Celebrating Christmas à la Afro-Caribbean

Head over to Northridge, where the Harlem band will grace Angelenos with rhythmic tunes to celebrate the holidays
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Celebrating Christmas à la Afro-Caribbean
Óscar Hernández lidera la Spanish Harlem Orquestra que trae su 'Salsa Navidad' este sábado a Northridge.
Foto: Cortesía Óscar Hernández

Christmas gets closer every day. So this weekend, we will be celebrate it with New York Spanish Harlem Orchestra’ Afro-Caribbean rhythms in Northridge.

But, there is more. The stage at the Valley Performing Arts Center will also feels the movements of the RED Ballet, in an event called “Christmas Salsa,” that will combine Latin Jazz and Salsa with the dance.

As a part of the Ford Signature Series, “Christmas Salsa” will be featured just once this Saturday.

We talked to Oscar Hernandez, leader of Spanish Harlem Orchestra that comprises 13 members and that has won two Grammy. Hernandez grew up in the Bronx and gave way to his musical passion playing the trumpet and piano at a very early age.

LO: Salsa, Latin Jazz, ballet, and Christmas. A very special combination. How do you mix it on stage?

OH: We dedicated different segments for each one of them in the concert. The main part is Salsa, followed by some Latin Jazz, around four or five Christmas songs, and three topics dedicated to the ballet with Josie Walsh and RED Ballet.

The Spanish Harlem Orchestra has been around for 15 years. What has changed and improved during that time?

In these 15 years the concept of the band continues being the same: it is a concept focused on the musical excellence that arises from a music that flows in an organic way, but born out of the New York tradition of Salsa. Our ears and eyes are always open to what happens around us, what keeps us up-to-date with our music genre.

You are New York residents. Is there any difference on how other cities’ audiences welcome your music?

The band is from New York, but the audiences are in harmony with our history and background. Those who do not know us, become our fans immediately. Both the Latino and non-Latino public appreciates the excellent musical quality that we bring to them.

Narrate the musical experience of “Salsa Christmas.”

It is Christmas music that we would listen to during the Holidays in the Caribbean or Latin reunions in the East Coast. It is a mix of the Puerto Rican music styles of bomba and plena, and aguinaldo (Christmas songs).

The success of the Latin pop music seems to be limited to a handful of pop stars. What can be done to change that situation?

Unfortunately, that is true. Either the industry or the radio are restricted. People need to be educated about how important the musical background that represents our music is. That is something radio stations aren’t interested in. I always thank God for the intelligent people who go beyond the profits of commercial radio.

The show

What: Salsa Christmas
When: Saturday, 5, 8 p.m.
Where: Valley Performing Arts Center, CSUN, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge.
How: Tickets from $30, available at the ValleyPerformingArtsCenter.org