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Pop Music Review

Colombia's Fruko y Sus Tesos Shows Off Vast Hit Catalog

April 30, 2001|ERNESTO LECHNER

Fruko y Sus Tesos is known mainly among dancers and salsa connoisseurs, but it is one of the most consistently fascinating groups in the history of Afro-Cuban music.

On Friday at the Sportsmen's Lodge, the veteran Colombian band ignited the capacity crowd with an inspired show, proving that it can rival any salsa band, from Puerto Rico's El Gran Combo to Colombia's Grupo Niche, in the sheer number of hits it has amassed during the last three decades.

Founded in 1970 by multi-instrumentalist Julio Ernesto Estrada, a.k.a. Fruko, it was the first Colombian group to transpose the hard-core sensibility of New York salsa to the sound of its native country.

At its mid-'70s peak, the group boasted no fewer than three star vocalists at the same time: Joe Arroyo, Piper Pimienta Diaz and Wilson Manyoma, a.k.a. Saoko. The youthful-looking Manyoma was there Friday, his throaty voice sounding as raw as ever on vintage numbers such as the relentlessly swinging "El Preso."

The bandleader regards salsa compositions not as excuses for instrumental bravado, but rather as pop tunes, complete with catchy choruses, intriguing bridges and an underlying sadness to the melodies that will keep you humming them long after you've stopped dancing.

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