Monday, November 06, 2006

interview to Joe Bataan

Joe Bataan begins his musical journey in the 50's, he forms his first band in 1965 and in 1967 he begins to record for Jerry Masucci's Fania Records label, the most important Latin Music label. Later he co-forms the Mericana/Salsoul which brings us up to his last record in 1979 "Rap-o Clap-o" which forestall the Rap movement. Raised in Spanish Harlem he frequents Porto Rican gangs and he refines his Soul with Afro-Cuban, R'n'B, and Afro-Rican influences.In the 60's, during the Boogaloo explosion, he creates Latin Soul which later became Latin Funk and later, in the late 70's , Latin Disco .The characteristics of his Street Latin Soul remains that of always wanting to tell the stories of the streets. "Ordinary Guy", "Gypsy Woman", "What Good is a Castle", "Under the Street Lamp" and "La Botella" ( latin version of the great Gil Scott Heron's "The Bottle"), are some of his hits!And now, after 20 years, Bataan returns with "Call My Name", an album, once again recorded in New York for the Vampisoul label, in which we seem to have been transported back to the 60's.

What do you remember about the Porto Rican gangs experience in the New York's Spanish Harlem?

The Gangs of New York were The Victory's, the Cahaplains, Red Wings and the Dragons of which I was a member and much later the leader in Spanish Harlem. Each gang dressed differently and lived in separate areas of New York. There was a code of honour where no one told another gang member his business and gang members had control of their neighbourhoods.

How did you start thinking about the way to put together Latin and Soul Music?

After listening to Show Musicals, Rock and Roll and RnB I got the idea to fuse Latin with English lyrics as an experiment. I listened to Joe Cuba, Hector Rivera and Pete Rodriguez and was inspired to do the same. Only difference was that my style had stories of life in the streets and much of my life was involved in my songs. This is why I became a street singer.

What were your favourite bands you used to listen to?

My favourite bands were Eddie Palmieri, Joe Cuba, Tito Rodriquez and Tower of Power.

Jerry Masucci was very important for you, tell us about the Fania period.

Jerry Masucci was very young and was not afraid to take a chance with my ideas. Eventually I outgrew his label and I’m still trying to collect money this company owes me.

How was the relationship with other Fania musicians like Barretto, Larry Harlow?

I got along with these musicians but you must remember my style of playing and my music took me in different directions internationally and spread my name worldwide. I was an artist that brought a unique style of music to the world that is very different than the rest of these musicians of Fania Records.

Tell us about the Mericana and SalSoul period.

Mericana and Salsoul Records were my creation, I sold the interests of Salsoul very foolishly after I created the name Sal for Salsa and Sol for Soul. I was very successful with these labels and was the first artist to build this dream of a company. This company also did not live up to their agreement and I am in position to collect much money they owe me with the help of God. However this was an exciting period for me because of Rapo Clapo and the international success I got.

What do you think about this Salsoul music rebirth?

The Soulsoul rebirth is good for everyone including me, finally I will get a chance to be heard around the world and the public has a chance to hear my full collection of music of over forty years.

Tell us about the way you came back to all your fans with the new album "Call my name"

God has a plan for Joe Bataan and it is to spread his name and my music, will reflex my sound and the chance I am getting to do some good with my music. Of course this is an exciting thing that’s happening to me. Not many people get a second chance in their lives, I already had over twenty. Now it is time for me to pay up for my blessings.

What do you think about today’s electronic music which makes use of samples of Latin / Brazilian music?

All music is good and we should always find avenues to experiment. This is what makes music an exciting art form. I love Brazilian music.

What are your future plans, will there be a tour, new projects, are you coming to Italy?

I believe they are arranging a tour in Italy and Europe. I have another album to be completed in the summer called "The Message" and I’m looking for a record deal with Vampisoul or anyone that may be interested in Joe Bataan.

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