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, [3]

Biggest hits[edit]

"El Preso" - Lead vocals by Wilson "Saoko" Manyoma[edit]

Recorded in 1975, "El Preso" is one of Colombia's most popular songs.[4] In an interview, "Fruko" Estrada said, even decades later, that people are "increíblemente fanática" ("incredibly fanatical") about "El Preso," which "constituirse en un himno mundial de la salsa" ("became a world anthem of salsa music").[5] The song 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 30 years 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"). The actual inspiration for songwriter Velásquez was a friend's letter describing another friend's pain being jailed for 30 years on a drug charge.[5] 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." [6]

Other lead vocals by Wilson "Saoko" Manyoma[edit]

"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"
"María La 'O'"

Other well-known hits[edit]

"A la Memoria del Muerto" (sung by Piper Pimienta)
"Barranquillero Arrebatao" [7]
"El Son Sí Se Fue De Cuba"

Bandleader Julio Ernesto "Fruko" Estrada[edit]

Medellin native Julio Ernesto "Fruko" Estrada Rincón was expelled from school for fighting and began his musical career at the age of 15 as a studio musician for Discos Fuentes record company.[8] Noticed by Lisandro Meza, Estrada was added to Meza's popular group, Los Corraleros de Majagual, providing a conjunto or tipico-style music.[9] 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.

In the 1970s, Estrada helped mold the Colombian salsa scene, acting as arranger, bass player, studio musician, and bandleader for his Tesos as well as backing the highly successful Colombian salsa band, The Latin Brothers, plus launching salsa acts Afrosound in 1973 and Wganda Kenya in 1976,[8][10] Former lead singer Wilson Manyoma remembered Estrada as a strict leader.

In 1998, when Colombia secured a position in the Futbol World Cup, Fruko came up with the team song: "La Pachanga Del Futbol." This proved to be one of Fruko's more endearing and infectious hits.[11]

In 2013, Estrada, a Scientologist, ran for the Colombian Senate on the ticket of the governing U party of President Juan Manuel Santos.[12] In an interview with Colombia's Semana, Fruko said his purpose was to "defend the arts", representing the rights of musicians who often outlive their commercial success. He was inspired by salsa musician Rubén Blades who attained elected office in Panama.[13]

The nickname "Fruko" came from the advertising doll of a popular Colombian fruit company called FRUCO ("Frutera Colombiana"),[14] for which friends saw a resemblance to Estrada. Both he and the doll were missing a tooth. Estrada changed the "C" in the Fruco trademark to "K" to differentiate himself from the brand name.[8] The name was ironic because the Fruco doll advertised tomato 'salsa', meaning tomato 'sauce', whereas "Fruko" Estrada introduced to Colombia the style of music also called 'salsa'.[5]

Prominent former members[edit]

Joe Arroyo[edit]

"Fruko" Estrada discovered teenager Arroyo, who started by singing in bordellos,[15] in 1972 and in 1973 installed him as primary lead vocals for Fruko y sus Tesos.[16] Arroyo left for a solo career, forming his Joe Arroyo y la Verdad group in 1981. Arroyo's "La Rebelión" is 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, beginning on the album "Ayunando",[5] and including "El Preso" before leaving to pursue a solo career.

Edulfamid "Piper Pimienta" Diaz[edit]

"Piper Pimienta" Díaz rotated lead vocals in the early 1970s before moving on to perform with The Latin Brothers and recording solo.[17]


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. ^ Ernesto Lechner (9 April 2006). "Colombian music's allure, contrasts can shake the soul". Chicago Tribune. 
  4. ^ "Adiós a Álvaro Velásquez, compositor de "El Preso"". Senal Radio Colombia (in Spanish). 29 August 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d González, Eric E. (14 December 2000). "Fruko: De Colombia para el Mundo Entero". Herencia Latina (in Spanish). 
  6. ^ "LETRA 'EL PRESO'". 
  7. ^ "Barranquillero Arrebatao". 
  8. ^ a b c "Fruko, El Teso: su historia". El Universal (in Spanish). 19 June 2011. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ "The Afrosound of Colombia Vol. 1". Pop Matters. 2 September 2010. 
  11. ^ Latin: 100 Essential CD's - The Rough Guide, Sue Steward, Page 55, ISBN 1-85828-733-2
  12. ^ "The stars taking part in Colombia’s 2014 elections". Colombia Reports. 19 December 2013. 
  13. ^ "Hay que defender las arte". Semana (in Spanish). 9 November 2013. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Latin Roots: Joe Arroyo". NPR. 5 September 2013. 
  16. ^ "Editorial: El Joe fue 'la rebelión'". El Tiempo. 26 July 2011. 
  17. ^ "Colombia's Fruko y Sus Tesos Shows Off Vast Hit Catalog". LA Times. 30 April 2001.