Gilberto Santa Rosa to Receive Honorary Doctor of Music Degree from Berklee College of Music

Gilberto Santa Rosa is set to receive a special honor…

Berklee College of Music has announced that the 61-year-old Puerto Rican bandleader and singer of salsa and bolero music, nicknamed “El Caballero de la Salsa“, is among the artists that will receive honorary Doctor of Music degrees during a commencement ceremony in May.

Gilberto Santa Rosa Santa Rosa will be recognized alongside Ledisi and Q-Tip.

Recognized for their contribution to the worlds of music and philanthropy, the artists will be celebrated with a reception and concert in the Agganis Arena, where over 200 student vocalists, instrumentalists, dancers, arrangers, and track producers will perform a musical tribute to the work of each of the honorees.

“Very honored and excited,” expressed Santa Rosa on Instagram. “Thank you for this distinction! Thank you all for the demonstrations of support and affection!!!”

Past Latin recipients from the college include Tito Puente, Gloria Estefan, Rita Moreno and Juan Luis Guerra.

Google Celebrates the Late Lola Beltrán with Animated Google Doodle

The late Lola Beltrán’s legacy lives in on(line)…

Google is officially celebrating the late legendary Mexican ranchera icon with an animated Google Doodle on what would have been her 92nd birthday on Thursday, March 7.

Lola Beltrán, Golden Doole.In the purple-hued illustration, Beltran is elegantly presented with her hair in a bun adorned with a flower, and large earrings while singing into a microphone. Known for her monumental role in popularizing ranchera and huapango music globally,

Beltrán stands among the most venerated Mexican singers of all time.

Lola Beltrán’Born María Lucila Beltrán Ruiz in El Rosario, Sinaloa, Mexico, her journey to stardom began in the 1950s and 1960s, a period celebrated as the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.

Before fame, “Her church choir inspired her love of singing and she became obsessed with ballads,” reads the About the Doodle section. “In 1953, Beltrán and her mother moved to Mexico City to pursue her career as a singer. After getting a job as a popular radio station’ secretary, Beltrán earned the chance to participate in an on-air singing contest. She didn’t just win — the producers were so impressed that they helped her secure a recording contract Beltrán started to cover popular songs on air and even earned her own radio show, but she had bigger dreams.”

This victory launched her onto a path of success, culminating in approximately 100 album releases, such as Alma Cancionera de México (1960) and Joyas (1969), and starring roles in 50 films, including La Desconocida (1954) and Canción del Alma (1963).

Beltrán’s influence extended beyond music to acting, earning her widespread acclaim and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Notably, she was the first ranchera singer to grace the stage of the prestigious El Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, and performed for numerous world leaders.

Her interpretations of “Cucurrucucú Paloma” and “Paloma Negra” have become enduring standards. Beyond her artistic talents, Beltrán’s distinctive style and stage presence made her a fashion icon and emblem of Mexican cultural pride.

Beltrán’s legacy continued to flourish until her death in 1996 due to a pulmonary embolism.

Through its Doodle, Google aligns Beltrán’s tribute with past honorees such as Tito Puente, Raoul A. Cortez and Diana Sacayán. 

International Salsa Museum (ISM) Launching First-Ever Exhibition Honoring La Lupe

La Lupe is being feted in the Big Apple.

The International Salsa Museum (ISM) has announced a first-ever exhibition celebrating the late Afro-Cuban artist known as the Queen of Latin Soul.

La LupeLa Lupe, whose full name is Lupe Victoria Yolí Raymond, was a Cuban singer of boleros, guarachas and Latin soul who was known for her energetic, sometimes controversial performances.

Held during the 2023 New York International Salsa Congress (NYISC), the three-day pop-up and fan experience will also commemorate the centennial of the King of Mambo, Tito Puente.

“ISM is honored that the estates of these seminal artists of early Latin music believe in our mission,” said Willy Rodriguez, co-founder and executive director of ISM, in a statement. “It’s important to educate the public on their legacies while humanizing the persons behind the curtains.”

As part of the tribute, Puente’s son, Tito Puente Jr. will form part of a panel discussion about the past, present, and future of salsa with ISM and former Billboard Latin Artist on the Rise, Luis Figueroa.

He will also perform with his orchestra.

The exhibition and pop-up, fan experience will open September 1 at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square.

For ticketing information, and more, click here

Celia Cruz to Become First Afro-Latina Depicted on U.S. Quarter

The late Celia Cruz is still making money moves…

The face of the legendary Cuban singer will be depicted on a U.S. quarter, according to the United States Mint.

Celia CruzWidely known as the Queen of Salsa, Cruz was chosen along with four other exemplary women from history to be featured on the U.S. quarter as part of the American Women Quarters Program in 2024. She’ll also make history as the first Afro-Latina to appear on the coin.

Cruz, who is considered one of the most influential Latin singers of all time and a cultural icon, is remembered for her lively expression of “¡Azúcar!,” and for her highly influential body of work consisting of 37 albums.

