(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...