By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
By the early ’90s, many of the artists associated with La Dinamita were disgruntled with Fuentes, and Meliyara left the group, citing a low salary and the lack of royalty payments. Lucho Argain and Margarita moved to Mexico, where they founded a local version of the Dinamita. Eventually Margarita would form Margarita La Sonora y So Sonora, performing the old Dinamita hits as well as new material. Fruko formed a new, multipiece Dinamita that commuted frequently to Los Angeles for massive gigs at the Bonaventure Hotel. But some of his musicians defected, stayed in town and assembled various incarnations of the band, which continue performing in California to this day. They face some fierce competition, though. Meliyara herself has been appearing in Los Angeles for the last two years with Sonora Meliyara, which includes her husband, bassist and musical director Rodrigo Morales, as well as former Dinamita and Latin Brothers singer Macondo. Discos Fuentes continues to release Dinamita records, but its new lineup has still to generate any heat outside South America.
Eating a slice of watermelon in the dining room of my Glendale home, Meliyara sports the melancholy smile of someone who‘s used to the music business ignoring her talent. With a guiding hand and the appropriate producer, she could easily become a Cesaria Evora, an Omara Portuondo, even a Celia Cruz. But the right producer hasn’t arrived yet, and it‘s doubtful that he’ll happen to frequent some of the salsa or norteño clubs where Meliyara performs with her Sonora.
Sitting beside her, Rodrigo Morales holds a pile of old Dinamita records and a folder with newspaper clippings, all meant to prove that Meliyara was a member of the group that made her famous, and that she has the right to perform the old hits on her own. Since they moved to Los Angeles, leaving their two grown daughters in Bogota, the couple has had to struggle with a number of lawsuits involving other Dinamitas. A recurring problem is that most promoters insist on booking her as La Sonora Dinamita instead of La Sonora Meliyara, a technicality she and Morales don‘t feel comfortable with.
As for reforming the good ol’ Dinamita, complete with Lucho Argain and Fruko, Meliyara says the idea is tempting, but probably out of the question. The 74-year-old Argain‘s health is frail, and besides, Morales says, they’d rather not talk business with Discos Fuentes again. Instead, they‘ve just released an album, Sin Alma y Sin Corazon, distributed by Balboa Records, offering new versions of all the Dinamita hits that Meliyara didn’t get to sing the first time around.
Still, Fruko himself mentioned the idea of a Dinamita reunion when he met with the couple some months ago, the day after a fiery Fruko y Sus Tesos concert at the Sportsmen‘s Lodge.
“We talked honestly about the past, and we explained to him that returning to the band would be very difficult for us,” says Meliyara. “We’re doing our own thing now,” adds Morales. The once strong, still shiny piece of china known as La Sonora Dinamita has been broken into too many pieces. It may be too late to put it back together.