Gilberto Santa Rosa Celebrates 40-Year Trajectory in Salsa Music With New Live Album

Gilberto Santa Rosa
Noam Galai/Getty Images for HBO

Gilberto Santa Rosa attends Gilberto Santa Rosa & HBO Latino 40 Y Contando on Sept. 13, 2018 in New York City.  

Since the late '70s, Gilberto Santa Rosa -- dubbed "El Caballero de la Salsa" -- has helped put the salsa movement on the map, becoming the first Puerto Rican singer of tropical music to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City back in 1995. His unique blend of salsa music and romantic melodies have blessed fans with timeless hits such as “Mentira,” “Que Alguien Me Diga” and “La Agarro Bajando.”

Now, Santa Rosa is celebrating a reputable music career, which he says is here for the long run, and presents his new album and documentary 40...Y Contando En Vivo Desde Puerto Rico.

The live album, which was filmed and recorded in his hometown on Feb. 17, 2018, is home to some of Santa Rosa’s biggest hits, featuring special guests such as Victor Manuelle, Luis Enrique, Tito Nieves and Eddie Santiago, among others.

Celebrating 40 years in music, however, wasn't in the cards for the multiple Latin Grammy winner.

“I had no plans to celebrate [40 years], but it was a bit of a coincidence,” he tells Billboard. “We were preparing another project and my representative asked me: ‘Why don’t we celebrate your 40th anniversary?’ and then I started to like the idea. I sing, and I work with lyrics and words, and I liked the sound of '40.' Then I thought to myself, how do I celebrate 40 years without closing a chapter and leave it open? That’s when ‘40 and Counting’ was born.”

With a trajectory that spans many years and with a repertoire where each of his songs forms part of his success, Santa Rosa said the album process took over a year. “It started with the repertoire, looking for memorabilia, dates, and I enjoyed it very much,” he says. “We started to talk about that in around February 2017 and kicked off the tour in September that same year. We were on tour for more than a year and we visited almost every country where people listen to my music. We started in the Dominican Republic, then Central America, South America, Europe, United States, and then we went to Puerto Rico to do the concert that’s featured on the album.”

For Santa Rosa, quitting is not an option, which is why he’s keeping salsa music alive today.

“There were a lot of challenging moments, and perhaps I took a moment to sit back and heal,” he says of the times he’s failed. “I have yet to say ‘I quit,’ which will never happen, but I’ve had hard times that were out of my control. At the end of the day, I look back at them and now understand why those things happened.”

As for the songs that still give him goosebumps every time he performs them live? Santa Rosa said “Conciencia” and “Perdoname.” “Without a doubt, they are the beloved ones in the repertoire and I still sing them like the first time I recorded them in a studio.”

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