The other honorees include Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first women of color to serve in the U.S. Congress; Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, women’s rights advocate and Civil War era surgeon; poet, activist, and lawyer Pauli Murray; and Native American writer, composer, educator Zitkala-Ša.

The four-year program “celebrates the accomplishments and contributions made by women of the United States,” states the official website.

From joining La Sonora Matancera in the early ’50s up until her death in 2003 due to cancer, Cruz was unquestionably one of the most exuberant performers of Latin music. Her larger-than-life onstage presence coupled with her captivating charisma made her a legend in Latin America and beyond.

In the 1970s, she became a leading force in salsa music and joined Fania All Stars alongside Johnny Pacheco, Willie Colón, Tito Puente and other icons of the genre, a cultural phenomenon that took place in New York City and beyond.

She later explored other tropical genres such as merengue and reggaetón. Some of her most memorable hits in history include “La Vida Es Un Carnaval,” “La Negra Tiene Tumbao,” and “Químbara” also featuring Johnny Pacheco.

She never lip-synched, and when asked to do it for TV performances, she refused. Cruz was also incredibly influential for many of today’s Latin stars. Her last 2003 album, Regalo del Alma, remained at No. 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart for three weeks.

“I’ve never thought of retiring. I’m healthy, I’m rolling, I’m rolling. I remember Celia Cruz,” reggaetón pioneer Ivy Queen previously told Billboard, who has long idolized and emulated Cruz. “Her last Premios Lo Nuestro performance, she had cancer. She walked from her chair to the stage, she sang, and … she sang. That’s what I’m doing. F–k it. She did it, I’m gonna do it.”

Although Cruz died two decades ago, her legacy continues to appear in various corners of pop culture.

Last year, the estate of the salsa legend partnered with Archetype-IO to release her first NFT collection, which debuted in Art Basel 2022. In 2016, an 80-part series about her life became available for streaming on Netflix, titled Celia, by Telemundo.

For each year commencing in 2022 and running through 2025, the U.S. mint will issue five new reverse designs, and the obverse of the coin will still feature George Washington, but with a slightly different design from the previous quarter program.

This year celebrates Bessie Colemen, Edith Kanaka’ole, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jovita Idar and Maria Tallchief.

Google Honors the Late Tito Puente with Special Google Doodle

Tito Puente’s legacy lives on… with a special doodle.

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Google is commemorating the late Puerto Rican musician, songwriter, bandleader, and record producer, known as the King of Latin Music, with a charming new Doodle video, created by New York-based Puerto Rican illustrator Carlos Aponte.

Tito Puente“Tito was part of my musical experience growing up in Puerto Rico. My aunt introduced me to Tito Puente via La Lupe, a famous singer in Puerto Rico and New York,” says the illustrator. “Tito was like a Svengali for talents like Celia Cruz. He was a household name. So Tito was part of my Puerto Rican soundtrack.”

Featuring the lively “Ran Kan Kan,” the animated clip takes viewers back to Puente’s childhood at 110th Street and Third Avenue in Spanish Harlem, where the budding artist bangs on pots and pans in his room bedecked with a Puerto Rican flag. It follows Puente’s various stints as a musician, showing him as a U.S. Navy ship’s bandleader (he served during World War II) up to him ruling over New York City nightlife as the undisputed King of the Timbales.

Tito Puente, Google DoodleThe Google Doodle also celebrates the one-year anniversary of the Tito Puente Monument, which was unveiled in his hometown of East Harlem, New York, on this day (Oct. 10), located on the northern end of Central Park.

In 2000, the same year the musical legend died, 110th Street was renamed Tito Puente Way.

Born Ernesto Antonio Puente Jr. on April 20, 1923, in Spanish Harlem to Puerto Rican parents, the young Nuyorican musician grew up surrounded by the rich Latin diversity the city is known for. He led his first orchestra in the late ‘40s, and by the 1950s, he became an unrivaled master of timbales and vibraphone. In 1969, he was bestowed the key to New York City.

In his lifetime, he released an immense discography that includes more than 100 full-length albums that showcased his propulsive dance rhythms and jubilant brass melodies. He penned timeless hits such as “Oye Como Va,” which was famously covered by Santana, “Mambo Gozón” (1958), “La Guarachera” (1966) with Celia Cruz, and many more. In the late ‘60s, Tito Puente joined New York’s maverick troupe Fania All-Stars, also starring Eddie Palmeri, Ricardo Ray and Bobby Cruz.

His journey began with “Ran Kan Kan,” his first recorded track, which is featured in the Google Doodle. In 1992, “Ran Kan Kan” entered the top 10 of Billboard‘s Dance Club Songs chart. In 2010, “Guantanamera” by Celia Cruz, featuring Puente, landed at No. 2 on the World Digital Song Sales chart. In 1995, Puente was given the Billboard Latin Music Lifetime Achievement Award.

