Latin music’s Luis Medina celebrates four decades in radio 

Luis Medina, who has devoted his life to bringing salsa music to the American mainstream, isn’t stopping anytime soon.

“I still listen to new music, I still play new music, I can keep up with anybody out there,” says Medina, who adds, “I’ve been doing broadcasting for 40 years, and I’m only 42 years old.”

On Saturday, El Vacilon Productions hosts a salsa dance party called “El Dia de Puerto Rico” at Oasis Café on Treasure Island in honor of the longtime KPFA 94.1 radio director and DJ. Salsa orchestras Son y Clave and Conjunto Karabal will appear, and Medina, a club DJ since the early 1990s, will play a set after the live performances.

While Medina, who is of Venezuelan and Mexican descent, promotes Latin jazz and world music on his KPFA show “Con Sabor,” salsa, which is based on traditional Cuban and Puerto Rican music, always has been his passion.

“Salsa isn’t a fad, salsa is really a part of the culture,” says Medina. “Now the younger demographic is coming to dance salsa.”

Medina says the genre is growing in popularity with people ages 18 to 40 in the Bay Area. Previously, it was most popular with people who came of age in the 1970s.

Medina grew up in San Francisco’s Mission District, surrounded by Latin music.

“I came from parents who had Latin radio on all the time,” he says. As a student at San Francisco State University, he hosted his first Latin radio program on KPOO-FM and soon after abandoned his original career plan of architecture to focus on music promotion.

In 1980, he hosted the first bilingual salsa program in radio history. “It was unheard of, nobody did it,” he says.

Medina, who has been bringing Latin and world music to the Bay Area on KPFA for 17 years, lives in Pleasant Hill, but says his heart will always be in the Mission.

“I’m not living out here because of gentrification of the Mission, which appalls me,” says Medina, who knows people who have been forced out of his childhood neighborhood because of rising rent prices. He says, “I have a wife and kids. This is where life took me.”

After four decades as a radio DJ and more than 20 years as a club DJ, Medina has no plans to slow down. He says, “I’m going to continue living my passion by spreading good music on the radio, in clubs, and internationally on my blog.”

IF YOU GO

El Dia de Puerto Rico

Where: El Vacilon/Oasis Café, 401 California Ave., Treasure Island

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $25

Contact: (415) 765-1900, (415) 765-0680, http://luisemedina.com/about/

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Chloe Johnson

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