Jamming With Celia Cruz And The Fania Allstars In Africa

Celia Cruz circa 1974 in a scene from Celia Cruz and the Fania Allstars in Africa

While Studio 54 and CBGBs may represent what was going on in New York City’s music scene during the 1970s, Fania Records was a force unto itself despite flying under the radar of most of the Anglo music press and fanbase. Ground zero for the robust salsa scene, Fania’s stable of artists included Celia Cruz, Héctor Lavoe, Larry Harlow, Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto, Willie Colon, Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Miranda and many other musicians, who would often perform under the umbrella name of the Fania All-Stars.

In 1974, a number of the All-Stars wound up traveling to Zaire, Africa, where they were invited to play before 80,000 people at a stadium. This resulted in Celia Cruz and the Fania Allstars in Africa, a documentary shot by director Leon Gast (When We Were Kings) with help from the late Albert Maysles. The 54 minutes captured the rare talent that was Cruz, Lavoe and the All Stars’ many other virtuoso players and vocalists, while offering a glimpse into a particularly soulful moment in the history of Latin music that reflected the influence of New York City’s diasporic, polyglot cultures on the world.

A screening is being held on April 11 at the Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.. Conversation will follow with Fania All-Stars: Live In Africa director Leon Gast, Fania All-Stars Nicky Marrero and Eddie Montalvo, and musician, music journalist, and historian Aurora Flores. Admission is $15 and includes a complimentary beer courtesy of Harlem Blue.

For more information, visit www.maysles.org or call 212-537-6843.

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