“New York is a great place for Latin music today." — Erica Ramos
Enlace Funk No. 56, 2017
For some time now it seems that the new Latin sounds coming out of NYC have been in good health. The ‘Latin Resistance’ – made of sounds that were born in the city of New York – continues to occupy its share within the larger urban underground scene of genuine and authentic music made in the USA, offering quality surprises with bands and songs that deserve more exposure and success. At the head of the Latin Soul scene and the new boogaloo movement is Fulaso, the 10 piece band led by front woman Erica Ramos. Fulaso certainly plays its share of bugalú (based on the cha-cha-cha rhythm and its ancestor, the Cuban guajira son, but played with a funky soul backbeat), but the band also keeps the Latin Caribbean traditions alive with the essence of authentic rhythms, those that drink from the guaguancó and the mambo. Their recent 7” limited edition single was co-released by Peace & Rhythm and Enlace Funk and has already become a classic of parties where DJs such as DJ Turmix or DJ Bongohead revitalize Big Apple nights with Latin soul. From NYC to the world!
Interview: Pablo Yglesias aka DJ Bongohead and Miguel A. Sutil, editor-in-chief of Enlace Funk magazine. Translated by Pablo E. Yglesias.
Does your ethnic background and where you were brought up influence your music and how you make it?
Our backgrounds dramatically affect our music and how we make it. Fulaso is a collective and we write as such. Our band members hail from all over the world and many of them have extensive training in numerous styles of Latin, Afro-Cuban, jazz, classical, you name it. So, when we write, all of our influences come into play and you can hear it in Juan’s jazzy chords influenced by his studies of jazz piano, Charly’s Cuban timbale patterns ingrained from his Cuban father and their nights in salsa clubs in the ‘80s, and Pat’s veteran super-abilities to construct horn moñas in record time via his incredible presence in the NYC Latin scene. It’s kind of miraculous the way it all comes together.
In your performances you have a lot of stage presence and you like to relate to the audience. There is a certain component of theatricality and narration. Can you talk a little bit about why that might be?
Thank you! I was a Theatre Arts major [in college] and have been performing almost all of my life. I actually moved to NYC in 2004 with a directing internship at a theatre company in the West Village. I did theatre of a couple of years, was looking for jobs in playbill.com and saw an ad for a Latin jazz vocalist. I had been really immersed in theatre and thought this would be a fun change so I auditioned for David Fletcher, CEO of New York’s Best Musicians and of Washington’s Best Musicians. He hired me for a trio, recommended me for a few other auditions and BOOM! – I’m answering interview questions for a new 45! Crazy!
I think my ability to connect with the audience comes from stage training. Especially in the vain world we occupy today, you really do have to learn how to let go of your conscious self and be completely open and present. It is in that moment of utter vulnerability do you allow the audience to step into your world and join you in being totally raw and emotionally available. That is when the fun begins.
How was the group formed and where do your influences come from?
Fulaso is actually an off-shoot of another project a few of us worked in together, Spanglish Fly. For different reasons, quite a few of us decided to begin our own project. We recruited some great new faces to fill in the gaps and we fortunately have really great energy together and are a solid team. In fact, we just recruited two great new percussionists who we are very excited to have on join us: Dawn Drake on congas and Jhan-Carlo Lamprea Rodríguez on bongó.
Tell us a bit about the other members of the band that you collaborate with on song composition.
For readers who want to know even more about us, you can always check out our band bio’s at www.fulaso.com/section/bandbios
Fulaso is a special project because the band belongs to each of us, so we each have jobs, i.e. I do the booking, Mario (bass) is our Marketing and PR Manager, Jonathan (baritone sax) is our Librarian, physically and virtually managing all of the charts and books, etc. We vote on everything from logo colors to gig opportunities. It’s a lot of work, but everyone is very dedicated, works hard and in that light, its a very special project. There is a lot of love.
Do you think NYC is a good place today for Latin music? Why?
I personally think New York is a great place for Latin music today and I think many of my bandmates would agree with me. Primarily, the Latin music community today, in my experience, is so communal. Without labels buying the way they were in the ‘60s/‘70s/‘80s, I would imagine due to the fact that music is so easily accessible via the Internet, the competition has completely changed. We all need each other now for work, fan sharing, show sharing, and even booking data exchange. Everyone plays with everyone, subs for each other, gets each other gigs and recommendations. It is really a beautiful thing. In the humbling times I have spent talking to guys like Harvey Averne and Joe Bataan, the NY Latin music community in the ‘60s and ‘70s was cut throat and bands did not like each other. This is one thing that I think really sets the scene apart today.
