Friday, August 28, 2009

El Rey de la Radio

Polito Vega in 1957, the year he came to New York from Puerto Rico. Photo by Tim Knox/NYT

There was an interesting article in the New York Times yesterday about Polito Vega, the pioneering Latin music DJ who has been on New York radio for over fifty years.
In the mid-1960s Mr. Vega was one of the first radio personalities to identify and ally himself with the commercial potential of the musical style that came to be known as salsa. From the beginning of his career, he said, he was bothered by the difference between the powerful, driving music he heard in clubs and the tepid recordings that came his way.

“It was two different worlds in those early days,” Mr. Vega explained. “At the dance halls and up in the Catskills you would hear the Tito Puente and Machito orchestras tearing things up, but on the radio the kind of thing you heard was romantic trios, unless you were tuning in to Symphony Sid late at night.”

All that began to change in 1964, when Fania Records, often called the Motown of Latin music, was founded. With Cuba, the traditional center of tropical music, cut off from the rest of the Caribbean, New York began to emerge as the place where Latin musicians could test one another and blend their musical styles, and Mr. Vega was right there to watch and encourage it.

“He was part of the whole salsa movement, one of its pillars, really,” said Mr. Pacheco, a founder of Fania. “As we were building the company, he was there with us. I’d bring him the LPs, he’d listen and say, ‘I like this song, I’m going to push it,’ and he’d play the hell out of it.”
Though I honestly don't know a ton about Latin music (yet) beyond the various records I've picked up over the years, this was of special interest to me because for the past several months I've been working with Fania Records as creative director of their forthcoming relaunch. There are loads of great (and, I hope, nicely designed) releases on deck, as well as a brand new website. For now, here's the newly re-drawn logo and colors...stay tuned for more info.

Read the rest of the article on Polito Vega at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

logo is noice.