Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Los guiros me estan llamando!...."

(Chekeres - Hecho por Ralph Davila, Made by the late Ralph Davila, Pic courtesy of Willie Everich)

I gotta tell you, everytime I look at these chekeres two things cross my mind, they must have sounded great, and unfortunately you can't get them anymore. These are probably one of the rarest set of chekeres around (probably more rare than even Morty Sander's creations). See, the thing about these chekeres were that they were made by the late Rafael "Ralphie" Davila. Ralph the son of legendary sonero, Chivirico Davila, brother of apkwon, guirero and rumbero Israel "Izzy" Davila, and friend to many a rumbero, passed away about 18 years ago, and believe me his friends, family, and myself included have not forgotten the legacy that he has left behind. I wanted to introduce Ralph on this board, and what better way than to show off one of the few pics in existence (that I know of) that show his great work.

According to Willie and Jose, Ralph's chekeres were made with great attention to detail. See Ralph was a great craftsman and what he used to do was cut the necks off of the gourd, and what this allowed him to do was clean the inside real good, to allow for greater resonance (as anyone that has made or noticed that most chekere with a small neck can't really be cleaned all too well at all). Ralph would then take his secret epoxy recipe and glue the neck back on where you couldn't even tell that it was taken off in the first place. I believe he would then polyurethane the outside and inside of the gourd, and then put on the beads. His bead work was pretty intricate and rather lovely if I may add. When Willie first sent me this pic I told him, man they look heavy, Willie said, "No, they were actually very light, and had a BIG sound." I can imagine the guys playing a guiro with these babies...Fuhgedaboutit!!

I would place Ralph's creations among the hardest to find chekeres out there. Ralph (that I know of), did not mass produce these beauties but would rather make them for himself or friends. This is just one of the ways that Ralph contributed his talents to the NYC scene. We will get more in depth as soon as I talk to Izzy, Willie, Jose and others that knew him. Those two chekeres in the above picture make two thirds out of a set of three. The ones in the picture are somewhere in PR and the third is owned by Ralph's brother Izzy. I talked to Willie about this set the other day. He was telling me how great they were to play and how they had seen many a guiro. I just hope that whoever is in possession of these babies either knows what he has, or at least had the decency to give them to someone that does. I believe that there still is hope that one day they will be reunited with their long lost triplet. But alas...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Just in case you are looking for something to do...

ILU AYE will be @ La Pregunta Arts Cafe (in fnt of City College) on Friday the 29th of August, $10 cover. (check out NYC events tab and flyer below for more info).


CAMARADAS el barrio Presents….. BAMBULA Door: $5 Time: 9PM Saturday, August 30th 2008 CAMARADAS el barrio 2241 First Avenue (@115th st.) Spanish Harlem, NYC Tel. 212-348-2703



Message from Aurora:


Bienvenidos and welcome to the Barrio Zone where history becomes music and oldskool gets a new beat.

We're ending the summer with a great free outdoor concert in the community where we live and founded ZDB: El Barrio USA. Please join ZDB along with our friends Sammy Ayala & the King of the Cuatro & Fania All-Star legend: YOMO TORO
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Harlem Meer: 110th Street btwn Fifth & Lenox Aves. Inside Central Park
Two shows: 2 & 4 p.m.

We're dedicating this show to Rob Blumenthal who was host to these outdoor concerts for the past 15 years before his untimely death in May. His wish was to celebrate the labor day weekend BIG with an international name such as Yomo's and we'll be there to do just that for you Rob!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"La Timba No Es Como Ayer..."

If you been playing or listening to any rumba within the last 20 years, its evident that rumba is not being played as it was in the 60's or 70's. Not only that but the variance in how its played with respect to region (i.e. Havana, Matanzas, NY, SF, Miami) also varies widely. I believe this is probably one of the main reasons why rumba is here to stay, it is constantly evolving.

Here are some fine examples:

(Rumberos de Cuba- Ariel Monteresi-cantante, Maximino Duquesne- quinto, Yosvanni Diaz Herrera-tumbador- Eddie De Los Santos (?) - tres golpes, El Gato, Cusito, others - coro)

(Ilu Aye - Osvaldo "Bembesito" Lora- Lead Singer, Nicky Laboy - quinto, Jonathan Troncoso- tumbador, Camilo Molina- tres dos, Fidel Tavares - guagua, Ramin Quintana - chekere, Obanilu Allende - coro, Pupy Insua and Susan Sanabria - dancers)

Rumberos de Cuba have their own style typified by the use of a cajon/tumba combination and extensive conversations between the tres dos and the tumba part. Ilu Aye are probably playing some of the best rumba in NY and their arrangements showcase their wide talents, from Bembesito's singing, to Nicky's quinto, to Jonathan's great tumbador work. They are the one's to watch for.

