Friday October 3, 1997
Rigoberto Lopez Pego's "Yo Soy del Son a la Salsa" ("I Am, From Son to Salsa") documents the evolution of salsa music from its roots in Cuba to its development there and later on in Puerto Rico and New York.
The music, of course, is well-nigh irresistible, and its makers form an uncommonly ingratiating group of individuals, each quick to give credit to mentors and influences. There's a special poignancy here in that salsa has had to transcend political borders, given the United States long-standing embargo of Cuba.
Lopez Pego simultaneously aims at the salsa specialist and the layman. He has laid out this music's history meticulously throughout this century, charting its variations and presenting its premier artists in chronological order. (Musicians of the '20s--such as the late members of the pivotal Trio Matamoros, formed in 1925--are represented in archival film and television footage.)
With many veteran performers still alive and active, such as Israel "Cachao" Lopez, "Yo Soy" gives us the feeling that we're being given a pretty comprehensive picture, even though we're cautioned that by no means have all performers been included.
Not to worry if you're not a salsa specialist and find yourself a bit bowled over by the amount of information the picture provides. All you have to do is simply sit back and listen to the music.
The most famous musician in the film is probably the late Perez Prado, and the first person to acknowledge that Prado was the King of Mambo is none other than Cachao himself--even though it was he and his late brother Orestes who came up with mambo 60 years ago.
Singer Celia Cruz is represented in performance in vintage clips and in a vivacious interview, and we see Tito Puente in performances both past and present and in a substantial interview. Singer Isaac Delgado is "Yo Soy's" gracious and knowledgeable host.
The film ends appropriately with a long session with today's top Cuban group, the mesmerizing and distinctive Los Van Van.
Yo Soy del Son a la Salsa, 1997. Unrated. A RMM FilmWorks release. Director-producer Rigoberto Lopez Pego. Executive producer Ralph Mercado. Written by Lopez Pego and Leonardo Padura. Cinematographers Luis Garcia and Jose M. Riera. Editor Miriam Talavera. In Spanish and English, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.