Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Castle Hill Rumba 4/10/05

This particular video highlights the new generation of NYC rumbero. Sports Bar on Castle Hill Ave. was the place to be on Sunday nights if you wanted to hear rumba, and this particular night was no exception. On quinto you have Jonathan Troncoso, on tumba/cajon you have Nicky Laboy, and on tres golpes you have Jose Rivera, a well respected rumbero and first call percussionist within the bembe circuit. Jose "El Chino" Real is singing lead, and Matanzas is playing the guagua. Tito is dancing up a storm and another well respected percussionist, Obanilu Allende is playing clave and later marcando Tito's steps on quinto. In my personal opinion I believe that Oba is one of the best primo players in the city. Another older cat is shown dancing as well, but unfortunately I don't know his name to properly ID him. Danny Maldonado is called up to play tumbador towards the end of the clip.

As my pal Willie has said time and time again, (because of these young cats) the rumba is alive and well in the city.

Monday, September 29, 2008

LP21 Workshops

(click on poster for more info)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rene Lopez II

(This great pic shows from left to right: Apache, Tito, Rene Lopez Sr, Rene Lopez Jr, and Ivan Ayala at front, Photo Credit: Mark Sanders)

A couple of weeks ago I was on the phone with Jose Rivera, and somehow Rene Lopez Jr name came up. I asked Jose if he could pass along “Renesito’s” (as Jose calls him) phone number, and of course Jose obliged. When I called Rene Lopez Jr., I was pretty excited, and mainly for 2 reasons. One, I had never spoken to Rene, except for a minute or two on a previous occasion, I knew he had a lot of information to share, and I am glad he was willing to do so. The other reason is that a couple of years ago I had the opportunity to interview his father, Rene Lopez Sr. So me interviewing Rene Jr kind of brings things in full circle (at least that’s the way I see it). Let’s start at the beginning shall we? (For simplification purposes I will refer to Rene Jr as simply Rene, and Rene Sr, as Rene Sr)

I had come to the conclusion that Rene was born in the NYC area. To my surprise Rene told me that he was actually born in the Philippines, on a naval base where Rene Sr was stationed. After spending some time in the Philippines, in San Francisco, and Puerto Rico, Rene and family move to NYC and settle in Washington Heights (around 150th and Broadway, where Rene’s mother Zuni is originally from). They would later move to the Bronx.

Rene had an early introduction to the world of latin music and percussion. He was given a small tack head conga when he was around 3 years old, and he even mentioned to have pictures of himself as a toddler with the conga in the stroller. As a young kid, Rene Sr’s involvement in the latin music scene of the day afforded Rene with many opportunities to observe and learn from various notable musicians. Rene Sr. started Rene off on conga. Rene mentions having never had a real “teacher” per se, but learned rather, from a variety of people. Rene credits Nicky Marrero with showing him some timbal, and Manny Oquendo with showing him some bongo. As far as congas he was influenced early on by the likes of, Jerry Gonzalez, Milton Cardona, Gene Golden, and Frankie Rodriguez among others. It’s safe to say that the Grupo Folklorico crew definitely had an early, direct influence on a young Rene. When they would rehearse he would be allowed to sit in at times and play with guys like Virgilio Marti and others. As far as rumbero influences, he mentions, Babaila, Totico, the whole Central Park Rumba scene, etc…

(Rene and Tony Rosa, Photo Credit: Allen Spatz)

The first time Rene went to a club, he went to see Eddie Palmieri at Casino 14. It just so happens that the tumbador at the time was non other than Francisco Aguabella, which of course had a deep impact on Rene. Rene Sr, would start to take Rene to the rumbas, and one place in particular where they used to have rumbas was Angelito’s on 113th st and Lenox Ave. After guys would finish their gigs for the night they would go to Angelito’s para rumbiar. Here is where Rene remembers seeing a great display of dancing performed by none other than the late Patato.

“You know how back in the day you had the broomstick with the horse’s head on it, and little kids would play like they are riding a horse. During a rumba they get the coro going, “So so, caballo so so, so so, caballo so so”, and Patato while dancing rumba takes a broomstick and started riding it like a horse.” (Rene Lopez II, 9/08)

Rene was fortunate to be in the right place and time where he could experience these particular events.

I asked Rene about the now-classic album “Totico Y Sus Rumberos”. He mentions that he was around 18 or 19 at the time of the recording. According to Rene, the recording is important because it’s a meeting of the “old and new”, so to speak. On one hand you have Puntilla fresh out the boat playing rumba like its being played in Havana in the 80’s, and then you have Totico who has been in the NY for a while already who is playing rumba like it was played in Havana in the 60’s. Not only that but you also have Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and Cubans playing together as well.

(Rene playing quinto at Armando's Rumba, also in this vid you have Jose "El Chino" Real singing lead vocals and Izzy Davila singing coro next to El Chino, Fernando "El Poeta is in the mix, and Willie is playing guagua at the beginning, Video Credit: Willie Everich)

Rene himself plays conga, guiro, in the world of bata he known as an “okonkolero”, meaning he specializes in playing the okonkolo (although he mentioned that he is continuously studying and developing his craft). Rene has his own group in the Tampa area that plays guiro, palo, bata, cajon, etc…

Here are the key members of his group:

*Humberto “Pito”
*Reggie Washington “Choco”

Rene himself plays drum and sings. (I forgot to ask him the name of this guiro group unfortunately). At times Felito Oviedo will sing the group. Also Ramin Quintana (used to play iya with Ilu Aye and bata with pretty much everyone in the NYC) plays with the group as well since moving to Tampa a couple of months ago. Rene was telling me that cajon is really popular now and that everyone is asking for a cajon ceremony. He told me the first cajon gig he got, he had two weeks to prepare and in those two weeks he actually had to make the cajones since he didn’t have any at the time.

