Loca Latina is a musians’ cooperative that undoubtedly can excite salsa fans. If you’ve ever been in any of the band’s concerts, you’d realized that the audience dance immediately upon their first song.
Being a musician and radio producer, Alexis Costas had the idea of creating a band almost 4 years ago. He started his studies with classic percussions and later he continued with modern, like congas and timbales while at some point he started taking salsa courses.
It was then he realized that the Greek salsa community is not only large but loves salsa music and of the golden 70s era too!
Following the “fortune favors the brave” proverb and despite that crisis doesn’t “allow” such new ventures, he discussed it with musicians from his friendly environment, one thing led to the other and we can talk today for a Greek salsa band.
In my opinion a salsa event is upgraded with live music and Loca Latina are here to stir us up. We discussed with Alexis Costas, founding member of the band, for their future plans but not only that…
Alexis how did you come up with the idea of a salsa band?
We started Loca Latina around 3-4 years ago, filling a gap in the local salsa scene. In the past, during the old Palenque era, there were a lot of live concerts and there was movement in the Latin Music world, either with the bands themselves or with foreign special guests performing with the local band called “Latin All Stars de Palenque”.
But that was a time when dance schools didn’t exist and only a very few people danced. Later, when this dynamic weakened, there was a musical revival through the students of dance schools.
I personally started taking dance lessons and realized that not only a lot of people listen to this music, but the good old salsa of the 70’s too. I wasn’t aware that this has started in Greece as well as abroad, meaning that the golden 70’s were revived again with very popular artists like Palmieri or Barretto.
Styles like LA and NY are following more the Puertorican steps than Cuban. Three years ago there was no band or budget and parties were mainly organized by dance schools. We discussed with friends musicians, we thought it was an opportunity to face crisis and one thing led to another. When we started we were 4, then became 6 and today we are 8-9 musicians performing live at events, in order to be more consistent with the initial compositions.
Is it hard to coordinate a big band?
Very hard indeed! At first, promoters and club owners were not comfortable with a band consisting of 8 musicians. But we chose to lower our personal budget as long as we remained eight. Of course now that we are writing our new songs, we feel it was worth it and we are very optimistic. I’d also say that we’re very well connected with each other.
What are you thinking about your future?
We would like our music to be known abroad. The truth is that the best musicians in Greece (of this kind of music) are playing in Loca Latina right now and there’s material that can support our work. I personally think that there’s need for a Greek Latin band. Others may say that it’s not necessary and that it could be replaced by Djs.
We are trying to play the music that people listens to with live orchestration. Our dream is to play abroad, go on tours and spread that Greece has very good musicians and a Greek Latin band exists. And now we’re trying to integrate bouzouki finely balanced in some of our songs.
What are your next plans?
We have started writing new songs, some singles will be released and then we’ll release our own record. I’m very positive that it’ll become a success abroad too. We currently appear in Latin clubs like Palenque and Enzzo de Cuba.
Who is participating in the band?
It’s mainly a Greek band, consisting of J.Staridas, P.Zafiropoulos, M.Himonas, V.Panagiotopoulos (trombone), D.Kokolis, K.Kefalas, M.Hasouris, A.Tolilogianni (trumpet), G.Roulos (bass) and S.Generalis (timbalero).
Orchestration is edited by I.Argyropoulos who also plays the piano while I play the congas. Seigel Borges from Cuba is the voice of Loca Latina while Julian Bernal from Colombia plays the sax.
Do you believe that salsa has an audience in Greece?
Greeks are familiar with Latin music because various artists have played this kind, from Hiotis and Mambo in the past to more recent artists. We are considering a dedication to Hiotis’ mambos as a band.
From your experience, at the events in which you appear, do you think Greeks love dancing?
Through this music I’d say that Greeks are familiarizing more and more and it’s nice to see people dancing on concerts. We didn’t have that in the past. We see now as Loca Latina that the moment we start playing, the audience responds immediately.
In the 15 years of your involvement in this field, either as a musician, a radio producer or a group’s founding member, who do think finally listens loyally this kind of music?
It might sound cynical but usually initial intend is social acquaintances. But people soon realize that this music is magic. As a musician I’ve seen many people, musicians included, switching their musical choices and “stick” to this kind.
Which song you were stuck to?
Which song… I don’t recall a specific one, I certainly remember Tito Puente’s “Ran Kan Kan”, or those classic mambos, popular hits of Juan Luis Guerra and Barretto and Eddie Palmieri.
And how did you start?
I’ve studied classic drums and later I worked with modern ones, congas and timbales etc. I went to the US where I happened to play with Pedrito Martinez’ band, number 1 conguero (congas musicians) right now and I played with them when they weren’t well known. It was with them I got “baptized by fire” and even though I wasn’t good enough at that time, I was well educated. I never stopped learning since then.
Do you dance?
Yes, I’ve taken lessons periodically over the last couple of years and I was hoping that it wouldn’t suit my temperament… (laughs)
As a musician, do you believe that dancing helped?
Yes very much and I didn’t expect it! Because music is also movement and when you learn the movement it effects the way you play the music. Playing comes easily through kinesiology.
I believe that normally all musicians should dance.
And I also see difference in synthesis. In Latin-American music you work on clave as you do in salsa dance and this way everything connects. Frequently I’m teaching seminars in dance schools, where I observe the students discovering musical analysis and basic rhythm on1 or on2 . They find where cascara stops (musical timbale rhythm), or tumbao (basic congas rhythm) and that helps them improve their movements.
I’m personally impressed by salsa scene’s lack of presence in the media. What’s your opinion?
This music appeals to a lot of people and I think as time passes it becomes more and more acceptable. It’s not an accident that dance schools are being presented on tv shows, both infotainment and entertainment ones.
Do you have other plans?
Apart from playing music, I host a radio Show and our plan is to interview foreign artists, perhaps by telephone or when they visit Greece.
The show will focus on having a voice through Greek radio aiming to unity.
As a radio producer it’s my intention, now as well as it was in the past, to favor everyone by presenting their work. Everyone will have their podium: executives, dance schools, producers and event planners, will be able to present their work.
- Alexis Costas, founding member of the band will soon present the Salsa world through his radio show Salsoteka at Kosmos fm (stay tuned for more. )
- In the meantime you can listen to the show “Voices and musics of the Greek heart” at ERT radio (Monday to Wednesday at 7pm). He’s also teaching music seminars for dancers