Gilberto Velazquez is a lead singer/sonero gifted with the voice and talent that is lifting the genera of Salsa music to a new level. He is a lyricist/composer whose original music is a throwback to the past with a fresh, new, modern feel that adds innovative hooks and rhythms and has social messages. Don Sonero is one of my favorite New Generation Salsa Artists and he was kind enough to give us the following interview … enjoy …
Tell us a few words about your self
I am a Latino raised in the South Bronx, New York, USA, that grew up always listening to a diverse variety of music of all styles, mainly Salsa and Hip Hop.
Have you always been in the music industry?
My father is a singer/musician, so I was singing throughout my whole childhood & had been exposed to the realities of the music business, having a father who was living a young life behind the mic.
When did you realize you could do this as a career?
Since I had always been around musicians, with my father, in various performances, rehearsals, rumbas, etc., I took on to being in charge of the mic and others and myself heard that I had that “natural” timber and talent for improvisation and a sense of natural clave unlike any kid my age at the time and when I did my first gig at the age of 14 in the Bronx’s Side-street nightclub, opening up for Tito Nieves and Ray De La Paz with my “Grupo Magia”, I just knew it from that moment…
Do you play any instruments?
I play percussion instruments.
What vocalists, Salsa or otherwise, influenced you growing up?
Out of all the artists that influenced me, the main 3 I have to say I listened to and whom caught my ear the most are Chamaco Ramirez, Hector Lavoe, Ismael Rivera in Latin music and Biggie Smalls, Big Pun, Tu Pac in Hip Hop.
What has been your inspiration behind “LA Verdadera Escena”?
EVERYTHING about my upbringing, & the fact that I had been considered a “ghettokid” whom would never become anything positive, since I was raised among the “drug dealers”, “convicts”,”addicts” and “drop-outs”, etc., with no one ever believing that a dream or a goal could come true because of “environmental circumstances , disadvantages, poverty, etc, etc.” and the fact that there were still some of us that never let these stereotypes of “the non-achieving class of people” stop us so that we continued to go after what we wanted to achieve honestly, is the main inspiration of “LA Verdadera Escena”. So basically, my own survival and coming out of one series of situations called my youth, and my currently being on a road to musical and life success, is my testament on this album …
Tell us a few words about your album
My album is romantic, danceable, socially conscious, like a book of the true stories of life, of people of all ages for people of all ages who go through or may one day go through similar situations. Done from my heart and soul, full of innovations, it will put the listeners into different places of various emotions. The complex instrumentation and the best of the best musicians in New York that make the music on this album stand out, is, in my opinion, an exemplification that there is a pot-pourri of creativity & talent that cannot be compared to anything like it right now. Its different, its original, its not copying anyone.
What’s the response to your music from the Salsa world?
So far all ages of people have responded to my music, and even my videos, in a positive light. Its being well accepted cause it’s enjoyed by many different people of different ages and ethnicities since I didn’t write songs for only one particular Latin music style.
What has been the hardest part in getting your album out there?
Not so much getting the album out there, but to get the album completed, was the hardest part. False promises of people in my circle swearing to help out with numerous things, from participating in the productions of the songs, helping financially, spreading the word, etc. Like no one believed that I could create such a masterpiece; and now that it is out, everyone wants to say they were there. I had to gig over and over to make enough to start my own business, from the indie label, to publishing, renting the studio, doing the artwork, etc, with my business partner Carlos Javier. My camp that includes Adan Perez & Ito Arguinzoni, they, and anyone with a credit on my album are the ones I give thanks to that aided in the whole process and the creation … if your name is not on my album, then you did nothing for me except think that I am crazy, when in reality, I was just making a dream come true.
In your opinion, what is the single most difficult challenge Salsa musicians face today?
Getting respected for what they do!
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Never give up!
What is something that not many people know about you?
I wanted to be a veterinarian!
What‘s the highlight of your career so far?
“LA Verdadera Escena”
Is there a new project you working on? What are your plans for your future?
I’m working now on a “LA Verdadera Escena” tour.
Also, three projects are in the works: a DVD of a series of short films of all my songs that should hopefully be released for the Summer, the Summer release of the legendary Grammy-nominated New Swing Sextet’s, “Yesterday,Today, and Tomorrow” where I am the featured lead vocalist, and an indie movie directed by Carlos Javier, that I will be starring in, tentatively for the Winter.
Lastly, give a few words of advice to the people reading this interview?
Work hard! Stay focused and never give up!
Don’t ever let anyone who tells you that you cannot do something discourage you.
Always try to do the right things, cause what one puts out is always what will be given back to you … and thank you Niko, for the opportunity to participate in this interview with you …
Thank you Don for taking the time to answer this questions for us.
Thank you for the music! I wish you all the best of success!!!