Fruko y sus Tesos

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Fruko y sus Tesos is a salsa supergroup from Colombia which enjoys immense popularity throughout Latin America and the United States. The band has been an incubator for Colombian salsa talent. In 1970, multi-instrumentalist Julio Ernesto Estrada ‒ or "Fruko" as he is artistically known - formed the group, modeling it after the New York City salsa sound of the Fania All-Stars, one of the leading salsa groups at the time.[1] A favorite of salsa and Latin soul deejays around the globe, many refer to Fruko y sus Tesos as one of Colombia's most important exports. Fruko regards salsa tunes to be tightly composed pop songs, with catchy choruses and sophisticated, even sad, compositions, rather than serving as mere outlets for instrumental bravado.

Starting with "Tesura" in 1969, Fruko y sus Tesos recorded 42 albums through 2011.[2] The band achieved great success after Joe Arroyo was recruited as lead singer in 1973. Critic Ernesto Lechner wrote, "Arroyo became an instant star singing a combination of salsa and James Brown-styled funk, with a dash of '60s psychedelia thrown in for good measure. Bob Marley and Fela Kuti are obvious stylistic references." [3]

Biggest hits[edit]

Lead vocals by Wilson "Saoko" Manyoma[edit]

"El Preso"
"El Preso" is one of Colombia's most popular songs[4] and was composed by band percusionist Álvaro Velásquez with a haunting piano melody over a danceable salsa rhythm. Wilson "Saoko"'s raspy voice starts with the famous,“¡Oye, te hablo desde la prisión!” ("Listen! I speak to you from the prison").[2] The Spanish language lyrics are the melancholy narration of a prisoner ("preso") serving a 30-year sentence in a world of four corners, lacking heaven, moon, or stars. Neither the crime nor the culpability of the prisoner is mentioned, but the listener sympathizes with the convict who "perdí toda esperanza" ("lost all hope"). After the coro, the lead and the backing vocalists sing of waiting for death, utilizing the call-and-response format traditional to the Afro-Cuban roots of salsa music. This section culminates with repeating, "Solo con mi pena. Solo en mi condena", meaning "Alone with my pain. Alone in my cell." [5]

"Los Charcos"
"El Patillero" (about a watermellon vendor)

Lead vocals by Joe Arroyo[edit]

"El Ausente"
"El Caminante"
"Flores Silvestres"
"Los Patulekos"
"El Cocinero Mayor"
"Charanga Campesina"

Other well-known hits[edit]

"A la Memoria del Muerto" (sung by Piper Pimienta)
"El Son Sí Se Fue De Cuba"

Bandleader Julio Ernesto "Fruko" Estrada[edit]

Medellin native Julio Ernesto "Fruko" Estrada Rincón began his musical career at the age of 15 when he joined the legendary group, Los Corraleros de Majagual, providing a conjunto or tipico-style music.[6] In 1968, Los Corraleros traveled to New York City giving Fruko his first opportunity to experience the city's burgeoning salsa scene. Fruko was influenced by New York City salsa greats Richie Ray, Willie Colon, Ray Barretto, and Eddie Palmieri. Former lead singer Wilson Manyoma remembered Estrada as a strict leader.

In the 1970's, Estrada helped mold the Colombian salsa scene, acting as arranger, studio musician, and bandleader for his Tesos as well as backing another highly successful Colombian salsa band, The Latin Brothers on the Discos Fuentes label.[7]

In 2013, Fruko ran for the Colombian Senate on the ticket of the governing U party of President Juan Manuel Santos.[8]

Prominent former members[edit]

Joe Arroyo[edit]

"Fruko" Estrada discovered teenager Arroyo, who started by singing in bordellos,[9] in 1972 and in 1973 installed him as primary lead vocals for Fruko y sus Tesos. [10] Arroyo left for a solo career, forming his Joe Arroyo y la Verdad group in 1981. Arroyo's "La Rebellion" would be one of the most successful songs in the history of salsa music.

"Saoko" Wilson Manyoma[edit]

Wilson "Saoko" Manyoma, from Cali, Colombia was discovered by Fruko Estrada. Manyoma sang lead on some of the group's most important tracks such as "El Preso" before also leaving to pursue a solo career.

Edulfamid "Piper Pimienta" Diaz[edit]

"Piper Pimienta" Díaz rotated lead vocals in the early 1970's before moving on to perform with The Latin Brothers and recording solo.[11]


Contributing artist


  1. ^ Dorado, El Sonido (2000). World music: the rough guide, Volume 2. Rough Guides Ltd. p. 379. ISBN 978-1-85828-636-5. 
  2. ^ a b "Conozca la historia de Fruko, el teso". El Pais (in Spanish). 19 June 2011. 
  3. ^ "Colombian music's allure, contrasts can shake the soul". Chicago Tribune. 9 April 2006. 
  4. ^ "Adiós a Álvaro Velásquez, compositor de "El Preso"". Senal Radio Colombia (in Spanish). 29 August 2014. 
  5. ^ "LETRA 'EL PRESO'". 
  6. ^ Morales, Ed (2003). The Latin Beat: the rhythms and roots of Latin music from bossa nova to salsa and beyond. Da Capo Press. p. 259. ISBN 0306810182. 
  7. ^ "The Afrosound of Colombia Vol. 1". Pop Matters. 2 September 2010. 
  8. ^ "The stars taking part in Colombia’s 2014 elections". Colombia Reports. 19 December 2013. 
  9. ^ "Latin Roots: Joe Arroyo". NPR. 5 September 2013. 
  10. ^ "Editorial: El Joe fue 'la rebelión'". El Tiempo. 26 July 2011. 
  11. ^ "Colombia's Fruko y Sus Tesos Shows Off Vast Hit Catalog". LA Times. 30 April 2001.