More to come...

Friday, August 22, 2008

"Era tremenda escopeta.." - Felix Sanabria,8/08

(Sonido Isleno - Frank Cotto, Felix Sanabria, Oscar Onyos, Michael Rodriguez (ibae), Ben Lapidus, Pic courtesy of Felix Sanabria)

"With sadness I regret to inform that Michael Rodriguez, a young and up and coming tambolero passed away on Saturday, September 29th, 2001. For those that are interested his body will be at the funeral home located at East 116th street between 1st and 2nd Ave. in el Barrio." (Felix Sanabria, O1')

Once in a while there comes along a rumbero that really stands out for various reasons. Its either their facility in learning the tradition, or their ability to properly perform the various rhythms whether it be rumba, bata, abakua, palo, or the other myriad of rhythms from Afro Caribbea.
According to the people I have spoken to, Michael Rodriguez fit this mold. A son of El Barrio (112th and Lexington Ave to be exact), he was a rather young cat at the time of this passing, but he was well on his way to being an important figure in the NYC scene. In a conversation I had with Jose Rivera the following was said:

"We were playing at this place in El Barrio, we had a rumba de cajones going on (we were playing Apache's cajones), and we started out real slow and as we were playing I spotted Mikey checking us out. Well as he left he said, "yeah, they are doing it right". (Jose Rivera, 8/08)

Getting your props from Mike was not an easy task. See Mike, as many people have told me started young, and it was as if he was born to do this. He could play, dance, sing, and he was a fast learner. According to Felix he was one of his top students at the time and Felix took him everywhere to gig. Felix told me that just early that year (before he died in 01') he took him to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in DC and Mike played some okonkolo, bongo, sang and danced up a storm.

(Michael Rodriguez ?-9/29/2001, Ibae...)

Unfortunately as I have mentioned, Mike passed away waaaaay too early, and this came as very upsetting news to the NY rumba community, his friends, and of course his family. People like Mike are the reason I put out this blog, and I just hope I did his legacy a little justice...

more info to come...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bata de China....

Before I forget, I saw a posting on echuaye.blogspot that reminded me of some pics that were sent to me by Antoine Miniconi.

(cha cha, shells in the rear right)


(la familia)

(itotele, iya, okonkolo)

These are obviously not really from China, but made by members of the famous "Los Chinitos de Corea" (innovators of the guarapachangeo) rhythm that's all but the standard nowadays. Barry's site has a great post about a little of the history of this family of rumberos.

Here is what Antoine wrote:

Estos modelos estan en 550€, hay modelos a 650€ (Iya mas grande, 32.5cm de boca!) y modelos a 800€ (son tambores de Cedro, mayor de 32.5 tambien, en cedro es la madera que se usa para los tambores de fundamento, suena muy fuerte y tiene un tono de nota especial, o sea el tambor perfecto!) Los hacemos con Los Chinitos!
La madera esta tratada contra los comejenes (Xylophène traido de Francia), los herrajes son de acero inoxidable (no se oxydan, alta resistencia, trabajamos con el mejos harrero de la Habana), y las tinas (cascos) estan barnizados con baznir que traigo de Francia tambien.
O sea claramente son de lejos los mejores tambores de la Habana!
Montamos tambien los tambores con cañamo, suenan mejor todavia pero tienes que animarte a estirar los...
Bueno, saludos!

Basically he is telling me that the models in the picture are 550 euro or 820 bucks. The bigger size set with a bigger iya made of Cedro or Cedar is 800 euro or almost $1200 bucks. Stainless steel harware. Finished with some kind of varnish brought over from France and so forth. Click on his name in the beginning of the post to check out his blog, and contact him directly if interested. He also shells chekeres made by Los Chinitos as well. Its a pretty cool blog. I did ask him what the prices were for traditionally strung bata, and he told me the same, so there it is...

