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.....


berta said...

Fantastic job in doing this Afortunados y Chevere Macuncherere compilation! And Manuel as elegant as always. "Sin cantante no hay rumba"!

Sentimiento Manana said...

Mark runs the Fidel's Eyeglasses site, Sentimiento is handled Willie "El Ruso" Everich and your truly (Ralph). Mark did have some great info on the Los Afortunados recording that was never released though. Thanks for checking up on us Berta, much appreciated.

berta said...

Thank you! Very nicely put together.