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Joe Bataan backed by an all-star line up of Minneapolis musicians, featuring the MN premiere of “We Like it Like That: The Story of Latin Boogaloo.”
This music legend is the originator of the New York Latin Soul style that paralleled Latin Boogaloo and anticipated disco. His musical experience began with street corner Doo Wop in the 1950s and came to include one of the first rap records to hit the charts, 1979’s “Rap-O, Clap-O”. In between these milestones, he recorded classic albums like St. Latin’s Day Massacre, a perennial favorite in the salsa market.
Born of African-American/Filipino parents, Joe Bataan grew up in Spanish Harlem, where he ran with neighborhood gangs and absorbed R&B, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Rican influences. Self taught on the piano, he organized his first band in 1965 and since that time has been entertaining audiences around the world. Joe still continues to captivate audiences all over the world, but it is in “El Barrio” in Spanish Harlem where he comes from that gives him his foundation.
“Gypsy Woman” exemplified the nascent Latin Soul sound and was a hit with the New York Latin market with him singing in English. In early anticipation of the disco formula, “Gypsy Woman” created dance energy by alternating what was fundamentally a pop-soul tune with a break featuring double timed hand claps. Joe would take this tendency even further when he created the influential Salsoul record label, which fused funk and Latin influences in slick yet soulful orchestrations. Salsoul helped spark the national explosion of urban dance music.
The label embodied the artist’s highly deliberate and culturally aware musical concept. Bataan theorized the ’70s next big thing as a hybrid: an Afro Cuban rhythm section playing Brazilian influenced patterns over orchestral funk. In many ways his vision was on the money, although most of the money would go to others and mainstream stardom would elude him. He did, however, get in on the ground floor of the new trend as an early hit maker. His biggest commercial move was a Salsoul production released under the Epic umbrella and promoted to the new disco market. 1975’s “The Bottle” was a much-anthologized classic that drives an R&B horn arrangement with a relentless piano montuno.
Salsoul still remains an iconic dance record label with a cult following.
Always in touch with the street, Joe Bataan picked up on Rap very early in the game. His rap hit, “Rap-O, Clap-O” was more successful in Europe than in the United States and is remembered as rap’s debut into the European market. Rapo Clapo went on to sell 3 Million copies in Europe.
Nevertheless, Joe Bataan is one of the few remaining artists that entertain all of the people regardless of diversity. His legacy remains. His gritty and realistic Latin soul lyrics, his self-identification as an “Ordinary Guy”, one of his many hits, and his highly personal and prophetic merger of Latin and soul influences. Joe Bataan is everyone’s Ordinary Guy with a lot of Sweet Soul who continues to delight multicultural audiences with his Latin Soul sounds.