John "Babaila" Martinez

During one of my many conversations with Willie over the early history of rumba in the city, he mentioned a name that stuck out in my mind, “Babaila”. John Martinez “Babaila” is a rather important figure in the early rumba/afrocubano scene. He started to get into the scene around 61-62’. Babaila, (who is of Puerto Rican descent) mentions that he would hang out with guys like Totico, Patato, Juan Dreke, and others. John was given the name “Babaila” by Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez whom he also hung around with at the time. What a lot of people don’t realize that cats like Pete “El Conde”, Henry Fiol, and others were hanging out and rumbiando at the time. It just so happens that a guy like Pete “El Conde” goes on to become a legend in the world of “salsa” y la Fania. John mentions that it was El ñato (a professional boxer) who would take him and get him involved in the rumba scene at the time. According to John he started to learn and play at around 13-14 yrs of age. John told me about how he only live a block away from Arsenio Rodriguez. Arsenio’s brothers, Raul y Quique Rodriguez were probably some of the earliest cats out of Cuba really playing palo, rumba, santo, o lo que sea. That was the school that Babaila came from. Babaila mentioned that when a band like Arsenio’s would play a club date, after they would play the popular music of the day, they would then begin a rumba. There were numerous clubs in the Bronx where they would get together, “El Gallego” was running one on 163rd in the Banana Kelly area of the Bronx.

Babaila makes note of that fact that a lot of the Cubans coming into NY at the time were marineros, and a lot of them were abakua. As a result Babaila, and his contemporaries would play abakua, bembe, guiro, palo and the like. I think this is especially important to mention since that would mean that the guiro, palo, abakua and bembe scene is not a recent NY phenomenon. Bata may have come later, but groups were definitely playing guiros and palos before bata really took hold. When I told Babaila that Gene Golden had told me that Quique and Raul were known paleros, Babaila said, “but they played everything, rumba, palo, santo, etc…”, so this is just clarify that they played a little bit of everything and not just palo.

Babaila has the distinction of being one of the very, very few outsiders to gain access into the then New York Afro Cuban “click”, which really only mingled amongst themselves. Here is a great story that Willie told me about Babaila’s early history.

Back in the day Patato used to give lessons to kids in the community on his rooftop. So at the beginning there would be like 30 people there waiting learn from the master. The only thing was that Patato was not only strict but brutal. If you didn’t get something right the first time he may ask you to do it again, but if you didn’t get it soon after… SMAAACK! He would pull out a stick and smack you right across the hands. So a class that started at maybe 30 or so people would dwindle down to just a few after a couple of days. Babaila was one of those people that stayed…” (Willie Everich, 07).

The important thing that I pulled out of my short but deep conversation with Babaila, was as to how important it is to speak to the pioneers that were involved as things were taking shape. See, to guys like Babaila, names, dates, and stats don’t really mean much in the big scheme of things, at least not as much as having been there, and playing because that is what one pursued and wanted to do. Rumba was and is a social setting in where guys would hang out, drink (or do whatever they did) start playing, dancing, “ya se formo la rumba”. Babaila to this day is still playing rumba, palo, and santo in and around the city, and he has probably played with pretty much everyone there is to play.

Babaila threw some names at me:

Juan Candela
Tony Mayari
Cadavieco Brothers
Quique y Raul

Among those that have played with Babaila (that I know of):

*Carlos Elegua
*Frances Yemaya
*Jonathan ? (used to work w/ Jay Bereck)
*Ralph (Dominicano)

Willie “El Ruso” Everich
Willie Sanabria
Carlos Elegua
Osvaldo "Bembesito" Lora
Angel Rodriguez
Ivan Ayala
Steve Berrios
Hector "El Flaco" Hernandez

(*main core group according to Willie)

Obviously, this is just a little glimpse of the life of John “Babaila” Martinez. I hope to interview him in the future and not only get more information, but also confirm some info I already have.

(Izzy Davila, Jose Rivera, Babaila, Pic courtesy of Willie Everich's collection)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Puntilla's Crew

On my first blog entry I wrote a little info on the cats that were/are part of Puntilla's crew. El tambor del difunto Puntilla, "Obaye", has been played by quite a few talented cats, that will hopefully be covered in this blog as well.

As a sort of introduction, I would like to post a picture that was sent to me by non other than Felix Sanabria, tambolero completo, and owner of los tambores Aña Ade, Padrino to many of the younger cats rippin' it up nowadays, and rumbero extraordinaire. Felix has been part of many early and important NYC rumba groups such as Chevere Macum Chevere, Los Afortunados, Kubata and so on. Felix is a friend, teacher and all around cool brother. You will be hearing his name around here often as well.

