Chino Rodriguez

Chino Rodriguez
Chino Rodriguez
Background information
Birth name James Mui
Also known as Chino Rodriguez
Born February 2, 1954 (1954-02-02) (age 57)
Genres Salsa, Latin jazz
Occupations Trombonist, composer, band leader, producer, artist manager, music label owner, booking agent, business consultant, creative consultant, guest speaker
Instruments Trombone
Years active 1965-present
Labels SALSA / Mary Lou Records, Oriente Music Group
Associated acts Larry Harlow, Andy Harlow, Fania All-Stars

Latin Music Booking

Oriente Music Group (OMG)
Notable instruments

Chino Rodriguez is an internationally acclaimed music producer, band leader, musician, manager, booking agent, record company executive, business consultant, and record label owner, specializing in Latin music, most notably Salsa and Latin jazz. He is recognized as one of the top impresarios of the Latin music industry.

Chino was born James Mui in New York City on February 2, 1954 in the Little Italy / Chinatown area of Manhattan to a Chinese father (Chueng Mui), who obtained U.S. citizenship by joining the Merchant Marines during World War II, and a third-generation Puerto Rican mother (Gloria Figueroa Rodriguez). He was raised by his Italian uncle in the Mulberry Street area of Little Italy and grew up listening to a constantly changing mix of international music. With such an interracial family background and the influence of a multicultural, multilingual urban environment, Chino is the poster child for America's cultural diversity.


Early music career

Chino saw Boogaloo legend Johnny Colon performing during a New York street fair and was inspired to take up trombone at age 12 so that he could play Latin music. He tried to learn trombone by ear and then took music at JHS 65 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. His attempts to form a Salsa band at school to perform at talent shows at a time when most of his peers were listening to various styles of rock music proved unsuccessful – after all, Johnny Colon's Boogaloo Blues was released the same year as the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper -- but he quickly found like-minded young musicians in New York to jam with.

It was an exciting time as the boom in Latin music in New York was taking place, and an influx of Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican immigrants were creating the rapidly evolving, unmistakably New York "Salsa" genre. By his late teens he had met Orchestra Dee Jay in Brooklyn, who soon allowed him into the fold as a band boy, then later as an occasional coro (chorus) singer. The band's trombonist Belly gave Chino informal lessons during rehearsal breaks and it wasn’t long before Chino formed his first band on the Lower East Side, simply called Chino Rodriguez and his Orchestra in 1968-69. Like most young bands, they rehearsed incessantly with paid gigs here and there, usually the round of weddings, birthdays, and private parties familiar to every young band.

After high school Chino studied improvisation with the late Barry Rogers and Jose Rodriguez, trombonist in Eddie Palmieri's band. "Barry Rogers and José Rodriguez... were the very best Salsa trombonists of the late 60's and early 70's", Chino said in a 2010 interview. "Between the two it was like going to Harvard and Yale. Barry taught me improv and sight reading and José taught me breathing and tone with power."

That early playing experience inspired him to continue working with many bands and companies, large and small, within the music industry in the late '60s and '70s. He met Salsa artists and producers Larry and Andy Harlow and would often sing coro at their gigs. At parties and clubs all over the city Chino met and networked with Latin music pioneers such as Harvey Averne, the late Jerry Masucci, Ralph Mercado, and José Cubello. Chino told music journalist Ian Morrison, "Back in the day once I started hanging out with Larry Harlow, things started to happen, I got more focused and since I met a lot of the promoters / club owners I started getting more work around the New York Area.... In the 1970s heyday of Latin music in New York you had to be good to 'cut the mustard.' Many of the bands of that time cut an album or two, broke up, went their separate ways and thought, that was it."

Through the local musician's union American Federation of Musicians 802 Chino found work playing music for New York City Department of Parks arts program. During the summer and early fall months he was able to work seven days a week performing for non-profit organizations during the week. From 1970 to early 1974 he performed all over the city's five boroughs at summer music festivals and street fairs, employing his salesmanship skills to persuade sponsors to cover the costs, saving the city's art budget hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was recognized by the mayor's office for his work in bringing live Latin Tropical bands to the city's summer festivals and was awarded a citation, with his name placed on the City History Books for outstanding citizens of New York City.

