The Last Mambo

The Last Mambo Community Screening Event
Join us October 18, 8pm at the California Jazz Conservatory for a special community screening event!


The Last Mambo is a one-hour documentary that explores the unique heritage of the San Francisco Bay Area Salsa and Latin Jazz community. The Last Mambo profiles how this network of dancers, musicians and DJs have both created innovative approaches to  Afro-Cuban based music and transformed it into a social movement dedicated to integration, cultural preservation and education. Coming fall of 2015 . Read More

The Last Mambo Trailer

Director's Notes

Latin music and dance ignited my life in 1995 and since then I have spent thousands of rapturous hours dancing, teaching and writing about salsa and absorbing Latin jazz. “The Last Mambo” was inspired by my first trip to Havana, a city overflowing with conservatories, theaters and museums devoted to the rich music and dance heritage of the Cuban people. My conversation with Olav Alen Rodriguez, a renowned Cuban ethnomusicologist, convinced me that the Bay Area  Latin music community had its own diverse, ever evolving story that needed to be told.

What is unique about our story? Wayne Wallace, composer, trombonist and musical director of “The Last Mambo said it best: “Everything we do here artistically is a hybrid. There is no one Cuban community, Dominican community or Puerto Rican community. We have the possibility for creating fresh new music here because nobody has to stay in any one camp.”

While making this film, I discovered that for over 60 years Bay artists who hail from across the country and all over the world have freely cross-pollinated, collaborated and created our unique brand Afro-Latino music. I was blown away by the interviews and published material for the film that showed how the Latin music scene was also a magnet for racial integration and social empowerments.  

But the closure of Jelly’s, one of my favorite salsa hangouts, in 2005, drove home the fragile and transient nature this art form.  The demise of Jelly’s was a harbinger of the dismantlement of an artistic community, bulldozed by soaring real estate prices, sprawling gentrification and the changing social demographics of the current tech boom. “The Last Mambo” celebrates the community’s struggle to survive by promoting education and outreach to music and dance lovers of all ages, social classes and ethnicities.   

“The Last Mambo” is about hope, solidarity and resilience in the face of inescapable  social change.  I want more people to appreciate and applaud the talent we have here, find out more about the pillars of the Latin music and dance community, and support live music.  I would love for people in other cities (e.g. Seattle, Portland, Chicago, D.C)  to explore and document their own salsa and Latin jazz communities’ past, present and future.  All along this film making journey I have been thrilled by the encouragement and support from friends and family for this project.

"The Last Mambo" is a hopeful documentary that showcases Salsa and Latin Jazz in the Bay Area as a potent social force that brings together our diverse community of performers and participants, embodies cultural preservation and promotes artistic expression and education. 

Love the dance, live the music.
Rita Hargrave