Rene comes across as one with solid opinions about rumba:

“I have always been a believer of one thing; the rumba is 3 drums or less, tumbador, tres dos, quinto”.

He told me that there is a certain beauty in the simplicity of 3 or less drums, and that when you have groups playing a cajon, two congas each and such, something is lost. Those old Munequitos recordings where the tumba is conversing with the tres and vice versa, and the tres is conversing with the quinto and so forth…that is what it is about.

Rene told me to contact him anytime I wanted an honest opinion about the music. I think I will take him up on that offer so we can continue getting as much info out there as we can.

Thanks Rene.

(Rene Lopez Jr - conga, Video Credit: razalatinaperu)

By way of explanation....

Both Ralph Duque and I are working musicians. As such, most of you who are, know that there are those who would take advantage of your talent to enrich themselves. If you haven't faced that situation then more power to you. This being the case, we feel that it is necessary to put everyone at ease as it pertains to their images appearing in the videos shown on these pages. Our pledge is simple. The videos, photographs, and text have two purposes. We want to first and foremost entertain those who visit us. Secondly, we want to educate the public. If any artist appearing in any way finds their image objectionable, please contact us and we will discuss a solution up to removing the video, photo, or text in question. We further pledge that no monetary considerations which may be offered to us will be entertained and those making such requests will be instructed to seek out the artist of interest.

As it pertains to STREET LEVEL PRODUCTIONS, we realize that the word "production" carries with it connotations that can be misconstrued as having to do with business. SLP was formed by Alfie Alvarado and I to promote a cable access TV show for Manhattan Neighborhood Network. The show was called CLAVE CITY and ran for several years. Alfie and I spent hour after hour in both pre and post production as well as attending every musical event we possibly could to build up an archive of material to present on our show. There was absolutely NO monetary compensation for any of this. We were solely motivated by our passion for the music.

The history of SLP is an interesting one. Both Alfie and I found ourselves attending a class entitled "The History Of Latin Music" at CCNY. The professor was none other then the truly GREAT woodwind player Ray Santos. Ray is one of a few lucky musicians that can say he played with the Big Three, Machito and both Titos, Rodriguez and Puente! Needless to say I was in 7th heaven. Several of us in the class became buddies. Alfie, Mike Mena and I began to hang after class at places like Gonzalez and Gonzalez. One day Alfie approached me about taking a video production class and it sounded great. However when I read the syllabus, students were required to attend Saturday morning class down on Hudson and Franklyn streets. Not only did I live in the Bronx, I was working full time, carrying several other classes, had family obligations and time was extremely precious. I balked at the prospect. Then Alfie said the magic words...the class was worth 8 credits. We signed up immediately. As a musician I can't tell you how many times I was playing and had several camcoders pointed at me and I would always ask the people filming to please sell me a copy. I can count on three fingers the number of times I got a positive response to my request. Here was an opportunity to not only document some of my own performances but to do it right. I was able to provide other musicians with copies of their performances as well. Alfie has gone on to become a professional and has had some of her work shown on both HBO and The History Channel. The footage depicts the events at the WTC. She was an eyewitness to the horror. Willie "el Ruso" Everich

*You can read this anytime you like under the "Disclaimer" link on the label tab

Friday, September 26, 2008

Columbia @ La Pregunta Arts Cafe

Ilu Aye playing a columbia at La Pregunta Arts Cafe:

Felix Sanabria - quinto
Camilo Molina - tumbador
Jose Rivera - tres golpes
Matthew Gonzalez - guagua
Bembesito - lead vocals
Jonathan Troncoso - lead vocals
Fidel Tavares- campana

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Street Level Productions

Willie and I want to introduce our first sister site, Street Level Productions.


Willie has a ton of video that doesn't necessarily fall under rumba or folkloric percussion per se, and instead of not sharing these treasures, we simply started a sister site to host them and not lose the continuity of what we are doing at Sentimiento Manana. Street Level Productions was started by Willie Everich and Alfie Alvarado. Hopefully this site will help keep the name alive. Expect the same attention to detail and info that you've known us for at Sentimiento, but with a latin jazz twist.

*The url will be listed permanently on our new "Partner" tab.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Que Viva! La Rumba

Another great video shot by Willie "El Ruso". Alfredo "El Poeta" is the cat with the white kangol dropping some insight towards the end of the clip. As you can see the cops are pulling two people to the side to write some citations, Eric is one of the them, and Armando is the other (Eric being the bigger, taller guy and Armando being the one with glasses and thick mustache).

Check this out: "Culture War: No Drumming Allowed".

filmed by Willie Everich

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rumba de Cajon - Washington Heights

Here is a nice little rumba that Willie dug up and sent over. It is a glimpse into the one of many rumbas that took place on 182st and Amsterdam Ave in Washington Heights in the 80's and 90's. Armando's Rumbacera provided rumberos and regular working people the outlet they needed, to rumbiar and have a good time. Armando is truly an unsung hero when it comes to rumba in the city (Armando is the cat with the glasses behind the little kid who is singing coro into Ivan's mic). He spearheaded these jams, and he was quite the artisan. Jose Rivera has some of Armando's cajones and he ranks them among the best, along w/ Apache and Chano's of course. Unless I am mistaken Felix Sanabria owns a set of Armando's cajones as well.

