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Oklahoma City Salsa Band To Shake Up 'Opening Night' Festivities

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Jim Johnson
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Armando Rivera of The Salsa Shakers

Like the popular condiment from which it borrows its name, salsa music represents a spicy blend of ingredients. More specifically, it’s a melding of Pan-Latino dance music, popularized as such during the mid-20th century.

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Credit Jim Johnson
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Nelson Cordero of The Salsa Shakers

“The way it was explained to me in Puerto Rico by some of my elders was that the drums - the congas and the percussion - that’s from Africa,” says Nelson Cordero, lead singer of Oklahoma City-based The Salsa Shakers. “[The music] went to Cuba, then Puerto Rico back in the 60s.”

Cordero suggests salsa music owes some allegiance to his birthplace of New York City.

“Well, there was Johnny Pacheco and the Fania All-Stars,” Cordero states. “They were from New York, and they took the salsa and basically commercialized it. And I think we have all benefitted from that.”

Cordero, who was born in the Bronx and raised in Puerto Rico, knows the music, as do the group’s founders, Cuban-born Raul Reyes and Mexican-born Armando Rivera.

It was Rivera, a long-time veteran of the central Oklahoma music scene, and the newly arrived Reyes, who realized the potential for such a group.

“Just by knowing that Oklahoma City did not have a salsa band, we decided to put a band together,” Rivera says. “We formed the band in the summer of 2013.”

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Credit Jim Johnson
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Raul Reyes of The Salsa Shakers

Since that time, the group has emerged as a major event attraction and this New Year’s Eve band members hope to continue their goals of unifying cultures, delivering good cheer, and breaking down what Rivera calls a growing barrier to dancing - all things he says Salsa music and his band can facilitate.

“The celebration of New Year, musically, it’s all about party, all about dancing, all about not getting too worked up about life,” Rivera says. “That’s the common denominator, not only in Latin America, but all around the world."

“Some of the lyrics that come to mind right now is in one of the songs that we perform titled, ‘La Vida Es Un Carnaval.’” Rivera says. “That’s what it talks about. Life is a carnival. Don’t be so serious about it. Have a good time…”

Armando Rivera, Raul Reyes, and Nelson Cordero will join the rest of The Salsa Shakers this New Year’s Eve at the Bicentennial Park Finale Stage from 9 p.m. to midnight in downtown Oklahoma City. The group is headlining the Arts Council of Oklahoma City’s Opening Night festivities, and will assist with the countdown to 2015.

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Jim is a journalism/mass communications graduate from the University of Oklahoma. While still a student, he became the host of what is now The Weekend Blues. He currently serves as KGOU’s Program Director where he supervises all aspects of KGOU’s on-air programming output.
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