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.

1 comment:

Antono "BUDI" Bonilla said...

My dad Nestor Budi Bonilla is still around. Im sure he can tell you all you want to no about his good 'ol days.You can reach me at