Joe Arroyo: an Afro-Colombian musical legend
Legendary singer Joe Arroyo passed away this morning at age 55 in Barranquilla. One of Colombia’s most beloved and popular salsa and Afro-Colombian folk singers, his legacy is enormous. A native of the coastal city of Cartagena, in the 70’s Arroyo was the voice of orchestras such as La Protesta, Fruko y sus Tesos and finally, his own group, La Verdad, during the 80’s and early ’90s.
“El Joe,” as Arroyo was known, made salsa with a distinct Colombian flavor, mixing in Afro-Colombian genres such as bullerengue into his repertoire, making him a staple at carnivals and festivals around the country - and then the entire world.
His most famous salsa song “Rebelión,” is a 4-minute history lesson of African heritage in Cartagena; of standing up to racism and sexism. Upbeat, danceable, painfully serious and hopeful at the same time. An absolute hymn in Colombia.
Semana magazine lauds him as “an idol in every sense. […] One of the few figures with followers in all regions and from all social strata.” According to his biographer, Mauricio Silva, Joe Arroyo is one of the most important Afro-Latino performers in history, on par with Celia Cruz, Ismael Rivera and Benny Moré.
Here are some of the most shared Joe Arroyo videos today on Facebook, plus a subtitled version of “Rebelión,” and a rare live performance at the Barranquilla carnival alongside Shakira more than a decade ago.