This particular clip shows Ivan Ayala playing quinto and singing lead. Rene Lopez Jr is playing the tumbador, Matanzas is playing tres dos, and Hugo dances a little at the end. Towards the end Izzy Davila sings some inspiraciones to keep the coro going. I found it a very nice surprise to see my buddy Daniel Diaz "Oseiku" on the right behind Izzy. Oseiku is a great percussionist, well versed in many styles of drumming from rumba, to djembe, to Haitian, you name it...

Film shot by Willie Everich

Monday, September 22, 2008

BomPlenazo 2008

Just wanted to let people know about this great event/s taking place in October. As Willie said the Bronx is going to be jumping in October.

BomPlenazo 2008 10/7-10/12

Fifth Biennial of Afro-Puerto Rican culture focusing on the traditions of Loiza, Puerto Rico with groups, from the island, such as Los Hermanos Ayala, Majestad Negra, La Sista and Los Parranderos de Loiza. From New York, Yerbabuena, Segunda Quimbamba and, celebrating their 25th anniversary, Los Pleneros de la 21. Six days of performances, workshops, encounters, seminars and a community jam and pig roast at the legendary Casita de Chema.


Aires de Loíza, Culture & Nature: A Retrospective of the Work of Samuel Lind; Inauguration of the FestivalOpening reception of the festival and of a retrospective exhibition of the work – paintings, sculpture and installation – of Loíza native Samuel Lind with masks by Raúl Ayala. Dedication of the festival to the memory of Adolfina Villanueva, Los Pleneros de la 21 and Marcos, Raquel and Raúl Ayala. Descarga by Los Instantáneos del Centro Cultural Rincón Criollo.
Admission: FreeArt Gallery


Segunda Quimbamba ■ Alma Moyó ■ Encuentro con los Maestros de Tito Cepeda y Miriam FélixFrom New Jersey, the celebrated family-based bomba y plena company directed by Juan Cartagena ■ One of New York’s most spirited bomba y plena ensembles directed by Alex LaSalle ■ Master bomba drummer Tito Cepeda and vocalist Miriam Félix in their tribute to the masters of the tradition. Special guest: Master bomba dancer Tata Cepeda.
Admission: $15Rep Theater


Bataklán ■ Restauración Cultural ■ Viento de AguaOne of the most innovative bomba ensembles to come out of Piñones under the direction of Edwin Paris and Hiram Abrante ■ Loíza’s powerhouse all-male bomba ensemble directed by Pablo Luis Rivera ■ Tito Matos’ innovative bomba and plena group in a set beginning with its “unplugged” format and ending with 20 musicians, including a full string section, and featuring the world première of Ricardo Pons’ composition commissioned by the Multicultural Music Group.
Admission: $15Main Theater


Ballet Folklórico Majestad NegraA special performance by Corporación Piñones se Integra’s youth dance troupe that has performed throughout the Caribbean under the direction of Maricruz Rivera Clemente. Performance at Julia de Burgos Cultural Center. Call for reservations.
By appt.J. de Burgos

Los Parranderos de Loíza ■ Yerbabuena ■ La SistaThe Loiza-based ensemble, Marcos Peñaloza director, performing bomba and plena of a century ago ■ New York’s powerful Puerto Rican roots ensemble under the direction of Carlos “Tato” Torres ■ Loiza’s very hip bomba and plena diva.
Admission: $15Main Theater


A Special intergenerational Bomba & Plena exchange organized by Julia Gutiérrez-Rivera, between Young NYC masters, Camilo Molina Gaetán, Nelson González, Alizé Roig, and Cristal Reyes, acompanied by Alexander LaSalle and Juan Manuel Usera, come together to perform for an interact with Loíza's legendary masters, LOS HERMANOS AYALA. An insightful trans-generation, trans-oceanic "show-me" exchange.
Admission: freePregones Theater (571-575 Walton Avenue, Bronx NY 10451)

Bomberos, Pleneros y BomPlenerosAn afternoon of local and visiting groups, including Bomba-yó, Yaya, Pura Plena, Matthew y su Cumbalaya, La Tribu de Juan Usera, Majestad Negra and more.
Admission: FreeRep Theater

Eco de Tambores ■ Los Pleneros de la 21 ■ Los Hermanos AyalaFrom Loíza, Carlos “Tatá” Cirino’s contemporary group with their bomba/reggaetón fusion sound ■ Celebrating their 25th anniversary, New York’s venerable bomba and plena ensemble, directed by National Heritage Fellow Juan Gutiérrez ■ Loíza’s legendary folkloric ballet under the direction of Marcos and Raúl Ayala.
Admission: $15Main Theater


Vente-tú (block party, pig roast and jam)
An afternoon of jamming and continuous performances with all the participants of BomPlenazo 2008 at Centro Cultural Rincón Criollo, the revered “Casita de Chema” on Brook Ave. and 157 St. in the Bronx.
Admission: Free ▪ La Casita

*La Escuelita del BomPlenazoWorkshops, Demonstrations, Classes*


Registration is required for the Plena Composition and Dancing Bomba workshops. To register for a workshop, arrange for a group visit, or for general information, call 718-518-4455.

*Concert tickets go on sale September 2. For further information and to purchase tickets, call 718-518-4455 or visit the box office. Group rates available. The three-concert package price is $36. Tickets also available online at www.hostos.cuny/culturearts.

Friday, September 19, 2008

117th Street Rumba

Rumba in El Barrio @ 117th Street

Ivan Ayala - vocals
Danny Santos- quinto
Jose "Apache" Rivera- tres dos
Rene Lopez II - tumbador
Mike Rodriguez-tres dos

filmed by Willie Everich

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Los Afortunados - Part 1

When speaking of NY rumba one would be remiss to leave out one of the more important groups of the last 20 years, Los Afortunados.