Last year, Google Doodles honored Latin culture independence days, celebrating Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Mexico. Another Doodle celebrated a Chilean holiday with a drawing of a huemul, represented on the country’s national shield.

Illustrator Aponte has also provided artwork for the Latin Recording AcademyThe New Yorker and The New York Times. He currently teaches drawing at the Fashion Institute of Technology. With his Doodle, he hopes people will take away this message: “Love what you do, train, study, and be the best you can be. If you excel, everything else will fall into place. There are no shortcuts. Those who make it easily don’t last long. Tito was a perfect example; he was the best!”

Edward James Olmos Developing Several Projects on the Life & Work of Tito Puente

Edward James Olmos is celebrating a Latin music legend.

The 73-year-old Mexican American actor, director, producer, and activist has teamed up with Tito Puente’s familia to bring the story of the legendary Puerto Rican musician to the world in a series of projects, including film, television and VR content.

Edward James Olmos

Known as the “King of Mambo,” Puente was a six-time Grammy winner, and received many other accolades before he died in 2000.

Olmos is working with Puente’s son, Tito Puente Jr., producer/writer Damon Whitaker, music artist/producer David Guzman, and his own son, director/producer Michael D. Olmos, to bring the projects to life.

The Olmos team will be producing the project alongside Whitaker and Guzman, with Tito Jr. advising throughout the process. 

The team is developing a docuseries featuring never-before-seen images and footage from the family’s estate to create a feature film that focuses on Puente’s struggle to bring Latin music to the mainstream. 

A VR musical experience and a tribute album with contemporary artists covering classic Tito Puente songs are also on the pipeline. 

“We are thrilled to finally have the story of Tito Puente come to life, thanks to the vision of Mr. Olmos and his team. The history of Tito Puente through his extensive career and timeless music will be told and shared with fans of all generations young and old,” said Tito Puente Jr. “We hope to inspire audiences around the world with his story and his rich musical legacy. Eddie is a huge fan of my dad’s music and was the one who gave the eulogy at my dad’s funeral.”

Born in the barrios of New York City, Puente served in the military and went to Juilliard on the G.I. Bill, and fought for the rights of his fellow Afro Latin and African American musicians to play alongside him in segregated clubs.

“This will be the greatest Tito Puente experience ever. I want this story to celebrate life and hope, especially in these dark times,” said Olmos. “Tito’s story is timeless because it shows the entire world that you can start from humble beginnings, but through your passion, discipline and hard work — and a great sense of humor — you can still change the world.”

Olmos is best known for his television roles on Miami ViceBattlestar Galactica and Mayans MC, and his film roles in Stand and Deliver, American Me and Selena.

Nieves Starring in the Latino-Themed Off-Broadway Musical “I Like It Like That”

Tito Nieves likes it like that…

The 58-year-old Puerto Rican salsa singer is starring in the new off-Broadway musical I Like It Like That.

Tito Nieves

“We didn’t have politicians or other idols to look up to [in those days],” explains David Maldonado, producer and co-writer of the new musical. “There were not many Latino athletes around. The idols became Eddie Palmieri and Hector Lavoe…. Music artists were the most important figures. Music became like the religion of the masses.”

The show, now playing at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in New York, includes songs from the repertoire of Palmieri and Lavoe, Ruben Blades, Willie Colon, Joe Cuba, Tito Puente, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, La Lupe and more.

I Like It Like That takes its title from the song that was a Billboard chart hit for Pete Rodriguez in 1967. Thirty years later, the bugalú cornerstone was revived in a hit cover by Nieves, who stars as family patriarch Roberto Rodriguez in the new musical.

Featuring a seven-piece band, the theater production is a “historical musical journey” that Maldonado describes as a social chronicle of New York in the ’70s, as well as a sing-and-dance-along showcase for the great music of the period that came out of the city’s Latino neighborhoods. The play chronicles life in the barrio in those decadent days in New York.

“We were going bankrupt,” says Maldonado, who grew up in Brooklyn. “Garbage all over the place, potholes, civil unrest…”

Maldonado describes I Like It Like That as being “about social conscience. Some people want to escape, and others want to fight for the hood, which most people called ‘the ghetto.’”

He notes that in addition to the music, the language used in the play accurately reflects the period.

“It is in Spanglish,” he says. “Mostly English. I wasn’t doing that because I was trying to get a wider audience, although I do appreciate that. It was because at that time, there was salsa, but everyone was speaking English. The music was in Spanish, but if you look at those albums, the liner notes were in English.”

Maldonado and co-writer Waddys Jáquez (who also directs the play) tell the story of the Rodriguez family in East Harlem, using salsa, bugalú and bolero classics to advance the story.

Characters were created from those described in songs like Blades’ “Paula C,” and song lyrics were used to set the action and inspire the dialog, says Maldonado. The musical also includes original songs.

I Like It Like That promises to appeal to fans of the Celia Cruz musical Celia, and Quien Mató a Hector Lavoe; both shows also produced by Maldonado, which combined social chronicle with musical tribute.