Recording career

While some other Latino musicians (most notably Tito Puente) were constantly critical of the term "Salsa" to describe the genre of Afro-Cuban and Tropical music that was enjoying so much attention at the time, Chino ignored the ongoing tedious cultural debate and went about simply composing. He assembled a group of musicians and recorded two albums for Ismael Maisonave's label, Salsa Records: Maestro De Kung-Fu, produced by Andy Harlow, and Si Te Vas Mi China, produced by Larry Harlow. "I knew a lot of the musicians and just asked them to come up and record. They all worked for hire. Back during the 70's it was ‘love thy neighbor,’ the flower generation, love is everywhere. Everyone was just really helpful and willing to work with everyone… Some had a price and some would just do it."

Larry Harlow was best known for his own ground-breaking albums for Fania Records in the mid-'60s and for his production work with the Fania All-Stars (Estrellas de Fania), a Salsa supergroup composed of the label's top artists. Fania was so influential and successful that Jerry Masucci was acquiring nearly every small Latin label that came on the market, owning eleven by 1977.

Chino told an interviewer: "The Harlow brothers were just great, they really mentored me… They are brothers, and it was like super opinions between them. I had wanted Larry to do the first album, but since Larry was producing a Fania All-Star Album as well as some other project, he didn’t have the time, so Andy stepped in. Larry would show up anyway… letting Andy know what was wrong or what should go where, and that was something I stayed away from. Never get in the middle of family, that's my motto. Andy got to record some sax and vibes on the first album as well as share the producing with Larry."

Chino onstage with Jose Rodriguez and Lewis Kahn, early 1970s

Maestro de Kung-Fu contained "La Computadora", the first Latin recording using a MOOG synthesizer, played by Larry Harlow. Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriguez played on "Moonlight Serenade." Chino says, "What an artist! This guy would play and you would just be amazed. He would just make you be amazed when you heard the sound come out of the piano. It was true magic." After the album's release, Chino Rodriguez y La Consagracion was nominated for Latin New York Magazine's award for Best New Band. "When the albums were first released I was already working the market in New York. Back during the 1970s there were more clubs than bands, so you would work every day. At that time for $30 to $50 per man you would work four or five forty-five minute sets for that money. It was hard work and long hours, and we would work after hour clubs also. A day started at 8 p.m. and ended about 10 a.m. next day, everyday, if you were a hot band. If not, you still worked at least five days a week, same hours."

Chino's second album, Si Te Vas Mi China, was recorded in 1976 after a year's worth of daily rehearsals. It produced two hits upon its release in 1977 and, like his debut album, achieved gold status. "I think musically it shows how the musicianship grew and the experience of playing every day stood out", he says. "Also working with Jon Fausty and other top Fania artists dropping by and just having all of the guys in the business at that time come by and just hang out was the most greatest thing for a guy who not only was part of the business but was still very much a fan."

A third album was recorded for Salsa Records but never released.

Computer guru

After becoming a hard-working mainstay of the New York club circuit for over a decade, Chino partially left the club scene and the music industry in the late '70s to concentrate on family life and work in the burgeoning U.S. computer industry. The New York Salsa scene was all but dead; just as the Beatles and early rock bands had pushed Salsa out of the dance halls, disco supplanted Salsa in the clubs and DJ's were becoming more prevalent than live bands. He was not alone; many rock musicians whose careers hit rocky times went back to college to earn degrees in areas like computer science. Chino had the foresight to recognize the importance that, while still working on large Unix and IBM mainframe systems, personal computers would take on over the next twenty years to present.

Chino was no stranger to technology outside the recording studio. He had begun working in computer systems as a teen-ager in the late 1960s through a Young Life Organization sponsored by the Archdiocese of New York. He began training in the computer department at Burlington Industries in New York City before joining the U.S. Navy in 1970. Despite being on a program of one year of active duty and three years of reserve, Chino was sent to Vietnam then was stationed at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida. When he was finally able to return home to his wife and young son, he went to work in Wall Street brokerage firms in the computer department, an easy entry thanks to his government A-1 security clearance. While also working with his band and attending college classes at night at Richmond College in Staten Island, his day job consisted of maintaining large Hugh mainframe computer systems. He was Senior Manager at Western Union Telegraph in charge of the entire company's internal phone system, where he also wrote the guideline handbook for the company's fail-safe fall back procedure. He was involved in the development of the first AirFone at Western Union's New Jersey headquarters and later promoted to Executive Director of Technical Support in the sales department. That department supported Western Union's Easylink, a PC-based Telex system and early forerunner of the internet and what is now electronic mail.

