nora came to New York in 1987 to learn Spanish, she could only fantasize that in just two years her band would be performing to sold out crowds in such temples of Latin music as the Palladium and Club Broadway. In 1991, Orquesta de la Luz returned for an encore and a historic performance that found Nora singing duets with the queen of Afro-Cuban music herself, the venerable Celia Cruz.

The group's new release, the appropriately titled Sin Fronteras (Without Boarders), continues the band's formula of brightly arranged up-tempo salsa, featuring an explosive trumpet and trombone section and a ballad or two. In a move to expand their audience even further, Nora performs one song in English. On the new release, she mixes a chorus of her native Japanese with Spanish, and invites Tito Puente as a guest soloist on one selection.

In the 1950s, a group called The Tokyo Cuban Boys began imitating successfully the big band Mambo sound of Perez Prado and Tito Rodriguez and, through the 1970s and into the 1980s, musicians like Yoshinori Nohmi and Naoya Matsuoka applied their talents to expanding the Latin music vocabulary in Japan.

Today, Orquesta de la Luz has taken the movement a big step toward establishing an authentic Japanese voice in Latin music. Original compositions, fiery percussion, hot brass and the sunny, pop-flavored voice of Nora all add up to much more than just a passing fancy.
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Title Annotation:Japanese salsa band Orquesta de la Luz
Author:Holston, Mark
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Words:402
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