For now...

message from Felix:

This picture was taken by the late Obadele(Omo Aganyu) from Philly at an Anya festival in honor of Ochun in October of 1993 at 630 Commonwealth in da boogie down Bronx.

* An important note...Canute Bernard, Lazaro, Puntilla, Chief Bey, Wilfredo, Pepe have passed away unfortunately, but their spirits live on. With Felix's help I hope to cover some info on Canute Bernard specifically in the near future.

More to come...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Bronx Tale...

(Willie Sanabria, Angel Rodriguez, Jose Rivera (behind Angel), Rene Lopez II, Tony Rosa, Willie Everich, Hector Elegua, Mike Rodriguez, Photo courtesy of Willie Everich)

The main reason I started this blog was to highlight several groups and individual rumberos which have played a significant role in the development and longevity of rumba in the city. One such group that plays a major part is whom i like to refer to as "the Bronx crew".

This particular crew of rumberos has consisted of street rumberos and members of Totico's house. I am going to name a couple that will hopefully be covered more deeply in the coming weeks/months.

Jose Rivera

Jose "Apache" Rivera

Ralphie Davila

Izzy Davila

Angel Rodriguez

Willie Sanabria


Rene Lopez II


* Willie reminded me to add John "Babaila" Martinez to this list as he has played a significant role as well...we will prepare more info on Babaila soon.

All these cats are heavies in their own right, and most are still playing in the NYC area. Some like Scorpio have moved on to other cities (i.e Atlanta) and sadly some have passed. Its is safe to say that without players such as these, NYC would not have the thriving rumba scene that it once had and still has (especially among the younger generation of rumberos y tamboleros). These individuals, to me are the unsung heroes of rumba in the city.

Now this is not to say that this was/is the only crew in NYC that mattered, as mentioned before Puntilla's extended crew was equally as heavy, the Central Park Crew, Chevere Macum Chevere crew and others will all hopefully be covered at some point in time on this blog.

(Wille "El Ruso" Everich", great rumbero, friend, and Sentimiento Manana partner)

You will be hearing me throw around Willie's name in probably every blog entry I write. See, Willie is my ear to the streets so to speak. Since I haven't lived in NY for quite some time, Willie has been gracious enough to provide me with contacts and inside information on the rumba scene as he knows it, and believe me, Willie has been around long enough to be considered an authority on said scene. Willie is a true Bronxite and his straightforward demeanor, guidance and honesty have provided much help to up and coming rumberos and his willingness to share what he has learned and experienced have provided valuable insight to all that know him. So that said...let's formally welcome Willie "El Ruso" to the blog....

He is in fact of Ukranian descent, but "El Ruso" does have a nice ring to it...

On a side note...if you haven't checked out Barry Cox's site...shame on are missing out...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Jay never really left...

I wanted to confirm some information that has been floating around for a while. For the longest time it seemed that Skin on Skin Percussion would no longer exist. Jay had been making drums for eons, and unfortunately hit a rough patch and was thinking about calling it quits. Just recently the conga community recieved word that he was back in business. I called Jay today to basically catch up and confirm some details.

For all you New Yorker's who remember Jay's shop on Atlantic Ave, know that it no longer exists as Skin on Skin. Jay packed up and moved to upstate NY (Afton to be exact) to set up shop there. When I talked to Jay today he seemed to be in very good spirits and mentioned that with the help of his apprentice Joshua Scott, he will be making drums as long as he can.

Now this information has been floating around in cyberspace and in the community for a while. Mark Sanders has put it out there. Various blogs and the congaboard as well. I wanted to ask Jay whether he is still doing the majority of the work, and he confirmed that he is. So if you do place an order for a conga, or bata, or bongo, rest assured that the master will be doing the work personally. It may take 3 months or so, but thats not bad considering the time it takes to make a drum from scratch. His congas start at $750 for whatever type of wood drum you want. Jay's best work is probably his oak and cherry drums. He also sells skins. Jay turned 70 not too long ago, and I asked him if he is still playing, his response, "I actually just started playing again a couple of weeks ago..". It was good to hear Jay in such good spirits.

(Set of Skin on Skin bata, photo provided by BongosNotBombs on

Skin on Skin Percussion
1618 State Highway 41
Afton, NY 13730
(607) 639-2417

(great tres golpes, pic from Taikonoatama from

(more eye candy from Taikonoatama from

check out Tony's great conga site (he covers Jay's drums in various posts):

Sunday, August 17, 2008

GFYEN...still going strong...

