The Mamboniks

A repository for articles and artifacts regarding the intriguing history of Jews in Latin music.

THE MAMBONIKS began in 2001 as research for a book that remains unpublished. I hope that sharing my interviews and materials will help broaden the understanding of this unique moment in Jewish cultural history.

All material copyright Mark Schwartz, 2006


Word for Word: Rae Arroyo

Known for her radio show "The Latin Connection," the late Rae Arroyo was a Bronx-born Sephardic Jew with a grand passion for Latin music. (She actually grew up speaking Ladino, the ancient language of her Turkish-Jewish ancestors.) Rae was just 13 years old when she first stepped foot in the famous Palladium dance hall, in 1951, and by the late '60s, she had become a professional Latin dancer. In 1979 she first took to the airwaves, remaining on the air for over twenty years.

Born and raised in the Bronx, I began my love affair with Latin music at the age of eight. I started collecting Latin jazz and salsa recordings at about that time and I've been collecting ever since. Of course, the music wasn't called salsa at the time, just Latin music. The DJ's I listened to were Art "Pancho" Raymond and Bob "Pedro" Harris. Up in the Catskills, it was Willie and Ray out of Liberty, New York. Later on it was Dick "Ricardo" Sugar and then Symphony Sid. My dad loved music and to a certain extent, so did my mom.

In my home as a child we could go from Caruso to Glenn Miller to Tito Puente and Jose Curbelo. We also had a great collection of tangos, congas and rumbas. You name it, we had it.

By the time I was 13 years old, we were so into Latin music that my dad started taking me to the Palladium ballroom on 53rd Street and Broadway and known as the home of the mambo. That was back in 1951. That's when I first met Tito Puente. We remained friends to the end. In fact i had been on the phone with him for at least two hours talking about music the day before he entered the hospital.

Although prejudice and bigotry existed everywhere else at the time, it did not exist in the Palladium. Black, white, brown and any shade in between, young and old, rich and poor, gay or straight, who cared? As long as you could dance, preferrably on clave. Great music and dancing. That's what it was all about. People dressed to kill. Men in three piece suits, women in sharp sexy outfits. The atmosphere was great and so were the people. The three house bands were Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, and Machito, but many other bands played there as well.

We moved to southern California in 1968 and discovered a lack of this particular type of Latin music on radio in our area. Highly frustrated that I could no longer hear the music I grew up with and shocked that others had not even heard of this type of music, I approached a local jazz station and with that I became a guest on the show, was given a one hour spot of my own which eventually became a six hour show and subsequently the most popular show on KSBR 88.5 fm in Mission Viejo. That was back in 1979. In 1984, I started another show out of Long Beach KLON and for a short time i also did a show out of San Clemente. I called all three shows The Latin Connection. I wanted to make sure the music got out there for all to hear.

Rae Arroyo passed away on March 29, 2006 in Las Vegas.

  • Do you go back with Rae? Leave a comment:



Blogger cornelius said...

LAMO CORNELIO(CORNELIUS)Igrew up back east brookyn,ny the music scene was very rich for me-wevd-symphony sid,dick recardo sugar latin-jazz was thew most the mambonks never had the chance but heard the music by tito puente ,machito years later at NY MAnhattan center,palladin,bronx casino/hotel st george dance mambo,charangas had a ball and at 62 still do music is a taperisty of color with all universal flavors for everyone to embrace....PEACE AND AGAPE LOVE/..WWW.MOBAY0987@GMAIL.COM

December 4, 2009 at 11:38 PM  

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