Filed Under:

Ghetto Brothers: Guitars Over Guns

Play associated audio

The Ghetto Brothers functioned as one of many youth gangs that formed in the 1960s as economic woes and governmental neglect began to transform New York City's South Bronx for the worse. Led by Benjamin "Benjy" Melendez, the gang was originally, literally, just him and his brothers. As kids, they had called themselves Los Junior Beatles, and that Fab Four influence never left.

In 1971, Melendez and The Ghetto Brothers were pivotal in helping to broker a truce between various Bronx gangs. The Brothers channeled their formerly felonious energies into music instead. For their one and only album, Power Fuerza, they drew on everything from Frankie Lymon's street-lamp doo-wop to Santana's fuzzed-out Latin rock.

Power Fuerza documents a unique musical moment in early 1970s New York history. You can hear the lingering influence of rock 'n' roll, the height of funk's impact and the burgeoning salsa era. The album also captures the political shifts of the time, especially with the rise of a Puerto Rican independence movement that swept through New York City's uptown.

The peace treaty that The Ghetto Brothers helped negotiate was pivotal in the eventual emergence of hip-hop in the South Bronx, but the group's musical career faded too quickly for it to have joined in. Power Fuerza dwelled in obscurity for decades. However, by the time some deep-pocketed Latin record collectors rediscovered it a generation later — drawn to its remarkable back story and mix of sounds — it had become a collector's item worth up to $1,000.

With its reissue, Power Fuerza returns to us as a time capsule of sorts, but its message hasn't dulled with the intervening years: Choose guitars over guns, and let music be your mayhem.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Chinese Dissident Artist Ai Weiwei Restricted To 20-Day U.K. Visa

Ai says he was denied a six-month visa because U.K. officials said he didn't list a criminal conviction in his application. Ai was imprisoned in China, but he notes he was never charged with a crime.
NPR

Humans Aren't The Only Ones To Go Ape Over Diets: Chimps Detox, Too

A group of Ugandan chimps has found a great way to boost their mineral intake and neutralize bitter compounds in their diet: by eating clay.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour - July 31, 2015

Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

NPR

Debris Found In The Indian Ocean May Be From Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet

Investigators believe a piece of debris found on the French island of RĂ©union in the Indian Ocean could be from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared in March 2014.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.