(Photo Credit: Felix Sanabria)

Before we talk about Los Afortunados though, we must first talk about Chevere Macum Chevere. Back in 1980 the group known as Chevere Macum Chevere was brought together by Juan Vega (aka Bamboo), but before that in around 78' Felix, who was hanging out with Yeyito Flores and Abie Rodriguez, gets invited to a Chevere rehearsal in the fall of 1980 when the group was first forming. Here are the members at the time:

Yaya Maldonado
Danny Santos
Abraham Rodriguez
Yeyito Flores
Eddie EJ Rodriguez
Juan Vega "Bamboo"

Once the Marielitos hit NY, Manuel Martinez "El Llanero Solitario", Enrique "Quique" Dreke "El Principe Bailarin", and Pedro "El Cojo" also join the group. Felix mentions that Enrique or "Quique" Dreke was probably one of the best dancers that he'd ever seen dance, especially since Quique was 67 at the time. Quique was sort of the spiritual leader of the crew and his knowledge, experience and the fact that he was Abakua was very important to the crew as a whole. Quique is important to mention since he is 1/3 of the famous Dreke triumvirate, along with Mario "Chavalonga" Dreke, and Juan "Curba" Dreke.

Other members of Chevere would include, Skip Burney, Gina Iyaleo, among others. The important thing about Chevere was that they were simply not just a group of rumberos jamming, this was a group that had singers and dancers as well, all the ingredients that one needs for a real rumba. When Chevere was formed guys weren't going back to Central Park anymore, they were doing their own thing. They were rehearsing and playing amongst themselves. Abie and Manuel would sing duo, Abie or Danny Santos would play tumbador, Felix would play tres golpes, and Pedrito "El Cojo" would play quinto. As time went on Felix would play more quinto and the bonko enchemiya when Chevere would do an Abakua. In 81' when Skip came on board they would incorporate batarumba as well.

As any good thing, Chevere would come to an end. By this time Felix had left the group and soon after hooked up with Roberto Borrell Y Su Kubata.

(Kubata- Felix Sanabria-okonkolo, Roberto Borrell-Iya, Bill Rogers-itotele, Pedro Domech - Chango, Gina Iyaleo- Yemaya, Felito Oviedo -Apkwon behind drummers, Basha Alperin to the right of Felito, in the ankori section, Eddie Bobe, Ole, Mercedes, Julio, Fela, Lourdes, Photo Credit: Olivier)

What Borrell's Kubata provided was fertile ground for learning and development. Borrell, being an alumni of the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional, brought tons of experience and knowledge. He could dance, sing, play etc...and his teaching method was excellent. Guys like Felix, Victor Jaraslov, Bill Rogers, Eddie Rodriguez and others benefited tremendously from being around and learning from Borrell and each other at the same time. More info will be covered on Kubata in a separate post.

"Kubata was one of the best ensembles that emerged from the Mariel phenomenon. Borrell wasn't only a good musician..he was a consummate showman that had a great dance routines that accompanied the music. Felix Sanabria, percussionist with Ben's Sonido Isleno was one of Roberto's main percussionists." (Willie Everich 10/17/05)

As important as Kubata was, even this group would dissolve. (Speaking of which does anyone know where Roberto Borrell is nowadays? He was in SF doing his thing for a while but I haven't heard of him since and I am under the impression he is no longer in CA, at least permanently.) At this time Felix was starting to hang more and more with Puntilla whom lived across the street in the Bronx. Soon after, long time associate Paula Ballan asks Felix to gather some guys to record an album. This would be the session that would lead to the formation of Los Afortunados. The name "Los Afortunados" comes from a song that Manuel Martinez used to sing.

In 1986 Los Afortunados play the Philadelphia FolkFest with the following lineup:

Alberto Serrano
Anthony Carrillo
Abraham Rodriguez
Manuel Martinez "El Llanero Solitario"
Susan Sanabria
Gina Iyaleo
David Hernandez

(Photo Credit: Felix Sanabria)

After the first recording session another (later recording session) in 89' was funded by Michael Kramer. According to Felix, "we used to hang out at the Ansonia Hotel on 73rd and Broadway in Micheal Kramer’s place during the late 70’s and 80’s jamming and having a good time in general..." (Felix Sanabria 9/08).

Part 2, Coming Soon.....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Trompeta Tropical

Willie sent me a great video of a small unit he worked with, comprised of Ray Vega on trumpet, Bernie Minoso on bass, Oscar Hernandez on piano, Victor Montanez Jr on timbales and of course Willie himself on tumbadoras. Split up in 2 parts.

(Willie is playing a Junior - tres dos and a Skin on Skin - tumbador)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Frankie Rodriguez

(Frank Colon, ?, Julito Collazo, Frankie Rodriguez, Steve Berrios, Photo Credit: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/)

The importance of Grupo Folklorico Y Experimental Nuevayorkino can't be overstated. They influenced countless musicians and more importantly (at least for me) rumberos. They were creating and recording ideas that had not yet been touched upon and their message was being heard loud and clear among rumberos in the city.

(check out: http://sentimientomanana.blogspot.com/2008/08/gfyenstill-going-strong.html for more Grupo info and goodies)

One of those Grupo standouts that is no longer here is the late Frankie Rodriguez. Frankie was a great singer of rumba and santo, and these examples can be heard to great extent on Grupo's first recording "Concepts in Unity", (at least his guiro singing).

In my opinion Frankie wasn't a polished singer like lets say, Eugenio "Totico" Arango or an Abraham Rodriguez, but what he lacked in tone he more than made up for in ibiono and all out raw delivery. When you hear Frank sing you know he is definitely singing from the heart. This is one of the main reasons why I gravitated to his style when I first heard him on Grupo's stuff.

