An obscure yet sought-after slab of Colombian salsa dura, originally dating back to 1978, is now available on 180-GRAM VINYL, complete with reproduced artwork. The LP has the "original" version of Joe Arroyo`s monster hit `Rebelin` hidden in plain sight on Side 2 with the title `El Mulato`.
4. Si Ella Pregunta Por Mi
The band’s leader, Roberto Antonio Urquijo Fonseca, is still active today and, hailing from Barranquilla, Colombia, is as steeped in the costeño sound of cumbia as he is in salsa. Roberto certainly has a perfect voice for salsa, bringing to mind that of the Boricua super star sonero Héctor Lavoe. In fact, Roberto y su Banda are well remembered by salsa fanatics in Medellín because they were the other act (along with Piper Pimienta and his orchestra) that opened the first Colombian performance of Héctor Lavoe, on the afternoon of July 29, 1978 at the Plaza de Toros La Macarena. Roberto was also one of the vocalists and co-founders (with Hernando Barbosa) of the short-lived La Bandita, where he was known as “Urquijo” and had a big hit with ‘Libre soy’ in 1979. Prior to that, Roberto replaced Juan Piña in Los Hermanos Martelo in 1975 and later joined Grupo Raíces in the 1980s for a couple of albums. He also became a vocalist with Grupo Niche when Alfonso “Moncho” Santana quit, though he left without appearing on any Niche releases.
On this album the previously mentioned ‘Rebelión’ of Joe Arroyo kicks off side two but bears the completely different title ‘El Mulato’ and is credited to Adela Martelo de Arroyo, Joe Arroyo’s wife at the time (Arroyo was signed exclusively to Discos Fuentes). The arrangement, by Enrique Aguilar, is also quite different from ‘Rebelión’ with an introduction that sounds inspired by Tite Curet Alonso’s composition ‘Plantación adentro’ (from “Willie Colon Presents Rubén Blades Metiendo Mano!”, 1977) but it contains all the elements of Joe’s later global smash with the exception of being rhythmically more of a cumbia than a salsa. At the time it was not promoted by Zeida as a hit, with only one 45 single being released from the album, featuring two songs by Colombian composers, ‘Hijo de gitana’ (a bouncy cumbia by Juvenal Viloria) and a smoking salsa version of Joaquín Bedoya’s ‘Déjala que se vaya’. Arroyo is said to have presented ‘El mulato’ to Fruko (his bandleader at the time), and it was recorded but was shelved due to a vocal take that Fruko deemed sub-par. When Arroyo left Fruko y sus Tesos and formed his own band, La Verdad, producer Isaac Villanueva looked through the Fuentes archives for material and stumbled on the original Fruko recording. Arroyo decided to re-record the whole song, changing the intro (to avoid any legal issues with Curet Alonso) and the title to clarify the main theme: the injustice of slavery and black resistance to it. And so, with Michi Sarmiento’s brilliant arrangement plus La Verdad’s modern reinterpretation of the nearly decade old tune, ‘Rebelión’ became a mega-hit even in Asia and Africa and Arroyo’s fame shot around the world and made him the international legend he remains to this day, eight years after his untimely demise.
Besides the aforementioned ‘El mulato’, the title track ‘Soy la ley’ is a dance floor burner and comes from the pen of Joe Arroyo as well, as does ‘Mi cariño no espera’, which is another cumbia/salsa hybrid. To these ears, one of the voices singing coro (chorus) on the album sounds a lot like Joe Arroyo, who was Roberto’s friend from back in the early 70s when Arroyo sang with Colombia’s La Protesta. Aside from the Arroyo originals, there is the super hot guaguancó ‘Son Candela’ by the venerable Cuban singer/composer Joseíto Fernández, the guajira son ‘En la inmensa soledad’, made famous by Los Compadres, the upbeat sounding lament ‘Preso sin sentencia’, originally by Puerto Rican plenero and percussionist Rafael Ortiz Escuté (aka Joe Pappy), plus an absolutely burning version of Mexican crooner Armando Manzanero’s 1967 hit ‘Aquel señor’. The record is rounded out by the salsa tune ‘Si ella pregunta por mí’, which was covered in 1980 by Orquesta Borinquen."