Papo Vázquez and the Mighty Pirates Troubadours will perform a Puerto Rican holiday jazz parranda at the Hostos Center in The Bronx on Saturday, December 9, 2023, at 8 pm.
Vázquez moved to New York City as a teenager, where he performed with Latin music legends such as Héctor Lavoe, Celia Cruz, Eddie Palmieri, and Willie Colón. By his 20s, Papo was already touring the world with great Latin bands. He is also a founding member of the Fort Apache Band, Conjunto Libre, and Batacumbele, which mixed Cuban songo (Los Van Van rumba and rock) with jazz in the Puerto Rican music community.
Papo appeared in Fernando Trueba’s classic New York Latin Jazz movie “Calle 54” (2000). He also played on the soundtracks for “The Mambo Kings” (1992) and Spike Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues” (1990). His “Palomita, Afro-Caribbean Suite” was the first use of Puerto Rican bomba and plena in a classical composition. He premiered it with the Bronx Arts Ensemble at Hostos Center in 2004. Papo is also the music director for the National Puerto Rican Day Parade.
Mighty Pirates Troubadours
Papo’s music is a fusion of bomba and jazz, with the bomba beat forming the foundation and jazz elements layered on top. Listening to conjures images of being in the Puerto Rican rainforest, listening to a New York jazz band.
Jazz originated in New Orleans, which is a city in the Caribbean. Bomba, on the other hand, is an Afro-Puerto Rican art form that involves drumming, singing, and dancing. It has become a symbolic tradition for the younger generation of Puerto Ricans. Since jazz and bomba are Caribbean traditions, it makes perfect sense to blend them. Although we now refer to all music in this genre as “salsa,” the core rhythm of bomba known as “sicá” (bom, pa-pa, ta…) sets apart Cuban pachanga from New York Puerto Rican salsa. If a song includes the “sicá” rhythm, Puerto Ricans will instinctively start dancing to it, as if it’s in our blood.
Puerto Rican legends Rafael Cortijo and Ismael Rivera were among the first to bring bomba rhythms into salsa. William Cepeda of Loíza Aldea and others like Héctor “Coco” Barez (Calle 13) of Santurce with his Laberinto del Coco project followed Papo’s, Rivera’s, and Cortijo’s footsteps.
The band’s name has a touch of Caribbean humor to it,” says Vazquez. “In Puerto Rican history, pirates were known as the Spaniards who conquered Borikén. They brought along a style of Spanish cancion, which medieval troubadours from northern Spain, southern France, and northern Italy had influenced. In Puerto Rico, these troubadours became known as trovadores de Puerto Rico,. They are still active on the island today, often engaging in activities resembling modern-day rap battles. However, if we flip things around, we are technically the pirates who have come to conquer the United States. Of course, that’s just a joke – the United States is also our country!”
The Mighty Pirates Troubadours lineup is:
Papo Vázquez – Trombone, Leader
José Mangual – Vocals, Percussion
Iván Renta – Sax
Rick Germanson – Piano
Ariel Robles – Bass
Alvester Garnett – Drums
Reinaldo De Jésus – Percussion
José Claussell – Percussion
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