Yari More Remembers his Salsa Beginnings
More Plays at the Autry July 28
Yari Mor?® was already a teenaged singing idol with a four-year professional career in his native Colombia and in Ecuador before he came to the United States in 1980.
Published on LatinoLA: July 28, 2011
He and his orquesta play Thursday, July 28 at Sizzling Summer Nights -The Autry
"I was brought to be the main singer for a group here," said Mor?®, whose orchestra plays tonight at the Autry. "One day, somebody told me about this gig over here, that the needed a singer for a band. Since I was single, I didn't have any commitments, I decided to say yes, and I came here. Since then I've been here in Los Angeles."
He had been to the United States once before, on tour with a band from Ecuador, hitting all the major cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia. Six of the 12 members told him they planned to stay after the last show in New York. After the curtain came down that night, they disappeared. Mor?® found himself alone and without resources. He returned to Ecuador and, later, Colombia.
Mor?® said salsa is a strong influence in South America, especially in the countries with a Caribbean coast.
"In Colombia we have a lot of influences because we have the Atlantic and the Pacific (Oceans)," he said. "Through those ports is where salsa came in to Colombia. It went to the center of the country. The coast area, the Atlantic and Pacific, is where the most salsa is heard. Still, today, the radio plays salsa music 24 hours a day."
While in Colombia, Mor?® competed and won in the composer and singer categories in the prestigious OTI Song Festival for three years, in 1979, 1982 and 1983. Later, the opportunity arose again to sing in the United States, with the band that was looking for a singer.
"I always wanted to come," Mor?® said. "They say everything happens for a reason. I came here with a contract, legal papers and everything. So it was a better turnout."
Mor?®'s visa stipulated that he had to return to Colombia every six months to renew it.
"The third time, I had an option to go back to Colombia to get a new visa, or get married," Mor?® said, smiling. "So I did the second one."
In the U.S., Mor?® stayed with the band for five years, but also participated in other competitions, like the Latino version of Star Search. He began to move in a different direction, singing romantic ballads -- the old standards of Latin America. He recorded an album and toured in Colombia, Mexico and Central America. But he couldn't see that as something on which to hang his future.
"To be a balladeer is a different world," Mor?® said. "First of all, you have to be good-looking, young, like Luis Miguel, Chayanne, all those guys. That's when romantic salsa, salsa rom?íntica,started being popular. So since I had the romanticism, and I had a little bit of an idea about salsa music ÔÇª I recorded my first album."
Little by little, he moved more toward salsa and away from balladeering.
"Hard-core salsa is not easy," he said. "It's difficult. So for me it was easier to transition from romantic music to romantic salsa because it was the same pattern, but a different beat. For me, it was perfect."
Now that salsa is his bread-and-butter, Mor?® says he would someday like to visit Cuba.
"That's one of things in my mind that I have to go someday," he said. "Because that's the roots, where the roots are of this music. And every time that groups come from Cuba I go to see them. Some of my favorites are Manolito (Simonet) y su Trabuco, Los Van Van, Issac Delgado."
After Mor?® started his orchestra in the 1990s, his act became the backup band for Celia Cruz whenever she came to the West Coast or toured in the West.
"My favorite always was Celia Cruz," he said. "It was incredible. She had this glow, this magnet .ÔÇª But she was very humble, very nice. "
Mor?® said he stayed with her for seven years, until she passed away in July 2003. Cruz's last tour was in the West, and so the orchestra was with her, starting in Houston, then performing in Hawaii, San Diego, Los Angele, Las Vegas, and San Jose.
"Then she got sick," he said. "That was terrible. That was very hard for us."
But Mor?® was not only a colleague of Cruz, he was a fan, and his favorite memory of Cruz is a fan's memory.
"The only thing that it took for her to light up a whole venue full of people, like the Hollywood Bowl, was for her to step right to the center of the stage," he said. "That's it. That's all it took. She had this magic!"
Photo by Teresa Borden
Teresa Borden writes Trading Posts, the Autry's blog