The other component is the type of Latin music currently emerging from the city is so dynamic and experimental. Bands like Mariachi Flor de Tolache, Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra, and Avenida B are rejuvenating old sounds, Dawn Drake and ZapOte, Karikatura, San Simon and Yotoco spanning genres while maintaining a strong Latin edge, while guys like Eddie Palmieri and Joe Bataan STILL pack houses. Latin music in NYC is HOT right now!
What are your favorite DJs and clubs?
Obviously, DJ Turmix, DJ Bongohead, DJ Andujar, and my girl DJ Terry Dactyl! We’ve received a ton of love from some of the best local radio DJs like the immeasurable Vicki Sola of Que Viva La Musica on WFDU, and the gallant gentleman German Santana and Louis Leffite of Caribe Latino on WKCR. Also, as corny as this may be, my most favorite DJ is actually my husband. His record collection is expansive and he always keeps our house grooving from opera and classics to drum & bass to jazz, soul, roots, rock, hip-hop, death metal, you name it. He keeps me updated and educated even when it annoys the crap out of me and I am so very grateful. Clubs, now that’s a more difficult answer. It really depends on the night and my mood, which usually includes something with dancing! My favorite places to play in the city are Brooklyn Bowl (in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) and Barbès (in Park Slope, Brooklyn).
For some time now there has been a reassertion of the original boogaloo sound. Do you think there really is a revival of that sound and an authentic interest to recover it or is it just a fad?
I absolutely think the Latin boogaloo sound is seeing an authentic resurgence. Just as the tide, things come and slip away. Music has changed so much as it can be made electronically now and it’s way cheaper to pay one DJ, than hire a band of people. The NYC Latin music scene is fighting to keep live music and musicians working and relevant. The resurgence of Latin soul and bugalú, in my opinion is huge part of that because of its special nest in time. It is a reminder of that ‘60s and ‘70s era when people were liberating themselves. I think there is a powerful message there and people really feel that right now.
How is boogaloo being made today? In the original early days, it integrated many people of races and places, do you think that is still so?
I can only speak to my own experience and to Fulaso. We strive to make Funky Latin Soul and Boogaloo, whatever that means to you. In our world, our music is absolutely being integrated by our upbringings from so many corners of the world and our trainings from all different schools of specialty and technique. From all of the people we have had the pleasure to work with in our other projects or who have subbed for us, it is the same. Live music in the NYC melting pot is being made just so; a big mish-mash of the entire world.
Do you think that your music is just for dancing or has a social component as well?
The only social component of Fulaso's music is BE SOCIAL! Turn off the TV, leave the phone and be present! Get out there, move your ass and do not worry about anything in the world, because we only have right here and now, so let’s enjoy this moment together!
What do you think of the new American president and his policies?
OH! I have SO much to say and I do it by calling, faxing, texting, and emailing my representatives, staying updated, educated, and supporting causes like the ACLU, etc. I personally do not nor have I ever supported that man, his administration or his policies.
What inspires you to compose songs?
For me, personally, moments and other music. You have a lot of interactions in NYC, a lot of special moments with strangers and that often inspires me. I’m also inspired by other music I hear. Fulaso is generally inspired by an idea that a band member brings in. For example, “Bodega Cat,” written by Jonathan Flothow, was brought in and built upon. The swing sections, specifically, were the brain-child of Matt Thomas.
When I saw you live in NYC, you played some cover tunes. What are your favorite artists and which artists do you cover?
My favorite artists list could go on forever. Vocalists who have really inspired me or who I have studied would definitely be the obvious jazz greats; Nina, Ella, Billie, Etta. Esperanza Spalding and Regina Spektor are some more current artists who have inspired me. And obviously Beyoncé. She IS the Queen Bee, no doubt!
The covers Fulaso chooses are based on sound. We currently cover Fania All Stars, Alfredo Linares, Frank Cotto, Ray Barretto and Pete Rodriguez with some special arrangements of Nina Simone, Eddie Palmieri, Clarence Reid, Donna Summer and The Kills.
Have you ever played in Europe? What do you expect from the European public and what would you tell your fans in Europe?
Fulaso has yet to play in Europe, but hopefully in the next year or two! I don’t hold expectations. Each crowd is a different experience, though I’ve heard stories of great European audiences from colleagues!
To our fans, THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH for reading and listening! We appreciate your love so much! Please visit our Facebook page and “Like” us because you have no idea how much those Like demographics will help us get gigs in EU! You can also check us out at www.fulaso.com to hear music, see videos, even purchase a signature pair of 'Sucio Soul' panties and much more! Love and Peace, dear friends!
Also, a very special thank you to Pablo, Andujar and Miguel for listening to and supporting us. We just can’t tell you how much it means!