Tuesday, September 9, 2008

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.

1 comment:

Aurora said...

GREAT VIDEO. The woman dancing is none other than Tata Cepeda, sister to Roberto.

Just returned from Tito Cepeda's funeral. So sad to see such potential go so soon but he was laid out like the drummer king he was. He is no longer in pain.

Many were the times we talked & shared in music, politics and community during the days of the Lexington Avenue Express workshops where I'd meet up w/ my brother Yeyito.

Rest in peace, Tito.