PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Rosa Benitez and Johnny Cruz are both lifelong musicians. They can often be found showing off their skills in impromptu performances at a well-known music store in the Latino community called Centro Musical in West Kensington.
“It’s like the heart of the neighborhood,” says Cruz. “The biggest store in the barrio.”
In 2014, Reinaldo Melendez became the owner of the traditional business.
“The store has been very traditional for 65 years,” says Melendez. “We have a lot of mostly Caribbean instruments, like bongos, congas.”
He also carries a variety of guitars.
Cruz says he’s been playing guitar since he was six.
“I play the original from Puerto Rico. It’s the Quatro. this is my love That’s first love, music,” says Cruz.
He has been going to the music store for 30 years and getting to know Melendez and other musicians.
“These are my friends,” he says.
Cruz considers Melendez “like my brother.”
“Rosa is like my sister. It’s my second home,” he says.
All three are Puerto Rican and Melendez carries many Puerto Rican souvenirs, like dominoes, along with the music that binds the community.
“I love Latin jazz,” says Cruz.
“Puerto Rico is very rich in music,” says Melendez. “We have salsa, bachata, reggaeton, you know, all Caribbean music.”
“When I come here, I listen to music,” says Benitez. “And I will sing. All the time.”
Benitez says she sometimes sings with Cruz in his group, Raíces Boricuas, which performs around town.
“Raíces Boricuas, it’s a folk group,” says Cruz.
He says the group’s name loosely translates to “Puerto Rican roots.”
Cruz says Benitez sometimes plays guiro and sings when performing with him.
“Music is always good, you know?” says Melendez. “It’s always nice to see people play.”
“I’m happy when I come here,” says Benitez. “This store is my life.”
“Centro Musical is also a community center,” says Melendez. “We’re here to try to please the community.”
“And we’re all happy, like family,” says Cruz.
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https://6abc.com/centro-musical-west-kensington-music-shop-puerto-rico-hispanic-heritage-month/12300056/ Local musicians often play in longtime West Kensington music store