(Tony Jimenez, Pablito Rosario, Frankie Rodriguez, Photo Credit: Pablito Rosario)

Frankie at some point is playing with Julito Collazo y su Tambor. He plays conga with Ismael Miranda's group, Revelacion. Frankie then goes to Puerto Rico where he helps form "Zaperoko" along with the late Penalty and Edwin "Zaperoko" Feliciano. This early group featured Frank on vocals along with, Edwin Feliciano on Trombone, John "Penalty" Oliva on congas, William Cepeda on trombone, Ray Concepcion (on piano I believe), among others. This group definitely had swing, click on the album below to download their rare out of print LP, "Cosa de Locos" on the Montuno Records Label.

Frankie sang in Jerry's early Fort Apache recordings and he sings a great rumba on, "El Rio Esta Hondo", on Fort Apache's "Obatala" recording.

Sadly, that is really all the info I have on Frankie Rodriguez for now, if and when I get more, I will definitely put it out there. In the meantime enjoy this little video clip, with a young Giovanni Hidalgo on congas, and Frankie on vocals tearing it up.

("Zaperokero", Video Credit: 1zaperoko)
*thanks to Jorge Ginorio for identifying the okonkolero in the first pic

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rumboleros "Protesta Carabali" (Envidia 6325)

Ok, so last night I was digging through my collection because I wanted to hear this particular album on the drive to work this morning. Straight up and down this is not only a good recording sound-wise, its pretty historic if you ask me. It features many of "los fundadores" de Los Munequitos de Matanzas, and the singing is the best I have heard in a really long time. This recording (1968) featured a group of Matanceros whom were so popular they were playing in Havana just as much, if not more, than anywhere else. But the style is strictly Matanzas, through and through. I don't know why, but I get the feeling that this recording is not going to be available for too much longer, so snatch it up! (Click on the pic for a link to descarga.com)

Here is the track list:

Cuele Cuele 4:28 /La Protesta Carabali 4:38 /El Tonelero 3:33 /El Yambu De Saldehigeras 3:34 /Tambor Enamorado 3:56 /Perro Trabuco 4:08 /Pentagrama Musical 4:10 /La Plegaria 4:09 /Bava Kue Yambu 2:52 /Linda Habana Yambu 7:02 /Ritmo Criollo Guaguanco 3:53

Here are the musicians: (with their Abakua names in bold)

Pedro Vero Alfonso "Moni Bonco Afia Kaniran", Esteban Lantrice Saldehigeras "Empego Afia Kaniran", Primitivo Rodriguez "Acuere Bion", Catalino (Florencio Calle) "El Yamba Uliavon", Papito Díaz "Efi Varondi", Jorge Llorca "Acuere Bion", Reinaldo Brito "Alias Yambita", Pedro Celestino Fariñas "Efi Varondi"


Just want to take a moment for all the lives lost on a day that will live in infamy and sorrow in the hearts of so many. Being a New Yorker, at times I have found myself unappreciative of all this great city has had to offer. The WTC was definitely one of them. If I remember correctly in June or July of the same year I had taken a trip with my cousin to see none other than "El Gran Combo" de Puerto Rico perform for free at the base of the towers in the plaza. It was a great show, and one of those lasting memories that I will hold dear and near to my heart for many reasons. To all those that have lost their lives, to those brave souls, cops, firefighters, EMT's, volunteers, regular joe's that went in there risking life and limb and are still feeling the effects till this day, I just want to take a moment to say thanks.

I put in a call to Felix this morning to talk about the late Michael Rodriguez. It had dawned on me that since he passed two weeks after the towers fell his passing may be related directly to this event. According to Felix, at some point after the towers fell, Michael ran all the way from the WTC area to Harlem. A week after Michael gets himself checked out after not feeling to good and turns out that he passed in his sleep a week after that. Now, not much info is known as to the exact cause of death but they say that some kind of heart failure was the cause. I mention this for two reasons, one because Michael Rodriguez was mentioned earlier in our blog and died waaaay to early, and two he was most likely among the many New Yorkers that suffered the latent effects of all the dust and what not that was in the air at the time. I don't like to speculate without the facts but I wanted to put it out there to highlight this particular day and also (with all the respect to his familly and friends) not forget the great up and coming tambolero that was, Michael Rodriguez.

On a side note, Willie told me that tonight on the History Channel they will have a 9/11 special and said special will included footage taken by non other than Alfie Alvarado, I believe it starts at 9pm. Here is a small blurb on Alfie:

Alfie. A videographer and chronicler who has documented some of the most important moments in Latin Jazz and its musicians with a singular passion, Alfie Alvarado has been a longtime fixture in Latin Jazz circles for almost twenty years.



Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Culture War: No Drumming Allowed

(Marcus Garvey Park Drummers, Photo Credit: NPR)

On September 28th, a group of percussionists will gather at Marcus Garvey Park on 122nd and 5th Ave. to protest the attacks against the playing of percussion instruments in the park. This protest seeks to preserve a cultural activity that has been ongoing for 40 years. It is difficult to not see this in racial terms but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...it's a damn duck! Several White gentrifiers have purchased brownstones along the avenue facing the park and they find the music objectionable. So a handful of people want to impose their will on an entire community that had no problem with the activities prior to their invasion. The law is clearly on the side of the protestors as it pertains to the playing of instruments in the park. The drummers have always maintained a good rapport prior to these problems by observing a self imposed discipline which included cessation of the drumming at a time earlier then that prescribed by law. Those who would maintain the culture have always faced these type of obstacles. I have experienced much more volatile reactions to my playing over the years.

