The Rough Guide to Salsa Divas

The Rough Guide to Salsa Divas Part I

Originally written by Pablo E. Yglesias – better known as DJ Bongohead

Edition, adaptation and comments by Toni Basanta in Richmond, Vermont, USA


SALSA  has been one of the most male-dominated sectors of Latin music since its inception, at the end of the 1970s,  ……  yet women have always had important roles interpreting tropical dance music.

In Cuba, all-female dance orchestras such as El Septeto Anacaona in the 1940s to 1960s were not only popular,  but also served as career catalysts for regal singers like Moraima Secada, Omara Portuondo, Ana Maria Purmuy  and Graciela.

In New York and Puerto Rico, Myrta Silva was prominent, not only for her prodigious talents as a vocalist, but also in her role as a composer, producer, mentor and independent woman.

Graciela “The First Lady of Latin Jazz”  achieved fame during the Mambo era in New York, being an essential part of her brother Machito and the  Afro-Cubans and helping to usher in the sexual revolution with her risqué songs.

La Lupe was known as the most outrageous ‘bad girl’ in New York, yet, over the decades, but it was the First Lady Salsa, the inimitable Celia Cruz who dominated the world of Salsa Divas.

Since Celia passed away in 2001, her shoes have been very hard to fill, but this collection aims to shed some light on some of the current crop of contenders to her throne, as well as some of her contemporaries from the 1970s.

The Puerto Rican sonera Choco Orta is recognized today for not only her vocal talents, but also her accomplishments as a percussionist, dancer and actress. Her classic big-band mambo from a few years earlier recounts how her mentor, Tito Puente has crowned Choco the new ‘Queen of Flavour’ and she pays tribute to ‘el maestro’.

“Tito le puso a Choco, la nueva reina del sabor … ”

Joined by the Budda Allstars, the critically underrated Afro-Boricua vocalist Yolanda Rivera sings of street-corner rumba drummers as the basis for the guaguancó rhythm often found at the heart of Salsa. You will encounter fiery, well-seasoned veterans with a contemporary voice, as well as an introduction to some inspiring young talent worth watching.

The bonus disc brings you ‘La Japonesa Salsera’,Yoko Mimata, who is making waves with her blistering brand of Salsa Dura. A native of Osaka,  but living and performing in New York since 1997, Yoko sings Salsa with authenticity, power and joy. Her commanding presence, combined with smoking arrangements and masterful playing by some of the most talented musicians in the genre make this album a true scorcher.

YOKO majored in Spanish language studies, and originally sang in JAPAN with several orchestras, including LAS ESTRELLAS,  a popular group  formed by former  member of LA ORQUESTA DE LA LUZ, where NORA NORA got her start at the end of the 1980s.   In this Compilation, she switches genders on “LAS MUJERES SON” (Women Are) converting it into a feminist anthem.

Bonus Artist Album by Yoko

Dubbed ‘La Japonesa Salsera’, Yoko Mimata is making waves and turning heads with her blistering brand of salsa dura. A native of Osaka but living and performing in New York, Yoko majored in Spanish language studies and sings salsa with authenticity, power and joy. Her commanding presence, combined with smoking arrangements and masterful playing by some of the most talented musicians in the genre make this album a true scorcher. ‘La Japonesa Salsera’ is lighting up the Salsa World.


My comment and other critics

I received THE ROUGH GUIDE TO SALSA DIVAS album in 2010, courtesy of World Music Network and it’s been in my radio shows here in VERMONT, USA as well as in many of my DJ Nights and gigs, weddings and other celebrations. 

I could highlight some of my favorite Songs, which have also been danced by hundreds of SALSA fans and enthusiasts : “Cuando se canta bonito” Graciela w Mario Bauza Orchestra, “Camina como Chencha” by Myrta Silva w Joe Quijano y su Conjunto Cachana, “La Nueva Reina del Sabor” by Choco Orta, Yoko Mimata w Chino Nunez Ensemble dvering  joy and good Spanish diction, Albita wisely combining Hip-Hop spoken word in her improvisations,  “Un poco de Salsa (buena y pura) by Aymee Nuviola, “Amor de millones” penned by the late Sara Gonzalez and sung by Bobby Cespedes w El  Conjunto Cespedes, Cecilia Noel in “Tu condena” w good guitar riffs, and Omara Portuondo’s invitation to move our hips  from her Grammy winner album “Flor de amor”.

VERMONT AIRWAVES  – Radio shows SABROSO GUARAPO at The Radiator in Burlington, Vt. USA, (2010 – 2014) and THE CUBAN BRIDGE in Colchester, Vt. 2010 since this minute.


For all the driving rhythms and weaving horn lines, it is the divas that define SALSA’s wild and free spirit. Dance the night away with Salsa from the original revolutionaries Celia Cruz and La Lupe to the twenty-first century innovators Albita and Yoko.

‘this is a brilliant collection and a crucial reminder of some often overlooked Latina divas’ 4**** stars, Songlines

‘Salsa lovers will find their passions ignited’, World Music Central  

Toni Basanta



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