Love is on the air at OurSalsaSoulRadio (OSSR)… I borrowed this headline from their social media post, because it’s Valentine’s Day on Sunday. It’s a day that can make a lot of people feel lonelier than usual.
But OSSR DJs are prepping their playlists to brighten the day for listeners worldwide. Only that’s exactly what they do “all day, every day”. (Thanks to DJ Christian Jean-Francois for that one.)
American trumpeter Louis Armstrong said music is life itself. And OSSR has thrown us a lifeline. Read more about how I got hooked here. In brief, Del Salereo and Sofi Cook launched OSSR as a lockdown project in London. Co-hosts of the Cuban salsa show, Villa Cubana, on another radio station, they wanted to create a platform for dancers to connect and listen to music in quarantine.
“Dance is so much about community. Social dancing, teachers, promoters and DJs in the UK and elsewhere were hit badly by the Coronavirus,” says Cook. She is also OSSR head of recruitment. “We recruited dozens of DJs, bringing Latin presenters together with their jazz funk and soul counterparts to create a 24/7 station with the motto ‘with the dancer in mind’.”
I love you
OSSR also unites the two dance communities Salereo belongs to: Latin and soul. Prior to lockdown, he had hosted a regular party night, also called Villa Cubana. It is London’s largest, regular, dedicated Cuban night.
Co-host Janet Harris joined OSSR as marketing and social media representative. “It’s been an honour to be part of a radio station that has made a difference in people’s lives throughout such a difficult, challenging and short period of time,” says Harris. “I work closely with OSSR presenters, and have a fantastic team working with me to raise the profile of the station. A big thank you to Niamh, Tamara and Sarah. This is just the beginning of OSSR and I’m so excited about its future in music and dance.”
Currently around 50 DJs share their music on OSSR airwaves, spanning the salsa, Cuban, bachata, kizomba, Afrobeats, jazz funk, soulful house, broken beats and soul genres. Cook says more DJs are joining from other countries.
“Many of our presenters have been active in their communities during the pandemic. Health-conscious Victor Anderson has been feeding tasty vegan soup to neighbourhood residents. Moe Flex has taken on initiatives to help the homeless and those struggling with mental health issues,” says Cook.
“Many are teaching dance online, yet continuing to provide a focal point for their communities. Mauricio Reyes of Birmingham’s Latin Motion dance school, who hosts the ever-popular Sunday evening Latin Motion mixed show on OSSR, offers salsa and bachata for adults and now children, too. It’s a real gift for tired parents running out of ideas!”
Top DJs share love on the air
In addition, presenters such as Andrea Stewart have been interviewing top dancers and teachers to showcase the dance world during lockdown.
Salereo and Cook themselves draw a virtual crowd with the Cuban music they play in their Villa Cubana sessions on Friday and Saturday evenings. “Sofi regularly conducts live interviews with popular Cuban artists. Enrique Bringas and Kadialy Kouate were among the first musicians,” says OSSR marketing support lead Niamh O’Shea. “Then there are the soul guys such as Tony Bee, Del’s childhood friend who ‘made the jump with him and Sofi’, and Fitzroy Soul Survivor, as well as the house guys such as Victor Anderson, Monty Gee, etc.”
The list goes on. Tune in on a Sunday to listen to the chat shows hosted by Steve Beckles-Ebusua and Natalie Ward. Look out for Mauricio Reyes, who Salereo credits with developing into a confident radio presenter. The Breakfast Show is not to be missed. I’ve managed to catch Julian Marmolejo, Rohan Brown II and Steve Mapson on weekdays and Massimo Mazzocca on a Sunday.
Super Dixon, Jorges Tawas and Sagar Mody are some of the DJs I’ve heard play kizomba. Christian Jean-Francois plays kizomba too, but his Afro Flavour sets are incredible. The first female presenter on the station was the late Karen Denman, who also played kizomba. Dave Hucker’s friendship with Salereo goes back to the 90s. Salereo says,”I learnt part of my craft from Hucker.”
And where would the team be without Sacha Defrancia and his tech assistance, and the multitalented Robert White who, in addition to being an OSSR DJ, helps make the “sets sound crystal”?
With the dancer in mind
The chatroom on oursalsasoul.com enables listeners to chat to the presenters live, request songs, and send messages and shoutouts to others anywhere in the world. “We get a lot of messages from dancers and music lovers saying that it has really transformed lockdown for them and is helping them feel sane and connected,” says Cook.
Ania Mazur, active in the chatroom during Super Dixon’s recent #kizombapalop show, says: “Thanks God for OSSR and for DJs who share music from all over the world.”
OSSR is an education, a lifeline, and the kind of entertainment that leaves little time for much else outside music and dance. “OSSR is here to make sure you feel the love on Sunday. Make sure you tune in with or without a Valentine,” says Cook.
Tune in on oursalsasoulradio.com and follow OSSR on all social media channels. You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
IT’S TIME TO DANCE
It’s been a painfully long 12 months or so with little to no potential for partner dancing of any kind. Dancers around the world are desperate to hit the dancefloor.
To that end, renowned Latin choreographer and promoter Moe Flex hosted a Facebook forum recently for people to discuss the outcomes of an international survey. It elicited responses from more than 3 000 dancers on their preferred conditions for an ideal return to the dance floor.
Sadly, Fadi K’s ABCD (Any Body Can Dance) festival has been postponed, but Fadi powers on with OSSR on Mondays and says he is touched at the number of messages he has received from dancers missing his event.
Meanwhile, the Berlin Salsa Congress is scheduled for August 2021 and the Croatia Summer Festival is scheduled for September 2021. Check their websites for updates though. The only thing constant now is change…
- I will keep sharing news and views gleaned via OSSR so look out for more articles covering more people in the future.
- Mambocity’s 5-Star Salsa Congress is postponed to September 2021.