(San Francisco,Picture Credit: Geordie Van Der Bosch )

In the late 70s I had a friend who lived on Wadsworth Terrace in upper Manhattan. There was a great little pocket park directly across the street from his building and he arranged a rumbon for one Saturday afternoon. There were several of us playing and singing and the community residents who were in the park were enjoying the music. All of a sudden it began to rain large glass bottles. The trees were in full bloom concealing the paths of the bottles so you had no way to see them coming and avoid them. Mothers grabbed their children and ran for cover. We took our drums and held them over our heads to deflect any strikes. This lasted for almost a minute. When the bombardment finally ceased we ran up on the roof but the cowards had gotten away. We then made the Jam session a regular Saturday feature in protest and even started playing Friday nights on ocassion. We lost that battle but won the war.

On yet another adventure, I was invited to play at the playground behind 210 E 230th St. just off of Broadway. During the course of the jam I felt a sharp pain on my upper thigh and a rumbero named Phil standing next to me was hit in the chest. The best we could figure was that we had been shot by BBs. I can only thank Olofi that neither of us took one in the face and lost an eye. I can say without fear of contradiction that these attacks had a racial motivation and despite the fact that I myself am white my association makes me a valid target in the sick minds of some individuals. I have had neighbors however of different races and creeds put all sorts of notes under my door and I even had one knock on my door with a hammer in his hand threatening to end my playing days.

(Speaks for itself doesn't it?)

There is something about the hand played drum that is powerful and mystical and people react very differently to its sound. Those of you who are old enough to remember the classic Tarzan movies will remember the British colonialist in his tent, the sound of drums clearly audible in the distance. Invariably, they would finally break and exclaim, "those infernal drums, I can't stand it any longer." There is no doubt that the drum, especially 30 drummers can have an intrusive effect on the immediate area where they are being played. However there is room and time for each to express their cultural preferences and we need to get to a place where we celebrate the diversity we enjoy instead of seeking to censor any aspect of it.

William Everich

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rumba University of the Streets

(Johnny Conga and Willie Everich in 1973 @ 149th st on the Grand Concourse, Photo Credit: Willie "El Ruso" Everich)

In 1972 I embarked upon my percussion journey. I had acquired several teachers most important of which was "Trap" or Johnny Conga as he prefers to be called these days. JC lived on Walton Ave near 166th St and Mulally Park, the rumba university, was several blocks away. His day time gig at that point was Mental Health Worker, a position with NYC's HHC. One of his colleagues was one Luciano "Chano" Rodriguez who was also an accomplished percussionist and artist and lived on Jerome and 165th St; directly across the street from the park. Phil Newsome, timbalero with Harlow at the time also lived in Chano's building as did percussionist/artist and one of the ORIGINAL founders of El Museo Del Barrio and the Taller Boricua, Adrian Garcia.

(Left to Right: Adrian Garcia, Willie "El Ruso" Everich, Amanda Everich, Johnny Conga, the late Chano, Photo Credit: Willie "El Ruso")

Just west, up a long flight of stairs, a group had taken over a building and claimed it for the people. They also included many percussionists and artists as well. They represented the African American presence in the park and included such players as Yomi Yomi, Balogun, Akinsele and Dafadi among others. These drummers travelled the world as members of the reknowned Chuck Davis Dance Company. They introduced me to Djimbe. Many of the members of this collective would go on to help found Oyotungi Village . They were the very first I saw play Bata (at the Studio Museum in Harlem) and DunDun, the talking drums . Other visitors to the park included Eloi Marti, older brother of Virgilio, Tapia, Osorio (who would become conguero with Charanga 76) and Henry Fiol of Saoco fame. Chano's apartment became a Mecca of percussion with many jam sessions lasting for hours as everyone honed their skills and fed their heads. I myself spent many hours there playing and listening to my teachers who were tough but fair. If Chano's apartment was the Dean's office then Mulally was the classroom where rumba and other rhythms were played just about every night. Chano was also in possession of a vast music collection that afforded plenty of research material. For someone wanting to learn to play, Mulally provided an opportunity that you would be hard pressed to recreate. It was without a doubt the Rumba University of the Streets and I am one of the extrememly lucky alumni.

(Mullally Park, Bronx NY)

Alberto "Tito" Cepeda

Jose (Rivera) mentioned not too long ago, that he at long last finished fixing Tito's drum. I asked Jose to send a pic and here it is. It is a Skin on Skin Tres Golpes drum. Its a beautiful oak drum and Jose did a great job, here it is.

(Tito's Skin on Skin drum, Photo Credit: Jose "Timba" Rivera)

In any case Jose was going to deliver the drum personally to Tito at his home in El Barrio and took Willie along for the ride. Ever the opportunist, I asked Willie to tell Jose to take a pic of Tito with said drum:

(Tito and his tres golpe, Photo Credit: Jose "Timba" Rivera)

Jose does great work, but this leads me to the topic at hand, Alberto "Tito" Cepeda.

Rumbero, Guirero, Plenero, Bombero. All are correct descriptions when speaking of Tito Cepeda, who is equally comfortable playing caja in bembe, to playing primo in a yuba. Felix mentions Tito in a previous post when talking about early rumba groups in the city. Tito cut his teeth at the Lexington Avenue Express Music Workshop learning with master plenero Marcial Reyes, and Jose tells me that he actually lived with Marcial for a time, which must have been a school in and of itself, no doubt.

