Wherever they performed, the Fania All Stars made history from the late '60s to the end of the '70s. Latin music had never witnessed an orchestra of such epic proportions - every one of its members, a star.
The biggest Fania All Stars show of all, however, took place far away from New York, the epicenter of salsa. In 1974, the band was invited to participate in a huge music festival that took place in conjunction with a boxing match in the city of Kinshasa, Zaire. Performing in Africa was a poignant experience for the Fania artists. They were bringing the roots of Afro-Cuban music back to their place of origin. The performance was captured on film by director Leon Gast. Now, Fania is releasing a remastered version of this spectacular concert on DVD.
The quality of both video and audio is pristine. Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco were huge stars in Africa at the time of this performance, and you can see the crowd of 80,000 fans going crazy when Celia takes the stage for the best live rendition of "Químbara" ever committed to tape. Acting as musical director of a band that includes Ray Barretto, Roberto Roena, Orestes Vilató and Larry Harlow, Pacheco can barely control himself as he jumps up and down, feeling the sheer electricity of the music.
As was customary with the Fania All Stars, the label's famous singers are content with being part of the smoldering coro whenever a fellow vocalist takes the spotlight. Watching Héctor Lavoe, Cheo Feliciano and Santitos Colón doing backup vocals with gusto is, in itself, worth the price of admission. Other highlights include a zesty "Mi Gente," the ubiquitous Pacheco composition that became Lavoe's anthem, a darkly textured "El Ratón" with Cheo Feliciano, and Roena's famous dancing interlude on "Ponte Duro."
Live In Africa gives Fania aficionados a unique opportunity to experience the salsa movement at its absolute apex. It also serves as the perfect introduction for the genre beginner wanting to fully understand the intoxicating power of this music.