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|Birth name||Ilsa Melina Almodovar Sanchez|
|Born||June 3, 1979|
|Origin||Santurce, Puerto Rico|
|Genres||Latin, World, Salsa|
|Occupation(s)||Singer-songwriter, Musician, Dancer|
Melina Almodovar (born Ilsa Melina Almodovar Sanchez, in Santurce, Puerto Rico) is a Puerto Rican salsa singer/songwriter, dancer, and entertainer. Known for her high energy performances and advanced salsa dancing skills, she combines old school salsa dancing moves with contemporary styles of dancing and singing. She is also credited for initiating the first successful salsa music band to come out of the South of the United States "Orquesta Caliente".
Melina was born on June 3, 1979 at Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico a barrio of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her family lived in Levittown, Puerto Rico and Catano, Puerto Rico sharing her time in the neighboring municipalities of the island . Her mother Ilsa Milagros Sanchez Rodriguez, and her father Jose Luis Almodovar Hernandez divorced when she was only one year old, but they remained amicable until her father's death in 1989. Her father remarried Evangeline Garland five years after his divorce from Melina's mother and birthed two more daughters that are very close to Melina and she regards them as her sisters Gretchen Evangeline Almodovar Garland and Carina Cristina Almodovar Garland. Melina's father was a bolero music singer in Puerto Rico and along with his bothers has a small group "Boleros y Algo Mas"( boleros and something else....). They travelled all over the island playing music inspired by José José, Marco Antonio Munis, Raúl di Blasio, and Camilo Sesto who inspired her father to name here "Melina" from one of his hit songs by the same name. Her mother was a Flamenco dancer instilling in Melina a love for dance and music but later choosing a career in medicine. Melina's maternal grandmother Elia, is a sculptor, painter and poet who fueled Melina's interest in music and supported all artistic interest in her granddaughter, taking her to plays and concerts at a very early age. At age eight her grandmother took her to see Cats on Broadway and she fell in awe with the show wanting to move to New York City as soon as possible, this would not come to pass opting for Miami, Florida instead.
When her father passed, her mother married to a man from Memphis, Tennessee decided to relocate to Memphis. This was traumatic for Melina having to leave Puerto Rico at such an early age leaving her grandparents and her sisters behind for a city so far removed from the island she lived in. She has described it as "culture shock", stating that it was hard for her to make friends and feeling as if no one was like her. This event became a frequent subject to her songs. Feeling like she was in a "haze" and missing her family she turned to music for solace. At this time she received for Christmas from her grandmother a cassette of Rubén Blades and Celia Cruz . She discovered she had a natural ability for tropical music, salsa and merengue. She also started listening to Memphis music, like Al Green, Otis Redding, The Staple Singers and befriended producer Willie Mitchell's grandchildren that also attended Houston High School with her in Germantown, Tennessee. Upon graduation Melina became interested and applied to Berklee College of Music and got accepted but never attended after visiting the campus. Melina also worked for a short time as a translator and assistant for the Memphis City Council considering for a brief time a career in politics. Melina also attended the University of Memphis for several semesters studying music performance.
At sixteen Melina started playing all over Memphis in all types of bands, from Rock music to blues to jazz to gospel. Soon she was approached by a group of music professors from the University of Memphis to start a salsa music band. She agreed and was given a repertoire of salsa classics. Orquesta Caliente was born the band travelled all over the south playing festivals like the King Biscuit Blues Festival, Memphis in May Music Festival, Bowling Green Kentucky Festival, Beale Street Music Festival among many others and was the first Latin Band to play on world famous Beale Street, making Melina and Orquesta Caliente one of the most distinctive bands in the south nominated for Best New Band and Best New Artis in 1999 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences . Soon Melina was traveling to Nashville on the weekends to perform and write songs with other musicians. After a short stint in Nashville, Melina decided that Salsa music was what she wanted to focus on so she moved back to Puerto Rico to learn more about her chosen craft. In Puerto Rico again Melina discovered her true calling she travelled all over the island listening to the music of her homeland experimenting with sounds and learning how to sing and dance salsa. Thus inspiring one of here best known lyrics "La Chica De San Juan":
"I'm la chica de San Juan
Living in America
Mucho gusto como estan
Hey was happening !
I am here to bring sabor
Coming from my Latinsoul
Where are all my people at
Hey was happening ! "
This song "La Chica de San Juan" being the title track of her record Rumba's SalsaSoul Delight. This record reflects a mixture of tropical and soul rhythms, and employs a very spanglish style of writing language that has become emergent in recent years with the influx of Latinos in the United States. Upon its completion Melina decided not to stay in Puerto Rico and returned to the United States to support her album. Upon her return she was asked to perform by Ramses Arraya percussionist for the band Editus from Costa Rica, band that backed up her idol Rubén Blades in his two GRAMMY nominated records to perform on a record he was producing, "Corazon en Clave" (Heart in Clave rhythm). In order to record this vocal on the song "Yo Soy La Rumba" (I Am The Rumba), Melina was asked to travel to Miami, Florida . Soon after she relocated to the city.
" I am Puerto Rican and Puerto Rico lives in me, in everything I do, Memphis is also a part of me and it makes me the artist I am, but Miami is where it all comes together for me . The mixture of all the beautiful peoples of our Latin American countries, it fuels my soul."
In Miami, Melina has become one of the most sought after singer performers, opening up for legendary bands like Tommy Olivencia and La Sonora Poncena she also has played with Larry Harlow and Tito Nieves. Also she has performed at Sean P. Diddy Combs birthday celebration and many other events. Melina recently returned to Memphis with her band from Miami to a sell out crowd.