Here is a write up on Tito on Los Pleneros website:

Born in East Harlem, New York in 1956. Tito's family exposed him to the traditional music of Santeria. Later, in the Lexington Avenue Express Music Workshop, he learned bomba and plena from the master plenero Marcial Reyes. He played and recorded with Pepe Castillo y su Estampa Criolla and is a founding member of Los Pleneros de la 21. His distinctive drum and his ability to motivate the dancers, makes Tito the commanding force in the bomba drum ensemble of Los Pleneros de la 21. Tito has featured with Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Victor Montañez, La Familia Cepeda, Grupo Afro Cuba de Matanzas, Orlando Ríos "Puntilla", Carlos "Patato" Valdez y Totico.

Tito has played with Totico's guiro group among, Willie "El Ruso", Apache, Jose Timba, and others. Jose mentions that when he got his set of Skin on Skins from Jay Bereck, he brought his tumbadora down to the guiro and it was blessed by non other than Tito Cepeda. Tito was the first cat to really play the drum, and according to Jose it sounded like butter. Tito Cepeda comes from a long line of famous bomberos, "La Familia Cepeda". The Cepedas put out an album called dancing the drum on bembe records. You can get yours here:

You can hear Tito specifically on Los Pleneros de la 21 recordings:

Jose mentions that when they dropped of the drum yesterday, Tito was playing some stuff on a rare 7 key requinto and he was doing some pretty amazing stuff. Tito is definitely a treasure trove of information, I hope I can get more info on him in the future.

(Tito and the late Patato, Photo Credit: Jose "Timba" Rivera)

I posted a great video of Los Pleneros (video taken by Dennis Flores) with Juango and Hector Matos on buleadores and Tito on primo, I believe Victor Velez is singing lead, Tato Torres, Sammy and Nelly Tanco, and another cat I can't identify on coro, and Roberto Cepeda dancing with a woman whose name escapes me at the moment. Check Tito's mastery as he is marcando los pasos.

Monday, September 8, 2008

La Rumba No Es Como Ayer - Blogsite

At work this morning (yeah I know) I was updating info on my blog and checking out Barry's excellent blog (Vamos a Guarachar!), as I usually do at least a couple of times a week. Every couple of days or so he will have some great info and rare music to download. I was very happy to read the blog this particular morning because he has a link to a great new blog called "La Rumba No Es Como Ayer". Barry and his partner in crime Patricio are compiling info on rumberos/rumberas/groups and putting it all on one site for the masses. This is great news, especially since something like this is right down my alley. Hopefully with what Barry and Patricio are doing on their side, what Tony is doing on his end, what Mark is doing in his corner, and what I am doing in my nook, we will be able to cover what needs to be covered. Enjoy!!!

(Virulilla, Photo Credit: Unknown)

Also check out this great interview w/ Ned Sublette and Ivor Miller (Voice of the Leopard):


I got this song off of Barry's site: (For all that want to know what "Sentimiento Manana" means, I'll let Miguel Angel Aspirina explain)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Los Rumbero All Stars

So I am sitting in Willie’s living room watching a copy of the documentary that he produced way back when about Rumba in the city, or more specifically, “Armando’s Rumbacera” (rumba that was a mainstay throughout the 80’s and 90’s in Washington Heights), and I keep hearing the name “Los Rumbero All Stars” (not to be confused with “Los Rumberito All Stars”, consisting of a young Marc Quinonez, Bobby Allende, etc…) At various points in the doc, Willie asks various rumberos (i.e. Apache, Yambu, Yeyito Flores, Rene Lopez II, Dorien, Jose Rivera, Izzy Davila, Angel Rodriguez) about their influences and so forth. At least 3 or 4 cats mentioned Los Rumbero All Stars. So that stuck out in my mind.

Not too long before that I remember Felix Sanabria mentioning the same group as well, so I’m thinking, “why didn’t I know about this group, that seems to be of great influential importance?”, and “why isn’t there more information about them out there?”. Well, hopefully that won’t be the case for too much longer. .

Just the other day I gave Felix a ring to let him know I will be burning some cd’s for him and to ask him about Los Rumbero All Stars specifically. Now Felix is a pretty busy cat, which is why I usually call him at work, because I don’t want to take too much of his time at the house. Well, once I mention Los Rumbero All Stars, he runs down some of the history and next thing I know we are on the phone for probably 20 minutes straight. It was great.

Here are some of the names that were mentioned:

Rocky* (Ibae 11/94)
Eddie Mercado
Nestor "Bootie" Bonilla*
Fat Man

* main core group according to Willie El Ruso

(the lat e Rocky (ibae 11/94), Photo Credit: Felix Sanabria/Mark Sanders)

Apache told me a good story over the phone last year. As Apache tells it, he was walking in the neighborhood and heard someone playing conga. Apache, naturally drawn to the sound went to see where it was coming from. What he saw was a small cat, about 5', 4", but playing with the strength of 100 men. He had a powerful sound, which left a deep impression on Apache. That person was Bootie.

(Jose "Apache" Rivera, Photo Credit: Angel R)

Los Rumbero All Stars was more or less based out of El Barrio around 119th st. According to Felix there were several groups in and around NY at the time, such as Lexington Ave Express (Tito Cepeda, John Mason), there was Felix’s crew which played out of the Frederick Douglass Houses in the Upper West Side (Danny Santos, Yeyito, Joey, etc…), and David Hernandez’s group on 125th st and Amsterdam Ave.

(Tito Cepeda, Photo Credit: Los Pleneros de la 21)

According to Felix at the time in the 70’s Los Rumbero All Stars were the kings of the Central Park rumba. In his words, “they were untouchable.” They hold particular distinction in playing, developing or even creating rumba “breaks”. Willie mentions that they used to do breaks that would drive people nuts. See, while other rumbas were mostly rumba abiertas, Los Rumbero All Stars would be more organized and rehearsed. Not everyone could sit down and play with these cats; in fact the unit was small and rather tight. Felix also mentions that they hold the distinction of being one of the first (if not the first) group comprised mostly of Nuyoricans playing some heavy rumba. Felix has a recording from a group of rumberos dubbed, “Los Rumberos Ochenta”, which may have been an offshoot of Rumbero All Stars. Besides this they were street rumberos exclusively.