While still working with his band at night and on weekends, in 1983 Chino went to work for a Western Union Affiliate as Vice President of Technical Sales. Three years later he worked as a consultant at Manufacture Handover Trust Bank to help develop what is now known as the ATM system. He opened his own computer consulting business selling clone PCs and writing dBase 4 software for doctors' and lawyers' offices. After selling his firm he went back to consulting for Computer Sciences Corp., best known for its contracts supporting U.S. federal government computer networks. Chino became Senior Computer Scientist assigned to the United States Postal Service, in charge of the New York Long Island Division and one of eight people assigned to develop the new extended zip code system (zip + 4).

But even as computers began to take on a more and more dominant role in business and society, justifying Chino's early interest in the young industry, he missed working full-time at his true passion: music. He left the postal system in 1989 at the earliest opportunity, a move that did not surprise his closest friends. "Chino's not the corporate type, and neither am I", said two-time Latin music Grammy Award winning producer Harvey Averne in 2010. "He's a rebel. He wasn't going to be happy working in an office every day for a big company."

Chino's son James Rodriguez, vice-president of Oriente Music Group, LLC, points out that while it may appear that Chino took a break from music, he never really left it entirely. He used what he learned from corporate life and applied it to the music industry. Whenever possible Chino jammed with Latin musicians, performed with his own Salsa band, assisted musician relatives and friends, and as always, looked out for the business interests of those musicians close to him.

Latin music impresario

Chino returned to working full-time in the business side of the music industry in 1991, becoming Senior Vice President and General Manager of the newly formed Hidden Faces Records. Chino said in 2010: "I was made an offer to head up a record company call Hidden Faces and produce two of the artists signed. So I did it, I sold my company and went back to the music business with my eyes wide open." As General Producer, Chino streamlined the recording process for the label, choosing projects, music producers, songwriters, arrangers, budgets, and studios personally.

It was immediately evident that while some of the featured artists in Latin music were new, the same business people he had met working behind the scenes in the 1970s were still there. This network was advantageous when Chino decided to start his own businesses. After organizing business operations for Hidden Faces he opened his own artist management company, Chino Rodriguez Management (C.R.M.), and booking agency, OMNI Latino Entertainment (OLE), in 1992-93 with partner Angel Rodrguez, a former New York City councilman (Brooklyn District). He opened his offices in Brooklyn, New York and began signing the surviving original pioneers of Salsa: Joe Cuba, Larry Harlow, Ismael Miranda, Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez, Adalberto Santiago, Ray Barretto, El Gran Combo, the Lebron Brothers, Joe Bataan, Bobby Valentín, and Angel Canales, anyone who was still left from the Fania All-Stars. Some of these artists had not worked in years. 2011 Chino continues to work in the Music Booking and Management field as well as handle the day to day of his Record and Publishing business. He has several Artist still working strong, Latin Pop / Merengue Artist Jandy Feliz, Salsa Artist Giro Lopez, and trademark holders Legendary Meren-House and Hip Hop Artists Proyecto Uno out of New York.

OMNI Latin Entertainment

CRM/OLE attracted such well known artists as:

Ismael Miranda: The artist nicknamed 'El nino bonito de la salsa' -- the pretty boy of Salsa, member of the Fania All-Stars, composer and songwriter, owner of IM Records. Chino produced the CD Cantar o no Cantar by Ismael Miranda and Junior Gonzalez for ASEFRA Records, featuring Larry Harlow as a guest pianist. Cantar O No Cantar was well received, with three hit songs by Junior Gonzalez.

Giro: Jorge López, known as Giro, former teen-idol from the Puerto Rican boy band Los Chicos (rivals to Menudo), current leader of Giro Lopez y su Orchestra and independent production label owner

Joe Cuba: Conga player known as 'The Father of Latin Boogaloo', helped to develop the mixture of Latin soul/R&B/Afro-Cuban musical styles in New York, led the Joe Cuba Sextet, and hits include "Sock it To Me Baby" and "Bang Bang."

The Lebron Brothers: Angel, José, Carlos, Frankie, and Pablo Lebron recorded very early Salsa and pre-Salsa Cuban music at the very beginning of Fania Records' existence.

Nestor Sanchez: Vocalist, known as "El Albino Divino" / The Divine Albino.

Angel Canales: The rebel of Salsa.

Yomo Toro: Guitarist and cuatro player who appeared on many classic hits.

Secreto (with members formerly of Sancocho): Merengue hip hop group from New York that began recording in the mid '90s and won Premios ACE and Billboard Latin Music Awards.

Spagga y La Raza: Chino found this group for Telemundo's program Buscando Bandas, the Lead member Spagga is now with Proyecto Uno and has become one of the groups most valued performer.

Proyecto Uno: Merengue hip hop group from New York that began recording in the early '90s and won several Premios Lo Nuestro and Billboard Latin Awards as well as an Emmy. Their song "Esta Pegao" was the Colombian World Cup Team's song in 1996.

Internationally and throughout the U.S. CRM / OLE successfully booked:

Frankie Ruiz: Troubled salsa singer and musician, known as El Papa de la Salsa / the Father of Salsa and one of the leading "sensual salsa" artists. He performed with La Solucion, Lo Dudo, Tommy Olivencia before going solo.

Tito Rojas: "El Gallo" (The Rooster) Salsa singer and band leader, early member of the Fania All-Stars, Paoli Prize winner, and had multi-platinum record sales.

Elvis Crespo: Grammy Award and Latin Grammy Award winning merengue singer. "Suavemente" was a hit off his solo debut album of the same name and remained at the top of the Billboard Hot Latin Tracks for six weeks.

Isidro Infante: Musical arranger, pianist, director, and producer for RMM Records, the independent salsa label founded by Ralph Mercado that re-energized the New York Latin music scene 1987-2001.

Jandy Feliz: Was the singer with Chi Chi Peralta, Jandy wrote all the hit songs and with Chi Chi won many Grammys, Jandy Feliz is still working with Chino Rodriguez. As well as other top Merengue artist such as Johnny Ventura and Wilfrido Vargas.

El General: Panamanian Latin House Reggae artist, called the Father or the Godfather of Reggaeton, whose song "Tu Pum Pum" became a huge cross-over club hit. Franco (El General) has gone on to preach the Gospel and is no longer performing onstage.

Larry Harlow: Musician, producer, known for creating the "Fania Sound" and producing the Fania All-Stars albums. Chino was the factor that brought Larry Harlow back to the world of Salsa after a long depression Harlow was in, Harlow owes he re-Vamp career on the Marketing ideas of Chino Rodriguez.

Ray Barretto: Puerto Rican jazz musician, percussionist known as the Godfather of Latin Jazz, King of the Hard Hands, and Fania All-Star. He was a major influence on Carlos Santana and also recorded with the Rolling Stones.

Johnny Pacheco: Dominican musician, bandleader, producer, and co-founder of Fania Records.

Descarga Boricua: Originally started by Producer Frank Ferrer which sold all rights to RMM Records in 1997.

Bobby Valentín: Classic salsa bandleader and Fania star, "the King of the Bass" He also owns Bronco Records.

Adalberto Santiago: One of the best loved salsa singers, was in Ray Barretto's band as well as Los Kimbos, before starting a successful solo career.

Latin Legends of Fania: A mini Fania All-Stars group led by Larry Harlow that frequently played clubs like SOB's in New York, in fact Chino was the factor that brought Larry Harlow back to the world of Salsa after a long depression Harlow was in, Harlow owes he re-Vamp career on the Marketing ideas of Chino Rodriguez.

Salsa Legends: A collective group of Salsa Romantica artists. La Palabra is credited with the creation of the genre.

Sancocho: A merengue house group signed by Chino in the mid-1990s. Their hit song "Tumba La Casa" put them on the map. Chino managed and traveled with them for about two years until the band split up, till this day the band never recovered Royalties from Cutting Records.

