Latin soul will invade this week's Art Basel Miami Beach, when Fania Records launches their Armada Fania club and pop-up store for four days near Miami's trendy Wynwood Arts District, a center of the art fair's social life. Similar temporary Fania party and shopping spots, featuring vinyl-spinning DJs and CDs, hats, shirts and other Fania merchandise for sale, are planned this year for New York, Austin, Chicago and Los Angeles.
The Miami pop up, to take place at PAX (337 SW 8 St) Dec. 5-8 and will be the biggest Fania event organized to date by Codigo Music, the company that bought the catalogue of the storied New York label of the '70s originators of salsa in 2009. Since then, Codigo has maintained an aggressive release schedule of reissues, compilations and remixes available on CD, digital and vinyl. A key aspect of marketing the rebirth of Fania has been the company's relationship with club DJs.
"Every time we go anywhere in this country, we meet someone who's a deep, deep crate picker of this catalogue," says Michael Rucker, Codigo's chief marketing officer. "They've hunted original vinyl down like you wouldn't believe. Many play the original 33s and 45s. We couldn't be more excited to give them an opportunity to showcase their talent."
Miami's Armada Fania event will feature veteran DJ and sneaker expert Bobbito Garcia (aka Kool Bob Love) and The Brass King, Boston's The Whiskey Barons and Miami's Mr. Pauer, and New York's Radio Rios and DJ Africa from Miami. Also on the roster is the Rice & Beans Sound System, a collective of DJs who started spinning as college students in Orlando, and now anchor Fania-heavy club nights in New York's Washington Heights neighborhood and Washington, D.C.
"Fania is the highest expression of Latin music," says Christian Mártir, 33, of Rice & Beans. "We as Latinos identify with it, and other people identify with it because it's authentic, not something that was forced."
Fania Artists Celia Cruz, Hector Lavoe, Ruben Blades, Willie Colon and others independently remain among the most recognizable names in Latin music, and the historic recordings on the Fania label have found new popularity in digital music stores and on Fania's own website, and an active Facebook page that currently has 175,000 likes.
While Rucker notes that Fania's digital marketing is key, the obvious way to create a community around the music that once brought huge crowds to New York's Cheetah Club and launched the careers of Latin legends is through live events like next week's Armada Fania.
"Every time we bring catalogue out like this, "He says," we sell more original music, we sell more of the remixes, and we hear back from more music supervisors wanting to license the music. It's about really leveraging these deep musical assets to continue to build and make the brand relevant to today's music market."