As we come to a close to Hispanic Heritage Month, thought it’d be fitting to provide some history for all of our loyal music lovers – and of course a sexy Latino contemporary twist always helps. Before we begin, allow me to ask of our Snkrbst readers, who exactly is Ralfi Pagan? Well, to the average music fan the name doesn’t ring any bells; however, to music connoisseurs like DJ Geko Jones, (who recently signed a deal with Fania Records) Ralfi represents the blueprint to a genre that had zero presence on the charts – that is of course until Mr. Pagan came along. Ralfi’s cultural background was of Puerto Rican and Cuban decent; and during the course of his career, he had been a Bronx native. He signed to Fania Records in the mid 1960s and sang soul ballads mixed with a salsa influence. Up until this point, no one had approached the concept of marrying both English and Spanish on a track – making him the first pioneer of bilingual music. His music became popular mostly amongst young Latinos of the time – fans stretching as far as both ends of the U.S. coasts – but more specially the West for its Chicano fan base. Geko Jones’ theory behind the popularity of Ralfi’s music goes a little something like this: “To me, my take on why he was bigger in L.A. and why his name is more popular in the West Coast, even though he’s from New York has everything to do with the culture being slower, people having these big cars and driving around with a whole couch and pulling up on ‘Make-Out Mountain’ and that’s what’s on the radio, because there’s places to make-out. But if you’re growing up in New York in the ‘70s and you’re a 16-year-old kid, who’s trying to make-out with your girl, you might find a stairwell or a fire escape, but chances are, half the kids on the block can see you from the fire escape. You don’t get a lot of privacy. So that kind of music wasn’t popular here. Salsa was happening here–dancing stuff that you could do in public, because you don’t get a lot of privacy here. Space has always been an issue.” – source: Afropop Worldwide
But before we explore more of Ralfi’s music and its much anticipated revival, let’s get a little background on our music historian aka Geko Jones. Geko is of Colombian and Puerto Rican decent – and often pulls from his cultural background (much like Ralfi) to influence his work. Geko’s musical catalogue is as diverse as it is idiosyncratic as the city he inhabits (NYC). His mixes are a blend of tropical influences – electronic meets global bass – making it nearly impossible to fit into one uniform-like category. This unique blend of musicality has definitely not gone unnoticed as it has garnered the attention from major networks like MTV, Red Bull Music Academy where he serves as both musical ambassador and radio host – interviewing a wide spectrum of artists from all over the globe – to his monthly tropical dance party known as Que Bajo?! that he hosts alongside partner in crime Uproot Andy at famous concert venue The Wick. Geko’s interest in Ralfi’s music was initially inspired by fellow artist and Latin-soul singer Calma Carmona; which led to a two year excursion of him orchestrating and producing with fellow leading DJs, a compilation of old school Spanglish doo-wop meets contemporary. For this project to reach the masses beyond Soundcloud, he needed to go through a lot of red tape and clearance – but persistence and patience is truly a virtue. His mission to make this record a reality went a little like this: “The whole reason I do what I do is because what I want isn’t what’s happening on the radio. And so I had to create the space that I wanted to hang out in. And now that I’ve created the space and the environment, the logical progression is you have to create the actual music. I was doing a lot of mashups with old vintage tunes. Now, I can call up a label like Fania, and be like, ‘Hey, can I get the stems [group of audio sources that are mixed together] for that, and do some legal remixes and do things the right way?’ I think that’s a problem with our scene that a lot of the remixes are bootlegs that come out on Soundcloud, so it’s not really legal music. I’m not going to get into the copyright stuff, but it definitely limits the scene, because you don’t get real reviews; you don’t get real press on stuff that isn’t legal, as much, and you want to try to do what you can to grow the scene the right way–create good habits and good tendencies.” – source: Afropop Worldwide
We music fans got a taste of what’s to come this past summer.The first remix from the anticipated EP titled “Latin Soul” (same as the original Ralfi Pagan title) made its music video premiere in late August of 2015. To see full length video, click on the link directly below. Ralfi Pagan’s legacy and unfortunate demise is another layer to this already extraordinary onion – possible documentary could be in the works; but no official confirmation as of yet. Ralfi Pagan Latin Soul Remixed Compiled by Geko Jones is set to release sometime in early November. Be sure to stay tuned to Snkrbst.com for updates to this story, and of course links to tracks for your audible pleasure. Y feliz mes de la hispanidad, y’all!
By Roz Baron
Editor of Snkrbst.com
Update: Ralfi Pagan Latin Soul Remixed Compiled by Geko Jones is set to release November 13, 2015 via Fania Records. For previews and preorders, click here. Below is the debut of Stream K. Sabroso’s remix of the Ralfi Pagan track titled “Negrona.” Enjoy. #ThinkLikeUs