On Saturday afternoon, Albany’s Washington Park parade grounds were filled with thousands of people celebrating the 16th annual Albany LatinFest. A joint venture between the City of Albany and the Albany Latin Festival Association, the event attracts members of the Latin community from all over the Capital Region. In fact, Congressman Paul Tonko, who has supported this event and the Centro Di Civico Festival in Amsterdam for too many years to count, was on hand to speak to the audience and help introduce the sensational headliner, salsa music legend Tito Rojas.
You don’t have to be of Latin heritage or speak Spanish to appreciate the infectious salsa rhythms and songs that Rojas and his big band generated. But if you are Latin – specifically Puerto Rican – you certainly understand what it all means, both culturally and musically.
Rojas didn’t bother translating his statements to the crowd in English because the sea of faces he saw from the bandstand were overwhelmingly Puerto Rican, his people and fans.
Carrying a towel to wipe off the sweat of that humid afternoon, Rojas spoke directly to the heart of the people. Hundreds of fans were pressed against the barricade in front of the stage, basking in his energy and every spoken or sung word. More than just a few Puerto Rican flags were waved around among the crowd in the spirit of nationalistic pride.
Professionals one and all, Rojas’ big band was complete with three percussionists and a full horn section that blew their salsa sounds inside and out.
Rojas was in his element, performing for the massive crowd and enjoying every minute. When he cracked a smile, the audience smiled right back. Seeing an elder statesman of any kind of music style is always a treat, and Tito Rojas is certainly no exception. There is a reason that he continues to be at the top of his game and in the public eye all these years. He is the consummate Latin music performer who knows how to please his public by mixing his older popular tunes with a handful of new ones.
Earlier in the day, the Tony Swing band delighted the audience with their high-energy horns and impassioned singing.
It was all-around a great festival where you could dance, listen to world-class music and sample some great Caribbean food from the vendors who lined the park.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk