You can’t go wrong starting your movie — ANY movie — with a version of “Bang Bang,” that seminal, signature Latin pop hit, the ne plus ultra of Latin Boogaloo.
So “We Like It Like That,” a documentary about that somewhat slighted era in American pop, does just that — bouncing, right out of the gate with the infectious, sexy, comical and danceable tune that every band leader and his hermano covered during the era when Mambo married to R & B and boogaloo was born.
Writer-director Mathew Ramirez Warren tracked down the performers — some of whom are still playing, others resting on their laurels — who created this music in reaction to the mambo of Tito Puente and others that their parents loved. In the melting pot of New York City, Cuban-American and Nuyorican kids absorbed the doo wop pop, rock, R & B and soul, “developed a taste for collard greens and cornbread,” and Boogaloo was born.
“Bang Bang” was pretty much the source song of the genre and the movment, and hearing its creator chuckle through the PG-13 way it was created (live, on stage, trying to get an African American audience to dance) is a hoot.
Percussionists demonstrate the many varied sounds you can get off a standard Latin drum kit, playing the side of the drum head, the rim, the edge of the cowbell, etc.
Johnny Colon explains “adding blues notes” to Spanish-Cuban “guijara” music, and creating the sound.
Joe Bataan visits the church he used to break into, as a kid, to play a piano in the basement at all hours. They break the lock on that same piano so he can try it again, 60 years later.
The music was born, blew up and then died so suddenly — years before salsa surpassed it — that its many practitioners are full of conspiracy theories about why it went away.
And it’s the nature of such documentaries to end with an extended modern day concert clip, “Twenty Feet from Stardom” style. And as with all such films, the feeling generated by that is a mix of nostalgia, curiosity and fatigue. We’ve seen these guys at their peak, and seeing them still kicking it out as they’re pushing 70 is always somewhat deflating. They’re often fronting bands much younger than them, and they come off as elder statesmen propped up by youngsters who still have their A-game.
But “We Like It Like That” fills in some very necessary course requirements in Americans’ college of musical knowledge. Just hearing how that seminal, signature hit “Bang Bang” came about is worth the price of admission.
Cast: Joe Bataan, Johnny Colon, Pete Rodriquez, Benny Bonilla
Credits: Written and directed by Mathew Ramirez Warren. A Saboteur Media release.
Running time: 1:17