FATAL MAMBO

Salsa is extending to all regions of the globe! Orquesta de la Luz from Japan surprised us with their interpretation of Salsa. Then my girlfriend, Nidia Jiminez, in Ohio turned me on to Los Gran Daneses de la Salsa (from Denmark).

Recently I received the CD Salsa Mundo featuring groups from around the world performing Salsa — some in Spanish and some in their native languages.

It was on that CD that I first heard FATAL MAMBO, a Salsa group from France.

S.O.B.’s (Sounds of Brazil) is a Brazilian restaurant and night club whose Monday nights are dedicated to Salsa and other tropical music forms. S.O.B.’s hosted Fatal Mambo on Monday March 30,1998. I extended a business trip in order to check out these European Salseros. Fatal Mambo’s hit is entitled Probleme. It is strange yet fun to hear Salsa being sung in French.

Fatal Mambo is from Montpellier in Southern France. That region is very much connected to Spanish culture. (By the way, the Gipsy Kings are from southern France, not Spain). Fatal Mambo’s musicians speak fluent Spanish but as the lead singer, Oscar explained “somos franceses y por eso cantamos en frances” –we are French so we sing in French.

Fatal Mambo has developed a variation of Latin music they refer to as “salsaioli” (pronounced salsa-yolee). The term is a fusion of the words salsa and aioli which is a garlic mayonnaise.

Fatal Mambo delighted the audience with their energy and passion for Latin music with a French twist. They are a small group (by orchestra standards) composed of seven musicians who play piano, bass, conga, timbales, two trumpets and a lead vocalist who doubled on maracas. No one played bongo and noticeably missing was Sonia Sala, their female vocalist.

Fatal Mambo performed a variety of tunes ranging from Eddie Palmieri and Ismael Quintana’s Adoracion featuring a conga solo rather than a bongo solo; to Bobby Capo and Ismael Rivera’s El Negro Bembon.  They of course performed their hit Probleme and played a son montuno that transitioned to a merengue without aid of a tambora. We also heard some bugaloo and other rhythms.

The group was very entertaining. It was interesting to observe Ralph Irizarry, one of Salsa’s most prominent timbaleros, standing in front of the stage smoking a cigar and undoubtedly getting off on the musicians on stage. He of course looked particularly interested in the timbal solo. Ralph has traveled the world with the likes of Ruben Blades and countless others performing city to city, country to country. I asked Ralph for his impressions of what he had just experienced. He said he truly enjoyed the music and that local groups like Fatal Mambo develop new fans and maintain interest in Salsa worldwide.

For those Salseros who have never been to S.O.B.’s, a visit is wholeheartedly recommend. It’s a kind of funky place that reminds one of the old Village Gate because of its casual atmosphere, excellent lineup of talent, and surprise visits by other musicians. You never know who will be in the audience for their own night out. I have seen Ruben Blades, Jimmy Bosch (trombone), Azuquita (Panamanian vocalist), and Edward James Olmos (actor) on different occasions, to name a few.

The Monday night “La Tropica ” entertainment brings forth the best of classic, contemporary and hybrid Latin sounds. They bring in many acts you probably will not see at other venues. The deejay plays great music before, between, and after the featured groups’ two sets.

S.O.B.’s is located at 204 Varick Street at Houston (pronounced house-ton). It’s a great place to have dinner, take a dance lesson and groove to some really tremendous sounds.