Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Perdon" - Anya Ade

Here is a clip that Felix put up on youtube. I believe it took place after his presentacion of his fundamento "Anya Ade", at Julia de Burgos. If you look carefully, Pedrito Martinez is on quinto and singing, Bembesito is standing up to the right, Emilo Barreto is sitting on the left next to Ramin Quintana. It looks like Jonathan may be on tumbador, and Abi Holiday is on tres dos. Abraham Rodriguez is singing duo along with Wilfredo "El Jabao" (ibae). Nicky, Mikel Sotolongo, and Pepe Calabaza (ibae) are around the circle, and it looks like Obanilu is playing guagua. If you notice to your right there is a man and woman dancing, the "man" just happens to be the late Canute Bernard (ibae) and the woman is non other than Ileanna Santamaria (Mongo's daughter). Here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bomba @ Lincoln Center 8/25/01

Soon after Maestro Tito passed away, a tribute was held in his honor at Lincoln Center. Part of the show was dedicated to La Bomba, a group of rhythms and dance from the island of Boriquen. Tito Puente was the quintessential Nuyorican. As such, it was befitting to pay homage to this musical form. Felix "Jovan" Romero and Xiomara Rodriguez are the featured dancers. Louie Bauzo and Greg Askew play barilles de Bomba.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving....What we have always needed

Someone in the White House who understands us.....HAHAHAHAHAHA...Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sandy Perez Class - SF

(Sandy demonstrating a bembe part, Photo Credit: Geordie)

Ever since Geordie mentioned taking classes with Ramon "Sandy" Perez, I have been bugging him to send me some pics. Sandy probably plays one of the best quintos (if not the best) on the West Coast. I hope the guys in SF know how lucky they are to be able to sit down with such a player (I know Geordie does). If you didn't know, Sandy comes out of the much respected Villamil family tree and it goes something like this. (Info from

Ñobla Cardenas, a babalawo and Omo Oggun who came from Oyo, capital of Yorubaland, tierra lukumi

Mauricio Piloto, a musician who also came from Oyo

Juan Villamil, son of Mauricio Piloto, married Tomasa Cardenas,daughter of Ñobla Cardenas

Alfred Villamil Cardenas

Julia Gonzalez Villamil married Felix Tapanez

Pedro Pablo "Pello" Tapanez Gonzalez, founder of the cabildo Zarabanda Briyumba Congo, percussionist, founder of Afrocuba de Matanzas

Edubije Villamil, daughter of Juan

Armando Matinez Villamil

Vasilio Villamil(Chango Dele), son of Juan

Fernando Villamil

Regina Villamil, daughter of Juan

Osvaldo Carmita (omo Obatala)

Cukita Augustina "Tinita" Villamil, daughter of Juan married Francisco Herrera ("Pancho Camaján")

Juana Herrera Villamil

Jesús Gonzalez Herrera

Daniel Elias Alfonso Herrera (master percussionist, teacher)

Oldani Alfonso Isquierdo (percussionist, Rumba Caliente)

Sara "Mima" Herrera Villamil (Afrocuba, wife of Francisco Zamora, director, Afrocuba)

Elias Villamil Cardenas (he didn’t take his father’s name)

Reynaldo "Naldo" Gove (Afrocuba)

Juan Carlos Gove (Afrocuba)

Israel Gove Villamil

Sara (Mima) Gove Villamil (singer, dancer with Afro Cuba married to Francisco "Minini" Zamora Chirino)

Olga Gove Villamil (only true child of Octavio Gove Tuscano, Tinita’s 2nd husband - the rest just took his name)

Eugenio Herrera Villamil

Dulce Maria Herrera Villamil married Pedro Morales

Lazara Morales Villamil

Luis (Luisito) Cansino Morales (percussionist with Los Muñequitos, formerly with Afro Cuba de Matanzas)

Lazaro Herrera Villamil

Laudelina Herrera Villamil married Filomena Perez Domínguez

Ana Perez (singer, los Muñequitos, omo Babaluaye) married Cipriano Nilo García Alfonso

Luis Enriques Garcia Perez (percussionist, Rumba Son, omo Obatala)

Ramón García (Sandy) Perez (percussionist, was with Afro Cuba now in US, omo Oya)

Jurien García Perez (percussionist, singer, dancer, was with Los Muñequitos, now with Afro Cuba)

Yasmani Alfonso Perez (son of Ana and Jesus Alfonso Miró, percussionist (quinto) with Los Muñequitos) singer, dancer, percussionist since age 3

Yurien (Obba Ile, Varadero)

Danilo Perez Herrera (percussionist, quinto, Muñequitos)

