I found an old clipping from when I released Asalto Navideño. Unfortunately the top was ripped off and I’m missing some text. I would love to know who the author was.
ARTICLE ABOUT ASALTO NAVIDEÑO 1977
…Nostalgia is certainly one of the main motives for buying jibaro music. In fact, this is one of the main differences between here and “the other side.”
Island-based singers don’t go in for exile-nostalgia, for obvious reasons. But recordings issued for sale in New York usually feature a valley and the dawn and the rural shack and “Mi Linda Borinquen,” and a whole package of similar images. In other words, a particular version of Christmas as a time for rose-tinted memories. (The obvious analogy shouldn’t be pushed too far: isla-linda-ism may have physiological links with cottage-in-the-snowery, but the jibaros singer’s high art is in no way comparable to “White Christmas”).
The importance of nostalgia in navideño music is reflected by the fact that Fania records and all its offshoots have issued only seven Christmas albums over several years. And, in fact, the general assumption has been that jibaro music will last only as long as the present generation of enthusiast.
But there are signs of a revival of interest in jibaro music among young New York Puerto Ricans. Even among people who have never been to the island. If this is so, the rise in cultural consciousness among young Puerto Ricans clearly has something to do with it. But so also does Willie Colón, and that is a pleasing irony.
Willie Colón is more than a bandleader and trombonist. To many older Puerto Ricans (and not only jealous musicians), he is symbol of what’s wrong with the youth of today. He looks kind of cocky and he dresses kind of flash, and he has a disrespectful attitude to clave, and worst of all he’s young and good looking and successful.
So when Colón turned his mind to a Navidad record, that in itself upset the stereotype. But it was completely…
…and the second shows a bunch of elves with automatics holding up a filling station.
Willie’s Christmas album sold phenomenally, of course. All his albums do that. And then something else began happening.
Felix Costello, who works in the Discoteca on Smith Street- the son of a singer and a musician himself-described it to me. “Guitar music is coming back since Willie Colón brought it back. Five years ago the guitar was dying. It was all band. Now the guitar is coming up again.” (For guitar read also tres and cuatro.)
With growing interest in jibaro music, Costello and his friends have begun to form parrandas in the last two years, in an area of Brooklyn where up to then “people had the spirit to do it, but nobody had the courage.” (Parenthesis for paranoids: “the courage” was needed to face the cold, not what you think.)
Why should music from Puerto Rican countryside, something associated with rural poverty and grandma both, suddenly be coming back to New York City? Because younger Puerto Ricans are becoming much more heritage-conscious? Perhaps. But if a music doesn’t speak to the condition of today, people won’t buy it; however much lip service they may give it.
Willie Colón: “That music is for real. It hasn’t been messed with. And it has a lot of things to offer. It has more chord progressions, and the melodic lines are longer and prettier.”
The return to the jibaro may be a flash in the pan. But people keep telling anecdotes about the young cousin just out of the army who was into jibaro music though he’d never been to Puerto Rico, about kid parrandeando down Smith Street, about other kids buying La Calandria and Ramito records.