New York, NY – June 30, 2012 – After more than sixty years bringing the national instrument of Puerto Rico into prominence around the world, the internationally renown guitarist often referred to as the King of the Cuatro, Yomo Toro passed away peacefully on Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 11:40 pm after more than a month in a New York hospital due to kidney failure.
Surrounded in a spiritual embrace of love and music from his many family and friends who kept round the clock vigil over the fragile 78 year old musician, Yomo spent his final days in good cheer as if bidding farewell to the many family and friends who daily made music his medicine. Yomo Toro leaves behind his wife Minerva of 31 years of marriage, his first born daughter Denise Toro, sisters Lydia, Iris, Mirza, and Milagros Toro joined by five grand children: Miriam Olivera, Martin Olivera, Denise Pinedo, Tiffany Pinedo & Denise Patricia Velez and three great grandchildren: Shaun Donate, Cloe Rodriguez and Martin Olivera. His brothers Juan, Angel, and Arcangel Toro were also by his side.
From the first twangs of his small ten stringed “cuatro” guitar hair raising moments ran through arms, backs and necks as the diminutive Yomo Toro vamped, arpegioed and soared through musical genres from his native Puerto Rican plenas, seis and bombas to salsa, jazz, and rock rounded by classical guitar and Flamenco music. The virtuoso interpreted eclectic styles through cherubic fingers that flew through frets before languishing on lengthy solos weaved on Spanish songs.
The “Yomo Toro Variety Show” over New York's Channel 41 had a decade long television run during the late '60s into the '70s that brought him to the attention of Jerry Masucci and Johnny Pacheco co-owners of the legendary Fania label where he eventually joined their world-famous showcase band, the Fania All-Stars. Especially noteworthy was the year 1969 when Yomo recorded the critically acclaimed salsa album “Tribute to Arsenio” with the Larry Harlow Orchestra.
When guitarist Roberto Garcia wanted Yomo to sub for him on a Christmas album Pacheco was recording with a new group, he asked Yomo to bring the popular electric guitar of the times, but, as Yomo tells the story, when he heard “Christmas” he grabbed his cuatro instead. When Hector LaVoe saw the instrument he immediately thought of his mentor and Yomo’s friend the great folkloric singer Chuito de Bayamon before the pair compared popular songs of the season. Through Hector’s musical expertise and Yomo’s virtuosity the 1972 release of the classic Asalto Navideño with Willie Colon became a best-selling Fania classic.
In the '70s, '80s and '90s Toro's career careened like a freight train. He appeared on over 150 albums, recording more than 20 solo albums for Fania, Island, Rounder and Green Linnet Records. He returned to television and film, playing in commercials for several major international companies, over television shows the likes of “Sesame Street” and “The Ghost of Father Fohner” while working on the soundtracks for several films, including “Crossover Dreams” with Ruben Blades and Woody Allen's “Bananas.”
Funeral arrangements and viewing will be announced shortly. On behalf of the Toro family we wish to thank everyone for their well wishes and outpouring of love and emails and especially for their request for privacy during this time.
Yomo Toro - Born Víctor Guillermo Toro Vega Ramos Rodríguez Acosta - July 26, 1933 – June 30, 2012
Celebrating the timeless gems of its vast catalogue - a real treasure trove of classic Afro-Caribbean music - Fania is launching a new series of two-disc retrospectives focusing on the label's biggest names.
Our new Anthology series hand picks the most representative tracks of a given salsa star on two discs, accompanied by a booklet with rare photos and extensive liner notes in both English and Spanish. The first two releases pay tribute to the artistry of mercurial singer Héctor Lavoe and socially conscious troubadour Rubén Blades. Both of them created some of their best work in collaboration with trombonist, composer and producer Willie Colón.
The Héctor Lavoe Anthology includes all of the singer's greatest hits, as well as a significant number of key album tracks. Highlights include the epic Afro-Caribbean workouts "Periódico de Ayer" and "El Cantante," composed by Tite Curet Alonso and Rubén Blades respectively. Lavoe's throaty vocals shine on these bittersweet narratives, embellished by an orchestration featuring string ensembles - taking tropical music to unsuspected levels of pathos and sophistication. The collection also features the Fania All Stars collaboration "El Rey De La Puntualidad" and the mega-hits "Che Che Colé," "Calle Luna Calle Sol" and the Johnny Pacheco singalong "Mi Gente."
