Christmas in the tropics means trading jingle bells and roasted chestnuts for roast pig and rum. And forget about silent nights. Salsa and other tropical rhythms are the sounds of Christmas cheer, where dancing all night long is as sacred a tradition as stuffing yourself at the family table. We wish you a sweaty, sexy and sabroso Christmas with this sampler of 10 songs to ignite your own hot holiday fiesta.
10. El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, “La Fiesta de Pili”
Puerto Rico’s Gran Combo is all about celebrating family, friends and food — and cranking the music loud enough to blow everyday problems out of the window. The lyrics of this classic run through an island Christmas menu that you may never get around to eating after you turn on the delicious music of this legendary salsa band.
9. Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe, “Vive Tu Vida Contento”
The gritty 1971 Fania Christmas recording Asalto Navideño remains one of the greatest and most authentic seasonal albums of all time. “Vive Tu Vida Contento” may pale in verve beside the better known “La Murga” and other tracks, but what better holiday message than “live your life happy”?
8. Jose Alberto “El Canario,” “Quiero Salsa en Navidad”
El Canario wants salsa for Christmas. After listening to this hard party track, you will, too.
7. Gilberto Santa Rosa, “La Fiesta No Ws Para Feos”
Gilberto Santarosa is a veritable Santa Claus when it comes to high energy Christmas music. Here the smooth singing salsero and his orchestra put their shine on this frequently covered Cuban guaracha with advice about observing the dress code (“the party is not for ugly people”).
6. Victor Manuelle, “Lechón, Lechón, Lechón”
Victor Manuelle, another enthusiastic follower of the Puerto Rican holiday party song tradition, pays homage to the traditional Latino Christmas dinner centerpiece.
5. Ray Barretto, “Cocinando”
This signature track — by the late, great minister of Latin soul Ray Barretto — is not Christmas music, but we couldn’t think of a better way to get to cooking your holiday meal than by cranking “Cocinando.”
4. Aventura, “Burrito de Belén”
Before he got so suave and took his solo act to the top of the charts, Romeo Santos and his fellow barrio boys in Aventura recorded this bilingual bachata version of the standard “Burrito de Belén.” Romeo can even make a song that talks about a donkey and Jesus Christ sound suggestive.
3. Andy Montañez, “Bebiendo Ron Sin Bañarse”
In another classic from the Afro and double-breasted suit days of hard salsa, Andy Montañez delivers his own cautionary urban Christmas carol.
2. Grupo Niche, “La Pandereta”
Have your maracas handy. Colombian salsa stars Grupo Niche praise Christmas with a party mix guaranteed to take you higher.
1. Johnny Ventura and Milly Quezada, “Déjalo Pa Enero”
With a manic merengue and a video with corny choreography around a pool, Johnny Ventura and Milly Quezada demonstrate the moves for getting anybody’s tropical Christmas going.