I'd like to compile whatever information I can about this important group. If anyone has any information please let me know.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ilu Aye - Labor Day Weekend

(Left to Right - Matthew Gonzalez, Jonathan Troncoso, Danny ?, ?, Bembesito, Norka, Photo Credit: Ralph Duque)

I was in NY over the weekend visiting Willie and basically catching up. Before I took the trip up we had decided to hang out at La Pregunta on Friday night to catch Ilu Aye. Neither of us had ever seen them live...we were in for a treat. I got to Willie's place from Maryland at about 7pm on Friday and we decided to just chill at his house until the time came to head out to La Pregunta. Jose (Rivera) met us at about 9pm or so and soon after we headed out. Neither of us had ever been to this spot so I am glad to say that it was definitely a cool place to hang out. There was almost a "familia type vibe" in that most people knew each other and were obviously there to support the guys. Parking was a little bit of a mission but I soon found a spot about a block away from La Pregunta which is conveniently located right across the street from City College.

Walking into the place I saw two Junior congas, a Gon Bop, and 3 barriles (Jose told me that they were made by Joe Santiago) so I knew there was going to be some bomba and rumba. I spotted some balsie drums to the corner and a guira, so I knew eventually they would go into Dominican palo and or salve. They started it out with a bomba which made my arm hair stand up. Me, Jose and Willie were looking at each other like....DAMN!!! They started out with Matthew Gonzalez (16 yrs old!!!) playing a sick primo, Jonathan Troncoso playing buleador and Fidel Tavares playing the other buleador. This young cat Matthew was marcando on that primo like a vet. He is defintely one to watch out for, he plays timbales and percussion for Zon del Barrio (click the link to see the bio), and did I mention that he dances a mean bomba as well?

(Matthew Gonzalez, Fidel Tavares, Jonathan Troncoso, Danny, Bembesito, Photo Credit: Ralph Duque)

So they did a great set of bomba's with Osvaldo "Bembesito" Lora singing the first couple and Norka Nadal singing as well. There was some great dancing by Matthew, Jonathan, Julia Gutierrez among others. I was glad to see Julia there since I knew that eventually when she did dance a bomba, heads would be taking notes, because she is that good.

(Matthew on primo, Jonathan and Felix on buleadores)

After that bomba set they went into bembe (with congas). Jonathan has probably played the best caja that I have ever seen in person, and he makes it look so effortless. Around this time Felix (Sanabria), whom I am glad came through was sitting at are table with this look of proudness on his face. See what you may not know as that many of these younger guys (i.e. Jonathan, Nicky, Bembesito, Camilo), play with and are Felix's godchildren. It was cool to see Felix there supporting them. Soon after they went into rumba and it was on. Felix got on quinto with Jonathan and Danny on tumbador and tres golpes respectively and lit the place on fire. Soon after Jose (Rivera) was called up and played a mean tumbador to a guaguanco and tres golpes to a columbia. Camilo Molina was on tumbador for the columbia and MAN, que ibiono. Willie had a running joke that night and kept telling Jonathan, "Hey Jonathan! Now play a fast one!"... These guys were playing with such energy and excitement that it was hard to stay in ones seat (which really is the whole idea to this music).

(Matthew on cachimbo, Jonathan on caja, Danny on mula)

(Fidel on quinto, Jose on tumbador, Camilo on tres dos)

(Felix Sanabria on quinto, Jonathan on tumbador, Danny on tres dos, Matthew on guagua, Photo Credit: Ralph Duque)

(Fidel on quinto, Jose on tumbador, Camilo on tres dos, Matthew on guagua, Photo Credit: Ralph Duque)

The guys then went directly into Dominican Palo, just when we thought it couldn't get more exciting.

(Jonathan doing what he does best, Photo Credit: Ralph Duque)

After the last set we went to Cuchifritos to grab a bite after attempts at going to El Malecon were foiled. I dropped off Jose and Willie and headed to Queens, but not before experiencing some great bomba, rumba, and palo, all in the same place!

(Felix and Susan Sanabria guarachando, Photo Credit: Ralph Duque)

On Sunday I hooked up with Willie to check out Zon del Barrio play at the Harlem Meer. What a great show with David Fernandez on keys, Yomo Toro on cuatro, Aurora Flores and Sammy Ayala on Vocals, Orestes on tumbador and Matthew on timbal. Alfie Alvarado (whom I finally got to meet) was with camera in hand as usual (more info on her later). It's hard to believe that Orestes and Matthew are 19 and 16 respectively. As Willie says, "the future is in good hands."

(Nelson Matthew Gonzalez, Photo Credit: Martin Cohen)

We went to the show with the hopes of getting a rumba going afterwords. I called Barry Cox earlier and I think he was getting Max to come with him (these guys sing a mean duo). Willie called a couple of his people and we had hoped to rumbiar with some of the cats from Zon as well. It turned out that people didn't show, the Zon cats had other commitments, and before it was too late I called Barry to let them know it wasn't happening and he hit the CP rumba on 72nd. It was a dissapointment but what can you do? On the way to drop Willie off we stopped at Patsy's to grab a slice and forget our troubles.

(Alfie Alvarado w/ camera not too far away, Photo Credit: Martin Cohen, this was taken at her benefit, not the Zon del Barrio gig)

All in all it was a great weekend.