(GFYEN Rehearsing at Boy's Harbor, Jorge Maldonado far left?, Abe Rodriguez, Gene Golden, Puntilla, Rene Lopez II, Pic courtesy of Jose Rivera)

The great thing about music is that when the music is good, it is timeless. Such is the case with Grupo Folklorico y Experimental Nuevayorkino. This group of renegades or pirates, whose concept really started in the basement of Andy and Jerry Gonzalez house in the Bronx, took the music and their concepts of traditional, fusion and modernity to a whole new level.

Their first album/recording "Concepts in Unity" has become a classic recording. It really has something for everyone, guajira, rumba, plena, guaracha, bata, even a mazurka thrown in for good measure. Their second album "Lo Dice Todo", has bomba, rumba, batarumba, guiro, son, y charanga. If you don't have these recordings I urge you to get them while you can, because as with any good thing, they will probably be hard to come by in the future. They both have great liner notes thanks to Rene Lopez well...being Rene Lopez. He has always put out a great product and you can see that with every "Montuno Records" release which has been put out. Record Mart (the legendary subway record store owns the rights to the music at this point I believe. So if any reissues are going to be done on this catalog, Jesse is the man to talk to).

Montuno Records1470 BroadwayBMT Subway Mezzanine,New York, NY 10036Tel: 212-840-0580, Fax: 212-768-3074 Jesse Masckowitz (President)

Grupo Folklorico was in my opinion ahead of their time. At a time when most NY based latin music was basically pushing the Fania "salsa sound", GFYEN was really making music for musicians as opposed to making music for the dancers (although if you ask me "Anabacoa", off their first album is as dance worthy as any mainstream salsa tune). They actually started out as "Conjunto Anabacoa", with their first gig being at Wesleyan University as a sort of "vente tu" type of agrupacion.

I won't go over too much info about GFYEN because there is already a great article on the web touching on the history of this group. (by Diogenes Ivan Riley for

As the above video suggests Rene got them back together not too long ago for a concert in Berlin. In the above video you get to hear Rene explain himself what the group is about, along with seeing clips of the concert in Berlin. If you notice, obviously this isn't the same GFYEN as before, there are new players, most notably, Tony Rosa (great conguero, batalero, guirero and so on, he plays not only in popular bands, i.e. Conjunto Libre but also plays guiros (bembe con chekere), bata and, rumba in the NYC area). Puntilla, along with Abraham Rodriguez are singing coro and lead respectively. Jorge Maldonado (of Libre fame) is singing coro and lead as well. He is one hell of a singer and great guiro player as well (i.e. actual guiro not chekere). If you can catch him playing with Libre (the play at SOB's at least once every couple of months), you are in for a treat. Out of the original members, there is Jerry Gonzalez, Gene Golden, Oscar Hernandez, Andy Gonzalez, and I think even Reynaldo Jorge (whom I think was a mainstay). Unfortunately Milton wasn't there, Chocolate, Willie Garcia and Frankie Rodriguez. I like to point out Frankie, since he was probably one of my favorite parts of those recordings along with the part he played in Jerry's first "Fort Apache" recordings. Like Rene Lopez told me, "Frank was such a big part of GFYEN, he absence will be felt."

GFYEN recently did a concert for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (I hate that I missed it especially since it was probably the last big concert of Puntilla's life). Here is the press release:

The Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert: Grupo Folklorico y Experimental NuevayorquinoSaturday, June 28, the Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert will take place at 6 p.m. on the Texas Opry House stage. This concert series, held each year during the Festival, pays tribute to the founding Festival director by honoring his colleagues, like-minded advocates and the tradition bearers they have supported. This year, the concert series will honor René López for his work with traditional genres of Latin music.
The concert will feature Grupo Folklórico y Experimental Nuevayorquino. Grupo Folklórico became legendary through its experimental recordings that brought together gifted, obscure elder musicians with deep roots in Puerto Rican and other Caribbean and Latin American communities and bright young musicians who would grow to master traditional musical genres. The group became a major innovator in various Latin and other music genres, and it continues to identify itself and its art as grounded in traditional community-based musical expression and community participation through dance, festivals and religious, mainly Afro-Cuban, practices.
This groundbreaking musical group, mostly from the south Bronx in New York, went on to establish new frontiers in Latin and American music. The group’s musicians reunite at this year’s Festival to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their three watershed experimental recordings from the 1970s.

