Papa Mambo salsas to 25-year milestone

Papa Mambo is celebrating a quarter century of salsa.

Salsa band to perform at the West End Cultural Centre on May 9

Rodrigo Muñoz has been leading Papa Mambo for 25 years.

Papa Mambo is celebrating a quarter century of salsa. Chilean-born Rodrigo Muñoz started up the band at a time when salsa music was practically non-existent in Winnipeg. That meant out of necessity, he had to train local musicians and bring them into the realm of the salsa groove.

25 years later, many of the original members are still part of the group, a great testament to his leadership and the power of the music.

When Muñoz was just 12 he came to Winnipeg with his family to escape political unrest in his native Chile. He and his family played music together in their own folk band, Millarapue, but he didn't start to delve into salsa music until after his classical guitar training ended at the University of Manitoba.

"It's not easy music, it's complicated, actually, it's very challenging. So I decided I'm going to study this music and unlock its mysteries" he said. Then he formed Papa Mambo in 1989.

After the dictatorship ended, Muñoz had a hankering to return to Chile, where he stayed for nearly eight years. "It was a good opportunity to get to know my country," he said.
Papa Mambo features Shannon Kristjanson, sax/flute, Dave Lawton, trumpet, Jeff Presslaff, trombone, Amber Epp, lead vocals, Victor Lopez, bongo/vocals, Ramiro Sepulveda, congas, Gilles Fournier, bass Will Bonness, piano, Ken gold, sax and Rodrigo Muñoz, timbales/leader (Claudio Molina)

He spent nights playing with many bands and learning a lot. When he returned to Winnipeg to pick up Papa Mambo where it left off and implement what he learned, he said local musicians welcomed him back with open arms.

"They're very supportive, it was a really nice homecoming. It was really a warm welcome, so it made me feel really good," he said.

Friday's 25th anniversary concert will feature the full 10-piece band, along with some invited dancers. They'll present a few new numbers and the audience will be able to dance the night away, too.

Papa Mambo performs at the West End Cultural Centre on May 9.