Friday, November 2, 2012

Celia Cruz & The Fania All Stars - Quimbara - Zaire, Africa 1974

It was definitely a black history moment. Zaire ’74, a three-day music festival of American soul alongside African music, headlined by James Brown and filmed by the same crew that was in Zaire for the historical fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa, the capital of Zaire (now Congo).

The festival “Soul Power” was a striking sociocultural moment. African-American and Latin musicians were being introduced to Africa and African musicians amid Mr. Ali’s black-power politics and a hodgepodge of visiting music, sports and literary figures, wrote the NYT.


  1. Oh my GAAAAWD! Where can I begin?! First of all, in MY HUMBLE OPINION, and again, this is just MY OPINION, Celia Cruz was the greatest female singer of black African descent in recorded history! (Is my love for Celia showing?) LOL!

    I first fell in love with the Queen of Salsa; a more accurate title would be the Queen of Rhythm, while I was visiting Panama. I bought an album off the sidewalk called "Lo Mejor de Celia Cruz", Tico Records. The cover photo of a smiling Black woman with a shiny blonde wig magnetized me. "Hmmm, let me see who SHE is"...And the rest, as they say, is HERstory!

    I began collecting everything I could find with her voice on it---either on vinyl or compact disc. I even video-taped her Wesson corn oil commercials! :-) I was captivated by her "SABOR". Her "flavor". It got to the point where one day I sat down and typed her a two page letter telling her that I was literally spellbound by her singing and a myriad of other praises and lauds that a queen such as Celia deserved. I told her I was an African-American guy who was interested in ALL people and things African and of African origin. (As we know, Celia was Afro-Cuban).

    Little did I expect, about 5 months after I sent that letter off, I received a letter written and signed by her telling me that she appreciated my compliments and that in that moment she was packing her bags to perform at carnival in Colombia, but she was taking time out not only to write me a letter of thanks, but she ALSO sent me a large 8 X 12 glossy photo of herself with a note in her handwriting on it wishing me the best from "'your new friend', Celia Cruz".

    After that letter, I received a Christmas card from her every Christmas---without fail---until she moved to Miami "for a minute" and we lost contact.

    I could go on and on about this MEGASTAR in the African/African-Diasporic galaxy, but I'll TRY and stop here. Even though she's been gone for 9 years now, actually she's "immortal". Her records, cds, authorized and unauthorized biographies are still selling today as if she were still physically with us. There is even a U.S. Celia Cruz postage stamp!
    All hail to the Queen!

    By the way, when Celia arrived at the airport in Kinshasha for this monumental fight and festival posted here, she humbly knelt down and KISSED THE AFRICAN GROUND! Such was her deep love and connection to her Africanness! Truly, an "African Queen in exile in Cuba and later the United States."

    1. Great story John! Now I know why she was so immensely popular and loved by everyone. Besides making great music, she clearly didn't take her fans for granted.


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