The Rubén Blades Anthology spans the first 15 years of the Panamanian master's career, focusing on the genre-defining Siembra album - for the longest time, salsa's best selling record. Showcasing Blades' eclectic personality, some of the songs find the singer collaborating with Ray Barretto ("Canto Abacuá"), the Fania All Stars (the Tito Rodríguez standard "Los Muchachos De Belén") and returning to the studio for a fascinating version of his own "El Cantante."
The Anthology series will delight salsa fans looking for definitive retrospectives of the genre's biggest names.
The years between the late '60s and the mid-'70s were a very special time for the neighborhood of New York known as the Spanish Harlem, or El Barrio. A new generation of American musicians, most of them of Puerto Rican origin, were influenced by rock, psychedelia, funk, disco, r&b and the tropical formats of the Spanish speaking Caribbean. It was an exciting time for music, and El Barrio was fertile ground for the creation of a new sound: salsa, boogaloo and Latin Soul exploded like a shooting star.
Celebrating an era of unparalleled creativity for Latin music, Fania is releasing a box set of 4 CDs exploring the many shades and colors of El Barrio. The discs explore the development of salsa, boogaloo, Latin funk, soul and disco. All include a seductive combination of major hits with rare gems, as well as extensive liner notes written by Fania experts.
The Latin Funk collection showcases the funky experiments of such notable salsa artists as Ray Barretto, Panamanian vocalist Azuquita and supergroup Fania All Stars - complemented by tasty tracks by lesser known bands like Seguida, Café and TNT Boys. Latin Disco is the more genre-specific of the discs, with lushly orchestrated dancefloor scorchers by Orquesta Novel and Louie Ramírez. Bad Boogaloo takes you back to the era of raucous Latin Soul and swanky shing-a-ling: even La Lupe, Joe Cuba and Bobby Valentín experimented with the format. Subtitled Gangsters, Latin Soul & The Birth of Salsa, the fourth disc in the set demonstrates the stylistic richness of the time, from the velvety Latin jazz of Eddie Palmieri's "Chocolate Ice Cream" to Roberto Roena's devastating fusion of salsa with funk on "Que Se Sepa."
An amazing set, ideal for dancers and collectors alike.
40 years ago, on the evening of August 26th, the Fania All-Stars emerged onstage at the legendary Cheetah club in New York and proceeded to single-handedly unleash the musical phenomenon known as the Salsa Explosion of the '70s. The show, which included such classic tropical jams as "Anacaona" with a fiery Cheo Feliciano on vocals, and the playful "Quítate Tú," was recorded for posterity and released as the two LP set Live At The Cheetah. But Fania founder Jerry Masucci had an even grander vision in mind: movie cameras filmed the concert, setting up the foundation for a feature length movie documenting the burgeoning salsa movement.
Entitled Our Latin Thing, the resulting film has been something of a collector's item during the past decades. Now, a remastered edition of both the movie and the music associated with Our Latin Thing is being released by Fania. This is the definitive, 40th Anniversary edition of a historic moment in tropical music.
Directed by celebrated documentary filmmaker Leon Gast, Our Latin Thing captures the sweaty fever of that 1971 show at the Cheetah. The cast of salsa stars, including Héctor Lavoe, Larry Harlow and Johnny Pacheco among many others, look natural and spontaneous, seemingly unaware of the cameras surrounding them. Gast followed them to the recording studio - a sequence showing producer Harlow working with Feliciano on "Anacaona" is particularly memorable. Scenes from life in the Spanish Harlem add texture to a film that acts like a virtual time machine, sending the viewer right into the lightning-in-a-bottle moment when salsa was born.
The 40th Anniversary Limited Edition of Our Latin Thing includes a DVD of the remastered movie, as well as two CDs containing the music of the film and a few bonus tracks. A true collector's item.