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...

1 comment:

Silverspurr said...

I have to correct a small portion of the information in the post that refers to the two Chekeres shown in the photo.

I can plainly see neither one has had the "neck cut off, then put back on". And I can plainly see the gourds have never had the thickness of their walls reduced.
("cleaned out")
Just look at the edge/opening and you can see how thick both the gourd are.

"Thick" gourds, that additionally have been coated with "polyurethane on the outside and inside".... as well as also have been given an "overabundance of beads", become anything except light.

Additionally, the "removing of the neck" of a Chekere, then reducing the thickness of the gourd by use of a custom made tool, followed by replacing the neck back on the gourd by use of a "secret epoxy recipe".... were all techniques created by my father.

If in fact the late 'Ralph Davila' used any of the above techniques.... he learned them from my father who showed them to many people.

My fathers techniques and creative style have been imitated by many, but really never equaled in sound, sight or feel.

My dad had an expression every time he picked up someone else's gourd weighed down with too many beads and overly coated with polyurethane or epoxy.... he would always say:
"Man this thing feels like a lead sinker"

Mark Sanders