Fresh / Son Inocentes: Juan "Fresh" Osoria and Mario "Tragedy" Celis formed Son Inocentes, the group was notice after winning the Premios ACE award, this was a New York Latin group that mixed rap, reggaeton, deep house, reggae, Salsa, merengue, cumbia, and bachata, heavily utilizing tropical instruments. Dominican-born Fresh (originally a member of Inocentes MC's) became a born-again Christian and changed the focus of his music to reflect the changes he made in his life. He also began his own ministry in Florida, Seguidores De Cristo (Followers of Christ). Also till this day Fresh or Inocentes never recovered any Royalties from Cutting Records.

Lalo Rodríguez: Salsa singer and musician, known for his vocal work with Eddie Palmieri and his own hits "Ven Devorame Otra Vez." Chino Rodriguez was the guiding force behind recording Lalo's comeback CD Naci para Cantar for Capitol / EMI Latin. Chino got Jose Behar to use two time Grammy Producer Harvey Averne. In 2010 Lalo Rodriguez was working on a New Release.

Fania All-Stars reunion and 30th anniversary

Chino found himself in an unusual business situation in 1993: a new boom of Latin music was taking place among the youth market, with artists like La India and Marc Anthony being played in dance clubs, while he had a clientele list of semi-retired, now-obscure Salsa stars who were still desperate to perform.

"Everyone had written these great Salsa icons off. No one was hiring them, because Ralph Mercado (former Fania promoter) opened his record label (RMM) and he had to get the new generation thinking about his new and young artists, and not allow radio to play any of the Fania artists at all. This happened in the U.S. and Puerto Rico and filtered through to Europe and South America and Central America. These great icons were starving."

Inspired by the many rock band reunions and country supergroups attracting attention at the time, Chino lobbied Jerry Masucci and Ralph Mercado for a Fania All-Stars reunion. Chino was already managing the most iconic of the Salsa artists and knew how eager they were to get back to playing regularly in front of larger audiences. He had already booked Larry Harlow as a solo artist at New York City venues like SOB's, Broadway II, and the old Club Broadway on 96th Street, and he was managing and booking former Fania All-Star Ismael Miranda. Prior to Masucci's death and the sale of Fania Records, Chino and Ismael Miranda convinced Larry Harlow and Ray Barretto to create the smaller supergroups Latin Legends of Fania and Salsa Legends, whom Chino booked at SOB's in New York City. Barretto had been considering such a group for years. The first Latin Legends show sold out. "No one thought it would work but Chino", Harvey Averne said. "Even I didn't think it would work. He taught all of us that night."

Masucci agreed to three Return of Fania All-Stars concerts in 1994 in New York and Puerto Rico, the first taking place at Madison Square Garden, with Chino acting as exclusive booking agent.

During the Billboard Latin Music Convention in Miami, Florida in 1993 Chino and producer Harvey Averne ran into Ralph Mercado in a hotel lobby as Mercado was leaving. Chino and Angel Rodriguez (his business partner at the time) had been struggling to make a deal with Mercado and Masucci for their client Ismael Miranda to appear in the upcoming reunited Fania All-Stars at Madison Square Garden. Seeing an opportunity in this chance meeting, Chino asked Harvey to hang out with Mercado and see if he could assist with booking Miranda. Harvey left with Mercado and headed to Mercado's hotel. They went first to the hotel nightclub, where Mercado asked the DJ to play new records by a few of his RMM artists. He asked for Harvey's input on the music and, taking his opinions very seriously, he immediately went to his hotel suite with Harvey to call his music producers and tell them what to change in the recordings.

It wasn't long before Mercado brought up his difficulties in settling on a price with Chino for Miranda to join the Fania All-Stars shows. Harvey Averne said in 2010: "I knew Ralphie [Mercado] wanted me to be at the first show at the Garden. I knew it was important to him for me to go. I told him that 'I'm not going to see that show. I can't see that band without Miranda. It would be like seeing the Beatles without Paul McCartney or Lennon before he was shot. I wouldn't go to see that.' I knew aesthetically that this was a travesty."