(I wouldn't be surprised if Rene or the Smithsonian put out the live recording of this concert. One can dream right?)

Willie El Ruso sent me some great pics from the concert that were taken by Allen Spatz (great photographer who has photographed many a latin event, thats an understate in the least as I imagine his collection to be out of this world). In the first pic the rumbero on the left is none other than Rene's son, Rene Lopez jr. He is a great rumbero. Willie has some great home video of him playing tumba, quinto. He is part of a Bronx crew of rumberos that have been playing in the city since God knows how long. (I will be posting more information on said crew consisting of guys like Jose Rivera, Apache Rivera, Willie El Ruso, Angel Rodriguez, Ralphie Davila, Izzy Davila, etc...) His playing can be heard on a great recording titled "Son Primero". I am going to try and get more info on him as soon as I can. He also plays a mean quinto on the "Totico y Sus Rumberos" album as well.

(Rene Lopez II and Tony Rosa playing to me what seems like a Junior and a Skin on Skin conga, Photo by Allen Spatz)

(Gene Golden- Okonkolo, Orlando "Puntilla" Rios-Iya, Abraham Rodriguez-Itotele, I am thinking maybe some Sonoc bata, Photo by Allen Spatz)

(Jorge Maldonado-far left, Abraham Rodriguez, Manny Oquendo-bongoes, and Orlando Puntilla Rios, Photo by Allen Spatz)

(Andy Gonzalez with his famous muecas, Photo by Allen Spatz)

There is much more to write about GFYEN but if you ask me, listening to their music is the best explanation one can give. It has stood the test of time, and will continue to do so.

Below an interview I had with Rene Lopez in 03':

You can download off of divshare @

Thanks to Willie for sending me the great GFYEN pics, and for giving me the idea for this post...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Puntilla's Wake

Unfortunately since I live in NC, I couldn't make the trip back home on such short notice for Puntilla's wake. My friend Willie "El Ruso" called me this morning and gave me some details over the phone. Willie mentioned Skip "Brinquito" Burney being there and basically directing a double tambor, unfortunately I couldn't get the names of the bataleros in question. I know Amma was there among the people that Willie mentioned. At some point there was an Abakua procession in which non-initiates had to leave for some time until a rumba commenced. Willie had to shoot out but did find out later that a rumba in fact took place. Willie did mention that Abe Rodriguez was in attendance. I like to point that out specifically since Puntilla and Abe sang duo on many occasions, live and recorded. Abe sings probably the best rumba duo that I have ever heard.

I just remembered Willie telling me about how he got to see Puntilla and Abe sing duo recently at Sports Bar (a spot in Castle Hill that holds weekly rumbas on Sundays, I have to find out if this is still going on). In any case Willie on his way home from a guiro back in November 07' had this to tell me,

"After yesterdays guiro, we went to a local club called the Sports Bar on Castle Hill Ave. Puntilla, Abie Rodriguez and Gene Golden were in attendance along with some other cats I didn't know. Puntilla blew me away! He sounds as good today as the first day he came over. He and Abie have the soneo parts down to a science. I kicked myself for not bringing my vid-cam with me. I stayed for one set then headed home".

You can hear Abe singing duo w/ Totico on "What's Your Name?" off the "Totico Y Sus Rumberos" album. He also sang duo with Puntilla on the "Deep Rumba" album, check out the small clip of "Cuentale" if you don't already have the album. Abe sang duo on much of the extremely rare "Los Afortunados" album put together by Felix Sanabria and with lead vocals by Manuel "El Llanero Solitario" Martinez.

This album and some history behind El Llanero Solitario and Los Afortunados are covered in Mark Sander's (son of CP legend Morty Sanders) great rare cuban music blog:

Bobby Sanabria posted his experience from yesterday's service to the Latin Jazz e Group:

Although wakes are sad occasions, they are by their very nature a place whereone can reflect and honor mightily the departed by re-connecting with oldfriends, colleagues, and connecting with those who you may be meeting for thefirst time.

So too was Puntilla's wake last night at the Montero Funeral Home in Da' BoogieDown Bronx. The borough by its very nature is home to many in the Santeriacommunity and they showed up in full force to honor el maestro del tambor.Present were Rene' Lopez, Andy Gonzalez, poet Americo Casiano, Roman Diaz,trumpeter Guido Gonzalez, Anthony Carillo, David Oquendo, Olufemi, Doc Gibbs,Skip "Brinquito" Burney, Felix Sanabria and his lovely wife, Rolando Ramos(conguero w/ Orquesta Broadway), tamborero Eddie Rodriguez, Michelle Rosewomanwho is in the process of making ocha as a yawo, Milton Cardona, akpwon EmilioBarretto, Puntilla's sister and Puntilla's two sons as well as other members ofhis family, and a host of others to numerous to mention.

