Orquesta SCC, a powerful 11-piece salsa ensemble from the Bronx, are lauded as “the new kings of salsa dura,” stars of a renascent genre of driving, socially conscious Latin dance music.
Today salsa is enjoyed and performed worldwide, but its roots are in New York’s Spanish-speaking barrios. It is here that salsa emerged in the early 1970s from a blend of Afro-Cuban song traditions, Puerto Rican rhythms, and big band jazz. Along with social movements of the day, the music helped to define an emerging Latino community identity. Commercially popular artists gradually moved towards smoother salsa romantica sounds, but Orquesta SCC leaders Jose Vázquez-Cofresi (congas) and Edwin Perez (lead vocals) are part of a young vanguard committed to reviving the sounds and spirit of salsa dura, or “hardcore salsa”—music that does not shy away from mixing social commentary with driving dance beats. They first formed the renowned group La Excelencia (2005-2012); in 2013 the ensemble was reborn as Orquesta SCC (Salsa Con Consciencia, or “salsa with conscience”).
Grammy-winning salsa producer Aaron Levinson says Orquesta SCC “[goes] back to … when salsa was street music,” embracing the genre’s traditional elements: propulsive percussion, dynamic brass lines, and emphatic, emotional vocals updated with original compositions that inspire audiences to find both joy and meaning on the dance floor.