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Classico Latino to play Cambridge gig with salsa legend Fruko

Colombian salsa legend Fruko is appearing as a special guest of Classico Latino in a concert in Cambridge later this month.

The 72-year-old multi-instrumentalist is Colombia’s most famous salsa star, and has made more than 40 albums with his band Fruko y sus Tesos since 1969.

But after a chance meeting with a friend of Cambridge cellist Graham Walker, one of the founders of the group Classico Latino, which plays Latin music on classical instruments, he agreed to a new collaboration.

Classico Latino with Fruko. Picture: Krystian Data
Classico Latino with Fruko. Picture: Krystian Data

Now the group has brought out an album covering seven of Fruko’s most famous tracks in brand new arrangements for Classico Latino, with Fruko playing on bass.

And he is coming to Cambridge for a one-off gig with the group on April 21.

It’s impossible to overstate just how famous Fruko is in Colombia. “Essentially, he’s their Tom Jones,” says Graham Walker, one of the founders of Classico Latino.

“Fruko was not a name that I was familiar with until about two years ago,” he says.

“But in the salsa world, and in Latin America, particularly for musicians, he’s a kind of Godfather of that kind of music. He’s in his 60th year of artistic life this year. So he’s been going a really long time and he’s got a huge number of recordings in his name.”

The new album they have made together came about because a friend of the group was sitting next to Fruko on a plane and immediately recognised him.

“Our friend got chatting with him and said you must contact Classico Latino because it would be great to do a collaboration,” says graham.

“He was really interested in the idea and so he got off the plane and called Ivan our pianist. And that’s how it all started. But Ivan had a nice story, which is that when he was about 12, he was staying with his grandmother and there was a party in the next house that he wanted to go to. His uncle offered to take him to the party and it turned out Fruko songs were being played. There was one particular song that was being played and he saw his uncle dancing to it with this attractive woman. That’s when he decided - when I grow up, this is what I want to do: I want to play that song and I want to dance like my uncle. So when Fruko called him it was a sort of dream come true.”

Julio Ernesto Estrada Rincón was born in 1951 in Colombia and after being kicked out of school at age 15 he became a studio musician for Discos Fuentes record company. He formed the salsa group Fruko y sus Tesos in 1969 rising to fame with 2 albums. He even recorded the official song for Colombia’s football team in 1998, when Colombia secured a position in that year’s FIFA World Cup.

Graham, who has also been choir director for St John’s Voices and New Cambridge Singers, says: “It’s amazing. I mean, when he came to our album launch concert in London, as soon as the word got out that he was coming himself, the tickets sold incredibly quickly. At the concert he appeared at first to be an old man who had to be helped on the stage. But as soon as he picked up his bass guitar, he was really great. And it was as different from choral evensong as you can possibly get.

“When we were recording the album, I discovered he’s super strict. And his ear is phenomenal for the rhythms. So everything had to be exactly right. And, I mean, obviously, the way we were doing it is different from his original versions. But it was quite inspiring actually, to see, these are songs that have been around for decades and to kind of fit myself into that history, that tradition, it was a massive challenge. They’re super difficult and rhythmically, really, really challenging. And to have him there on the sessions as well was really exciting, but quite nerve wracking too.”

The album is billed as an homage to Fruko whose recordings with his band “Fruko y sus Tesos” were the defining sound for a generation of salsa lovers all over the world.They present seven of Fruko’s most iconic tracks in brand new arrangements, with him playing bass.

For this concert in Cambridge, Classico Latino will be joined on stage by Fruko himself as well as Cuban jazz violin star Omar Puente, in the Queen’s Building, Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Graham says: “The concert in Cambridge will be a mixture of our kind of standard repertoire, our greatest hits if you like, and then and then songs from the new album, which is really fun - very upbeat.”

Classico Latino, featuring Frukop and Omar Puente, will play at the Queen’s Building Lecture Theatre, Emmanuel College, on April 21. Tickets £25. Booking: https://classicolatino.com/next-events

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