One of the evenings highlights was a choir acapella singing some of Puntilla'sfavorite praise songs from the Arara tradition. Skip Burney led a group thatfinally entered clapping the appropriate bata cadences. This was one ofPuntilla's many important contributions as he taught many of these unheard ofsongs here in the States to many in the community at large and they have becomepart of the standard repertoire at any ceremony. Then finally cajones werebrought in and a series of dynamic rumbas were sung for Puntilla that harkenedback to the days when the drum was omnipresent in public all over NYC. Indeed asMarta Moreno Vega has stated, "New York is the secret African city." Puntillawas at its vortex.

Que en paz descanses maestro, ibae,

Bobby Sanabria

I've added a post about what John Santos had to say about Puntilla on the Latin Jazz E Group Board:

I'm very sad to hear of this huge loss to the field and followers of Afro-Cuban folklore.
Puntilla was undoubtedly one of the greatest exponents, guardians, and teachers of sacred and secular drumming in the history of Cuban music. A list of his students which includes among many others, Louie Bauzó, Anthony and Miguel Carrillo, Penalty "Long John" Oliva, Skip Burney, Felix Sanabria, Eddie Rodriguez, Eddie Bobé, and Jesus Diaz, tells volumes about his influence and legacy. He will always be highly respected in and out of Cuba. I've only been to Cuba three times between 1990 and 2003, but always when folks would find out that I am from the States, many would ask about Puntilla with much love. I'm honored to have gotten to know him a little, visiting him in his home and receiving him in mine, and will always consider him one of the most complete maestros of most facets of Afro-Cuban folklore. He was a fabulous singer, batalero, and rumbero, played one of the deadliest quintos I've ever heard or witnessed, and could even sing son with a ton of sabor. I saw one of his sons singing in a video from Cuba, and he sounds exactly like his Dad. His legacy will endure forever.
Ibae . . .

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Orlando Puntilla Rios 1947-2008

(Puntilla, right of lamp post)

Strike up a conversation on anything related to bata or rumba in the US or Cuba, and eventually you will come across the name "Puntilla". Orlando "Puntilla" Rios was one of the pillars of bata in the US (and arguably the "main man" in NYC), coming from Cuba in the early 80's during the Mariel boatlift. Among other Marielito's, Puntilla has played a major and defining role of how bata is learned and played in NY (and elsewhere) since. This is not to say that bata did not exist before then, countless drummers such as Gene Golden, John Amira, Markus Gordon, Pablo Landrum, Ted Holiday Sr, Baba Femi, Manny Ramos, and others were already playing and or learning bata in and around the city years before Puntilla touched down. What happened when Puntilla came was a sort of an opening of the flood gates. Puntilla came with a vast knowledge of song and toque. I don't know exactly whom his first students were but I imagine guys like Gene Golden, Flaco Hernandez, Eddie Rodriguez were probably in there at some early point. Puntilla whose drums came from Juan El Negro Raymat and Pancho Quinto, would at some point start his own house, and his own group which would be known as "La Nueva Generacion".

Spirit Rhythms - Latitudes 1996

At one point or another members of Puntilla's house included (I will have to get a more comprehensive list when I get a chance, here are a few):

Felix Sanabria
Gene Golden
Victor Jaroslov
Eddie Rodriguez
Victor Papo Sterling
Canute Bernard
Abraham Rodriguez
Pepe Calabasa
Carlos Sanchez
Olufemi Mitchell
Carlos Cordoba (?)
Daniel Ponce
Bobby Sanabria
Eddie Bobe

Puntilla's house boasted a group of very talented drummers. Alot of these drummers have actually gone on to form there own groups and some even have their own aña.
Puntilla would go on to record various albums. A rare recording titled "De La Habana A Nueva York", released in 81' is out of print and extremely hard to find. Spirit Rythms, released in 96' is another rare out of print album, but check out the link above because Amazon has a couple of copies. Totico y Sus Rumberos is a classic and rumbero favorite (sort of being in the 80's what Patato Y Totico was in the late 60's), recorded by Rene Lopez Sr in 81' or 82'.