Chino knew that Masucci and Mercado were not willing to allow the Fania All-Stars concerts to take place without Ismael Miranda, because he had contacted the printing company who had created the poster for the Madison Square Garden concert, pretending to be from Jerry Masucci's office, and had asked which artists' names were listed. Ismael Miranda's name was on the poster. The Fania All-Stars deal had to close and the poster had already been printed. Mercado was unaware that Chino knew that Miranda's name had been included. When Harvey called Chino from Ralph Mercado's hotel suite, he knew he was going to have to adjust his original price in order for Ismael Miranda to be included in the reunion. Since Chino originally quoted a much higher price and now knew Miranda was on the poster, he and Harvey anticipated Masucci and Mercado's strategy. Harvey said: "I called Chino and put him on speaker. I knew what Ralphie would pay, because Chino and I discussed the issue, and I had planted that number in Ralphie's head just like Chino and I planned. So I said, 'Chino, one answer. Yes or no. If you say two words, I'm hanging up. Ralphie offered this amount for Miranda. Do you want it? Yes or no?' He said 'Yes.' That was it."

Although Chino's first priority was to reintroduce the Fania artists to a younger audience, he understood the need to look for new Latin talent as well. Maximo Patino was the very first intern at Ralph Mercado's Latin label RMM Records—a visionary independent enterprise that issued some of Marc Anthony's early material—when he met Chino. At the time Chino represented and booked RMM artists such as Descarga Boricua and took the time to mentor the young intern. "Chino's a father figure to me", Maximo says. "He's like the father I never had. He taught me everything. He's smart but he's a good guy. He brought a sense of honesty, not just with business, and there was a personal feel with him from the beginning. All the mom and pop smaller labels just got swallowed up by the big companies, but he treated artists like family. There was a camaraderie with his artists, and he understands them. I look up to him. He gave me a chance, and he didn't have to. He knows everything about the music business, and he was honest, really blunt and harsh about telling me how the business really works. You could tell when he came to the table to negotiate with guys in the business that they were cautious about dealing with Chino. He knew too much!" Maximo went on to work for November Media Group, a Latin booking agency specializing in providing speakers and artists for performances at higher educational facilities.

Television and film production

Chino expanded his interests into television and film in the late 1990s, first becoming a Casting Director for the American Spanish broadcast television network Telemundo's program Buscando Bandas. In 1998 he opened an online live music booking agency for all Latin artists and the following year moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he learned the intricacies of the Mexican music market. He booked artists such as: Gloria Treve, Alejandro Fernández, and Conjunto Primavera and got involved with independent film production in Los Angeles. In 2001 and 2002 he co-produced a documentary ("musimentary") called Tumba La Casa, (also the title of his clients Sancocho's hit song), which was released in 2003 by Yanny Films, an independent film studio. He still plans to launch a video company which will produce educational documentaries about Latin music, marketed to both Latinos and the broader American public.

Ana Elena Sanchez, of Anesa Integrated Marketing, a public relations and marketing firm focusing on the Hispanic market, said in 2010: "Chino is very knowledgeable and understands the concept of an artist. He works all the way around an artist. He informs artists that they need to make P.R. for themselves. He gives them tips on how to look attractive and use technology to promote yourself. His success is based on a combination of experience and passion for what he does and being on top of technology in media promotions."

For nearly three years Chino learned the intricate workings of the Latin music recording industry directly from Harvey Averne, artist, producer, owner of Coco Records, and former Fania Records and United Artists record executive. "Harvey took me under his wing and taught me every detail of the record business", Chino says. Eddie Palmieri and Lalo Rodríguez won the first two Grammy Awards in the U.S. for Best Latin Recording after the category was added to the awards roster in 1975: Palmieri's albums Sun of Latin Music and their follow-up Unfinished Masterpiece in 1976, both released by Coco and produced by Harvey Averne. (The Latin Grammy Awards did not have their own separate ceremony until 2000). Harvey had left the music industry after Coco Records folded, not long after disco arrived, but Chino encouraged him to return to producing. When Chino discovered that Lalo Rodríguez was living in an agent's squalid apartment, singing in a small Dominican nightclub, and had been suspended by EMI Latin for drug use, he dragged Harvey out of semi-retirement to meet with Lalo. Harvey threatened EMI with a multi-million dollar lawsuit if they did not remove Lalo's suspension. The company agreed on the condition that Harvey produce Lalo's new recordings, which he happily did. "I'd have to give credit to Chino for putting us together again", Harvey says. "He had the foresight to realize that if he got us together we could help each other out." Lalo's 1994 comeback CD, Naci para cantar (I was born to sing) was a critically acclaimed success.

