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Chris Fleck

Rolando Sanchez

Photo courtesy Rolando Sanchez

The flair, exhilaration and pace of Latin music most likely would not exist in Hawaii if not for the path that Rolando Sanchez has taken for more than 25 years. Born in Masaya, Nicaragua, Sanchez relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area with his musical family at a young age. It was in California where Sanchez knew, very early, that music was to be his life, his passion, his calling. He immersed himself in the wide variety of Latin music that was being created and tweaked in the 1960s and ’70s.

What gave him and many other Latin musicians confidence and pride in their potential was the explosion and instant popularity of Santana. With the Latin music scene’s flood gates opening up, Sanchez started his own band called SOLAR, playing a mixture of Latin rock and Latin jazz fusion. For nearly 20 years Sanchez toured the West Coast and Canada before seeking a change of pace in 1984. After visiting his sister in Hawaii, he knew this was the culture, climate and atmosphere in which he belonged.

With virtually no Latin music in Hawaii at the time, Sanchez initially introduced salsa to Hawaii at Compadres in Waikiki, using street performers he found on Kuhio and Kalakaua avenues to fill out his band. Since then, Sanchez has grown a culture of Latin music in Hawaii. He has won numerous local music awards and has been a frequent ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) award-winner. He helped create annual events such as the Latin Explosion Concert and Hawaii International Latin Music Festival.

A seasoned veteran and bandleader of Salsa Hawaii, Sanchez has his own take on the evolution of Latin music the past few decades.

“As I become more mature, I find more-mature themes. You have so many genres; it is not only salsa. That is why most of my albums are a variety of music like cha-cha, rumba, salsa, Marengo, Latin pop, Latin rock and jazz,” says Sanchez, who cites that Latin music’s progression and adaption is generational.

“Every 10 years or so you get a batch of new artists. You have a new contingency happening. Every 10 years somebody comes along with some music and people think it is brand new. You can see the transformation of salsa has become a dance instead of a music genre. Salsa is dominated by DJs now; it is a dance thing, not a music thing,” adds Sanchez, who was featured in MidWeek Sept. 13, 1995.

With 11 to 12 percent of Hawaii’s population consisting of Latin ethnicities, Sanchez is seeking leadership to help keep Latin music thriving in the Islands. He, of course, continues to do his part.

His newest album, Vamonos De Fiesta (Let’s Go Party), was a Contemporary Album nominee at the 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, and was a winner at the 2012 Big Island Music Awards. You can purchase Vamonos De Fiesta on iTunes or Cdbaby.com. You also can check out some of Sanchez’s latest produced videos on YouTube.com.

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