Puntilla worked on some Kip Hanrahan projects, When the Spirits Dance Mambo (sadly apparently out of print and extremely tough to find) and more recently on an album with the late Long John Oliva "Penalty". This is a good mix of traditional and experimental with great vocals by the late Puntilla.

Another fairly recent recording was put out by Amma McKen, an apkwon out of Brooklyn (I believe). I have still to hear this recording but judging from the clips, it sounds great.

Probably the last great recording put out by Puntilla (actually a recording in which he was director of) was the "Homenaje a Tio Tom" recording, released by Smithsonian Folkways earlier this year. This was a very hush recording, recorded by Rene Lopez Sr, that was finally able to be released to the masses. I remember in the summer of 02' or 03', Rene pulled this recording out of a stack of cassettes and popped it in his car stereo. As we drove through the South Bronx all I could do is sit in awe as I heard the great singing by this group of rumberos. The cajon/tumbadora work by Marquito especially stood out. Ever since hearing what Rene played for me that day, I (along with few others) have been waiting patiently for its release. You can get yours at Amazon for as little as $2!!! (It almost seems a travesty its so cheap).

Puntilla left behind a slew of rumberos and bataleros not to mention family and friends. I personally never got to meet Puntilla, although I did call him once or twice to ask him to recommend a teacher. He was courteous and helpful although pretty busy at the time.

I have attached some information regarding his wake and funeral posted by Ayoka Quinones from the batadrums e group:

Please find below the going home ceremonies and arrangements BabalorisaOrlando “Puntilla” Rios, Obátilemi, Oni Sangó.
Thursday, August 14, 2008Viewing –3 pm- 9 pm
Thomas Monteria Funeral Home
1848 Westchester Ave (Near Leeland Ave)
Bronx, NY
Friday, August 15, 2008Mass & Funeral- 10 am
Blessed Sacrament Church
1170 Beach Ave
Bronx, NY

If anyone has info or details they would like to add, feel free. In the next days/weeks I will try and post stories and anecdotes from people who knew, or may have played with Puntilla.

Below I have posted a pretty good article from www. (unfortunately only in Spanish)

Muere el celebre percusionista Orlando ''Puntilla'' Ríos
El conocido percusionista y cantante cubano Orlando ''Puntilla'' Ríos falleció el martes en un hospital neoyorquino, dos días después de someterse a una operación de corazón, informó ayer a Efe su esposa Ileana.
''No he salido del shock desde el instante en que me lo dijeron'', comentó Ileana con voz apesadumbrada por la muerte del percusionista, quien se sometía desde hace catorce años a un tratamiento de diálisis.
''Puntilla'', de 60 años de edad, falleció el martes en el hospital Montefiori de Nueva York, donde estuvo recluido dos semanas y dos días después de ser operado del corazón.
Su esposa explicó que los restos mortales del músico serán velados a partir de mañana en la funeraria Montero, entre las calles St. Lawrence y Parchester en el condado de El Bronx, donde residía, y será sepultado el próximo viernes.
Agregó que el músico tenía siete hijos y que algunos de ellos están en Cuba, otros en Nueva York y uno más en Francia, que vendrá a la ciudad para el sepelio de su padre.
También le sobrevive su hermana Ramona, que reside en Nueva York, y que fue como una madre para él, ''siempre a su lado'', según su esposa.
La profesora y escritora Marta Moreno Vega, amiga del músico, señaló a Efe que su muerte ``es una gran pérdida''.
''El era una eminencia en términos de la historia sagrada de Cuba, un maestro del tambor batá, una eminencia en términos de la tradición lucumí, un conocedor de todo los ritmos afrocubanos'', explicó Moreno Vega, quien conocía a Ríos desde que él llegó a Nueva York procedente de Cuba.
La profesora Moreno Vega explicó que ''Puntilla'' tocó con numerosos grupos de jazz y había incluido muchos ritmos de las tradiciones sagradas afrocubanas en la música popular.
Nacido en La Habana, el 26 de diciembre de 1947, ''Puntilla'' era considerado, tanto en su país como en América, un maestro en los diferentes estilos de la música cubana.
Antes de instalarse en Nueva York, Ríos fue profesor de percusión en la Escuela Nacional de Arte de Cuba entre 1971 y 1978. Actuó en las salas más famosas de La Habana, como Tropicana y el hotel Havana Riviera. En Nueva York se convirtió en maestro y mentor de gran número de músicos importantes del momento.

check out for more info: