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A Different Flavor

Meet Sabrosas Latin Orchestra, San Diego’s only all-female salsa band


When asked what draws her and her bandmates in Sabrosas Latin Orchestra to salsa music, timbales player Monica Saenz has a quick answer at the ready: “Because it’s fun!”

To see Sabrosas live is to understand and feel that very sensation of movement and elation. The group, which formed in 2018, has kept a lineup of between 10 and 12 members, including Saenz, vocalists Antonia Ruiz and Mariela Contreras, bassist Justine Dolorfino-Thieman, trumpet players Elizabeth Meeker Howard and Alyssa Keene, trombonist Shirley Coggon, percussionists Janet Murray Thornton and Monette Marino, and pianist Tomo Osako.

Their music is lively and vibrant, with live setlists that mix more traditional salsa standards with salsa-fied versions of cover songs by more contemporary artists like Adele. When the band performs at a festival, street fair, or other outdoor events, they tend to catch people off guard in the best possible way.

San Diego hasn’t historically been a major hub for salsa music, though salsa bands have been here for years. The group frequently plays at local festivals: last year it played at the Carlsbad Music Festival, the Rock n’ Roll Marathon, Pride by the Beach, and San Diego-area wineries. A January Belly Up show has been postponed, so keep an eye for its promised rescheduling.

By Jeff Terich

Jeff Terich is the music critic behind the blog The Setlist. His writing has been published in Stereogum, Bandcamp Daily, American Songwriter, Fodor's and Vinyl Me Please.

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