Often overshadowed by a tumbador, tres dos, or quinto. The "guagua" is probably one of the most underrated ingredients for a swinging rumba. I have heard rumbas that start out only on clave and drums, but when they bring in the guagua, fuhgedaboutit!
Guagua actually means "bus" in some Latin American cultures, but I would describe its role as train-like as well, because while carrying the rhythm is also pushes. Diosdado Ramos playes a great guagua (Munequitos de Matanzas), Fidel Tavares (Ilu Aye), and so does Lazaro Rizo (Ven Tu Rumbero, Afrekete Iyabakua, Rumberos de Cuba) whom while playing guagua sings a hell of a duo.
Onto the subject at hand, the guagua. Known as "palitos", "cucharas", "cascara", "cata", etc...this indespensible and simple piece of bamboo (or box, side of conga, or jam block) exemplifies the concept of "less is more". A well played guagua is not too loud, steady and tasteful. The only problem is that getting a decent piece of bamboo is easier said then done in these parts. They are either too thin, cracked already, or too small. It seems that my pal Geordie over in California seems to be tackling this epidemic head on.
(Sandy Perez, Geordie, Photo Credit: Geordie)Geordie is a cool cat to deal with, he is reliable, and his guaguas are second to none. I don't know if he is openly taking orders but if you are interested drop me a line and I will pass it along. As far as I know for the time being he is selling his guaguas for $28 a piece (includes shipping), but you'd have to check with the man himself for confirmation on that.
(more Guaguas, Photo Credit: Geordie)
* Keep this up Geordie and I'm going to start calling you "Guagua" Van Der Bosch. Kinda has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?