Fania Records at 50 in NYC: Celebrating the ‘Latin Motown’

For a generation, Latin music was nearly synonymous with Fania Records.

Hector Lavoe, Celia Cruz, Willie Colon, Ruben Blades — these are just a few of the legendary musicians who recorded salsa hits with the powerhouse label that was founded in New York City in 1964 and became known as the “Latin Motown.”

Now the city is celebrating 50 years of Fania Records with a series of musical events and concerts leading to a blowout reunion of the Fania All-Stars supergroup in Central Park on Aug. 24.

The All-Stars were formed by the label in a stroke of marketing genius to showcase the new sounds of salsa. The group featured Fania co-founder Johnny Pacheco, along with many of the leaders of the salsa movement.

The All-Stars served as ambassadors through touring around the world. Their concerts at New York’s Cheetah Club and Yankee Stadium — recorded and released as albums and films — were landmark events of Latin music.

Singer Ismael Miranda, one of the original All-Stars, credits the record label with much of their success. The company, he said, “started the whole thing.”

And it was the All-Stars that provided the label with a vehicle to conquer the world, he said, recalling tours outside of the U.S.

“We connected the whole world to this music,” he said of the Fania All-Stars’ influence. “And people started listening and dancing.”

And they are still listening, Miranda said, adding the last time the All-Stars performed was to a sold-out crowd in Puerto Rico last year.

“When we come on stage, people go crazy,” said the 64-year-old musician whose latest album arrives in stores on Sept. 9. “It’s like when the Beatles arrive.” 

Here’s a rundown of some other events planned in celebration of the Fania Records 50th anniversary:

ARMADA FANIA: A series of “pop-up clubs” celebrating the music of Fania as DJs remix classics. July 23: Sets from DJ duo the Whiskey Brothers at Meridian 23; Aug. 1: Boogaloo expert DJ Turmix hosts a set and live music from The Boogaloo Assassins at Nublu.

BOOGALOO SERIES: July 30: “I Like It Like That, a documentary on boogaloo, premieres at Tribeca Cinemas, followed by an after-party; July 31: An evening of boogaloo with Joe Bataan, The Boogaloo Assassins and DJ Turmix at Clove Lakes Park, Staten Island.