Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future
LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.
31 January 2020
LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album. The 12-piece band from Jacksonville, Florida, interpret the Nuyorican salsa dura tradition -- which emphasizes the instrumental parts over vocals -- with stylish and slick instrumentalism. The swampy Sunshine State is a far leap from Spanish Harlem, but you wouldn't know it by the energy and urgency of Sin Parar, which translates from Spanish as "nonstop". LPT draw generously on their musical antecedents, bringing to mind both the impassioned vocals of Héctor Lavoe and the legendary, soulful harmonizing of Jimmy Bosch. Through their lyricism, they make the case that salsa's future lies in the political, even quietly revolutionary realm.
Sin Parar is an evocative album, transporting listeners to the bustle of 1970s New York salsa clubs or across the Atlantic to the sweat-dripping salones sociales of Old Havana. Sin Parar, like the best of salsa, exudes both the tragedy and buoyancy of life. Songs like "Guerra Guerra" ("War War") and "Sin Parar" work in high-energy, syncopated rhythms around socially-conscious lyricism. "Guerra Guerra" bemoans the social devastation of war: "War war / And peace doesn't come / The people don't care / They don't care about your suffering." Sin Parar reflects on the fast-paced whirlwind of our modern times and repeatedly laments "the machine" that won't stop.
Throughout salsa's multinational trajectory, artists have, at times, lent their voices to powerful social messaging. Politically-motivated lyricism isn't an essential building block to all styles of salsa. The word "salsa" is a large umbrella term encompassing many diverse variations and subgenres. Nevertheless, salsa artists have laid claim to collective identity and expressed rage, frustration, and cries for liberation. Fruko y Sus Tesos' 1975 hit "El Preso" ("the prisoner") reads as a melancholic hymn from prison; Joe Arroyo's classic "La Rebelión" recounts a slave uprising; Ismael Rivera's beautiful ode, "Las Caras Lindas", honors the contributions of "mi gente negra" ("my black people") worldwide. Moving forward, salsa artists must reckon with the Afro-Caribbean origins of their art and its current political implications.
Salsa never goes out of style. As a relative newcomer to the ever-growing scene, LPT are one of many contemporary ensembles carving out space for themselves in salsa's adaptable and fluid trajectory. They lay out a convincing case for socially conscious lyricism, perhaps indicating the direction they'd like to see the genre take going forward. And like so many of the greats that came before them, LPT inject their reason for being without compromising on joy and danceability.