Combo Los Yogas - Canabrava
Combo Los Yogas was a short-lived early Colombian salsa band from Medellín directed and arranged by Aníbal José Ángel Echeverri, the famous antioqueño keyboardist known as Aníbal Ángel or simply Anán. Anán studied arranging and composition at the famed Manhattan School of Music in New York, had many of his own songs become hits over the years, founded the raspa gallega band Los Teen-Agers ("raspa" or "gallega" denotes combos that played tropical Afro-Colombian coastal music but were from the whiter interior) in 1958, and recorded with Discos Fuentes starting in 1965, so he was already an established musician on the scene by the time he founded this oddly named combo. With the influence of New York's burgeoning young Latin scene being absorbed by certain sectors of the youth in South America at the end of the 1960s, Aníbal Ángel must have felt the urge to join the fray, so in 1968 he founded Los Yogas to explore this new phenomenon from the north. Employing Barranquilla native Johnny Moré as his lead vocalist (Moré, who claimed to be related to Cuba's Beny Moré, also worked with the Conjunto/Sexteto Miramar and Rafael Benítez as well as pianist Joe Madrid) and a full combo with trumpet, trombone, congas and timbales, Los Yogas recorded a fantastic collection of cover tunes in the guaguancó, son, guajira, descarga and cha-cha-chá rhythms.
The sound here is very raw and hard, something that makes this obscure Discos Fuentes record a sought after collector's item. Taking their cue from the New York scene, Los Yogas cover Larry Harlow's arrangement of 'Coco May May' (itself a cover of an old Cuban classic) and 'Bajándote' from Orquesta Harlow's 1967 album of the same name, as well as a fabulous version of Puerto Rican singer/songwriter Chivirico Davila's 'Montuno Pa' Caridad' from Joe Cotto's classic early 1960s album "El magnífico". Sprinkled throughout are heavy versions of Cheo Marquetti's son cubano
classics 'Que no muera el son', 'Caramelo a kilo' and 'Apriétala en el rincón', all tunes heavily influential on Fania co-founder and musical director Johnny Pacheco. Venezuelan sax player and New York transplant Juan "Johnny" Sedes' composition 'Aquí y allá' (from his 1967 Met Rico LP "Presentando a Juan Sedes y su Orquesta con Vitín López, El Cantante de la Salsa"), which is the first US-made record (and song) to reference salsa as a category of music, became a hit in Colombia for Los Yogas when they covered it, as did the title tune 'Cañabrava' by Mexican composer Paco Chanona and the album's sultry closer, the guajira descarga 'Oye mira' (originally done in 1965 by Pete Rodríguez y su Conjunto La Magnífica).
Despite being a record with no originals, "Cañabrava" holds up magnificently due to the inherent quality and execution of its repertoire, providing a wonderful snapshot of the influences and early development of the genre of salsa in 1960s Colombia, a country where this music would take root like no other and become a national obsession in the following decades.
Pablo Yglesias aka DJ Bongohead