Chino moved to Florida in 2002 to use his new knowledge base and reconnect with the Tropical Salsa business. Chino was recognized by the New York City Mayor's office for his work in bringing live Latin Tropical bands to the city's summer festivals and for his performance in numerous street festivals. He used his salesmanship skills to persuade sponsors to pay for these music festivals, saving the city's art budget hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Among his new clients was Emmy-winning Latino comedian Mike Robles, who grew up in the same area of Manhattan as Chino (as well as Jennifer Lopez). Chino booked Mike at college campuses throughout the country during Hispanic History Month and Latin heritage celebrations. "Chino is smart, and he definitely knows how to market an artist", Mike said in 2010. "I was impressed by his passion for what he does. Chino's a tough negotiator but he's straightforward with you. He reminds me of old-school business guys, straight up, 'This is how we do business. This is what I'm looking for. This is what I have. This is what the market asks for.' He puts artists before business, though, and that's rare. Most business guys put artists second or maybe third... I love to hear his stories about the Fania All-Stars and the music business back in the day. I just let him go down memory lane and listen when he gets on a roll."

Chino guided the career of reggaeton / hip-hop star Fresh from Latin rap to a sudden switch to Christian contemporary music. "He's been like a father to me", Fresh said in 2010. "Chino is a real close friend. I trust him with my eyes closed. If I come to him with something or ask him something, he gives me a straight answer. He has taught me a lot. I haven't had a manager like that, who is not selfish. I thought the ones I had were good, but they weren't like Chino." Chino booked Fresh at churches and Christian festivals, giving him a broader audience than his older reggaeton fans and more chances to preach. "Chino knows how I've changed. He supports and understands me. He knows that what I do, I'm doing it for the Lord."

Oriente Music Group

With the renewed interest in early classic salsa recordings throughout the world, Chino's two albums were re-released in 2004. In January 2010 he began a hybrid record label / distribution company / publishing company under the umbrella name Oriente Music Group. OMG immediately signed internationally acclaimed Puerto Rican salsa artist Giro Lopez. Giro Lopez, a former member of the Puerto Rican teen-idol boy band Los Chicos, has had several decades of experience navigating the shark-infested waters of the music industry. It is remarkable that he found a kind-hearted and trustworthy but sharp-witted business associate in Chino, who enjoys teaching younger proteges about the industry. Giro says, "Chino is my mentor. In this business there are a lot of cold, heartless people, but Chino has a good heart. He is very intelligent, very professional, polite, a perfectionist, but is another artist also. He is a good friend. He encouraged me to start my own business, and has been teaching me all the details of how to start my own business. He believes that I should have my own company, which is very big for me. He didn’t have to do that; he could have just signed me. But he told me ‘You can do it. You can do it yourself.’"


  • Maestro De Kung-Fu, SALSA Records, 1976. Re-released on CD 2004 by Mary Lou/SALSA Records.
  • Si Te Vas Mi China, SALSA Records, 1977. Re-released on CD 2004 by Mary Lou/SALSA Records.

External links



Flores, Juan. From Bomba to Hip Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0231110778

Leymarie, Isabelle. Cuban Fire: The Story of Salsa and Latin Jazz. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002. ISBN 978-0826465665

Morrison, Ian (2004), Passion Discs, "A Conversation with Chino Rodriguez",, retrieved 4 Jan 2010 

Washburne, Christopher. Sounding Salsa: Performing Latin Music in New York City. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1592133161

Original poster, New York Latin Music Awards, May 4, 1975.

New York Latin Magazine, 1968-1969.

New York Latin Magazine, 1975-1977.


Harvey Averne, January 2010; February 2010

Kelly Beaman, February 2010

Fresh, February 2010

Giro Lopez, January 2010

Maximo Patino, January 2010

Mike Robles, February 2010

James Rodriguez, January 2010

Ana Elena Sanchez, February 2010

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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