In the 1930s a fusion of swing and Cuban music produced the fascinating rhythm that heralded a sensational new dance. Beguiled Cubans would describe Mambo as “feeling the music,” where sound and movement merged and coursed through one’s body, making it impossible to remain seated in a concert hall or restaurant.
The man arguably responsible for this contagious madness went by the name of Pérez Prado, a Cuban musician, bandleader and composer, who introduced the dance in 1943 at La Tropicana nightclub in Havana, and whose fiery brass riffs and strong saxophone counterpoints brought even the most introverted to their feet.
Other Latin American bandleaders such as Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez and Xavier Cugat were quick to jump on the ‘bandwagon’ and develop styles of their own. But Pérez did it first, popularizing the dance (and his huge band) through the artful use of recording, public appearances radio, television and cinema, and rightfully earned the title of ‘King of Mambo’.
Screen the ENTIRE film with Password: mambo
‘The King of Mambo’ does not merely document dance history. It takes us on an epic musical journey, through the abundant use of archival footage, newsreels, feature film clips and interviews with the suave men and sultry women (the queens of Mambo!) who traveled on that journey, from Cuba to Mexico, to America, South America, Europe, England and Japan. ‘Mambomania’ took over the world!
In 1955, at the height of the craze, Perez hit the American charts at number one, but by then the writing was on the wall. The Mambo morphed into the Cha-cha-cha, and with the advent of the Beat Generation, rock and roll, and pop music, the popularity of Mambo waned. Pérez continued to have a strong career in Latin America, revered as one of the reigning giants of the Latin music industry, and is remembered as the innovator who was one of the first to use multimedia savvy to popularize a dance form.
Can this flashy Cuban dance once again recapture the glory of its golden days and find a new following in the 21st century? It would seem that it already has. The Hollywood film industry, always on the lookout for the next nostalgic treasure to mine, has taken new interest in the music, as evidenced by the soundtracks of recent studio releases.
“The King of Mambo’, originally created for French television and then dubbed into English, will give the student of Latin studies, music, dance and filmmaking a window into the soul of Latin America and its continuing international influence.
The King of Mambo Perez Prado DVD for Academic Release $250 Pricing includes Classroom screening and Closed Campus Streaming.