Danilito Perez Fernandez (formerly of Afrocuba, now choreographer for los Reyes del Tambor)

Maria Dolores (Dolores) Perez Herrera (singer, Afro Cuba)

Omara (translates, teaches English)

Dolores Regla (Paula) Perez Herrera (dancer with Afrocuba, omo Ochun, married Israel Berriel)

Israel (Puchito) Beriel Perez (percussionist with Afro Cuba de Matanzas, omo Elegua)

Teresa Perez Gonzalez

Teresa (Teresita) Dome Perez (dancer, singer, was with Afro Cuba, now in the US)

Odali Fuente

Tomasa Villamil, born in 1901 (recently deceased at age 97, daughter of Juan, 4 descendants in Rumba y Son) married Bernino García Beba

Teresa Pollero Noriega (Conjunto Foklorico) Claridad

Felipe Garcia Villamil (founder of Emi Keke, now in CA, where he teaches and plays)

Betina García Villamil (singer, Afro Cuba)

So if you are in the SF area and want to learn from "la mata" so to speak, then, "ya tu sabe".
Here are the details:
Sandy Perez - Afro-Cuban Percussion Workshop - (762 Fulton Street San Francisco) 8-10pm Thursdays $20

Thanks Geordie for keeping it going.
**Sandy also teaches a class in Berkeley at the La Pena Cultural Center at 1:15-3:00 on Saturdays.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bambula 11/29/2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Eddie Bobe

A couple of weeks back I established contact with Eddie Bobe. We talked for a few minutes but since he was on his way to the studio, we couldn't really talk. He is currently working on a Nigerian/Cuban Bata project and it will feature the late great Puntilla (ibae) in probably one of the last recordings that he participated in.

(Eddie Bobe - iya, Photo Credit: Eddie Bobe)

I asked Eddie how he came up learning these traditions and here is what he had to say:

I basically learned the Folklore on my own. Rumba y Bata at the time in NYC, there were not a lot of players as there are now on the scene. It was a small circle and there was only a few old recordings that served as a musical model. We learned from each other and older players who had fragments of the vocabulary. It was a reciprocal study and learning experience. I was Frankie Malabe's protege so I came into the scene with an expansive musical sense. Julito Collazo brought the Bata Drums here to the US in the 50's, there was no Internet and limited access to information at the time so there were a lot of drummers with only the "A,B,C'S" until we aquired the other few pieces to the Rumba -Bata puzzle as tapes, books , clips, came into play. In the mid 70's Rene Lopez recorded Afro Cuba de Matanzas and others and brought back the tapes and they spread amongst the small Drumming -Rumba community. This gave us an opportunity to listen, study, dissect and internalize more of the musical vocabulary, then in 1980-81 Puntilla and other great Rumberos such as Manuel "El Llanero" who brought more of the Xyz's. We had some incredible rumbas and jams in the late 70's in Central Park and across the city before their arrival.

But before that, we were experimenting with the information that was around. The NYC Rumberos of my generation were just the right balance and blend in terms of the US development and evolution and understanding of Rumba and Bata folklore, because we used our own minds and had the talent when it came to interpreting the music correctly since we weren't born in the magic surroundings ofthe solares it was in our blood and conciousness. It's a complex subject because as the music is uniquely re-interpreted on many dimensions here in NYC or wherever it is played (in Puerto Rico, or the west coast) its rebuilt on misconceptions because of lack of information. So it becomes a new form stylistically wherever it travels. You could have 10 people watch the same movie or read the same book but your going to get 10 uniquely different interpretations on the same subject as it was also reinterpeted in Cuba from Spanish and African elements and became a new music and dance form there.

That's the paradox of information. Its a human abstraction codified with tradition, laws, religion and culture. So information, technique, musical aesthetics and sensibility are relative to that context.

Rumba & Bata are always in a state of flux. Everything in this dimension is imperfect and incomplete because everything is constantly evolving and developing, as the Rumba takes or adds on new musical characteristics.

*more to come from Eddie...

Anya Ade, Ilu Aye

Check out these vids that I found on youtube. I believe Nicky put these out there. The second one is a gas.

Ilu Aye, Cajon Espiritual

Anya Ade

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jonathan Troncoso

A conversation with Willie the other day sparked the post at hand. We usually end up talking about the cats that comprise Ilu Aye (I hope at this point you haven't gotten sick of hearing that name) but we do so for good reason. One, they at the forefront in the NYC musical scene when speaking of Afro Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Dominican Roots music. And two, they are humble. This in itself is a rarity as I know many besides myself can attest to.

One of the main problems surrounding groups such as this is that the testerone level becomes so high that groups eventually disband for numerous reasons. It seems that Ilu Aye has stuck together and the key members are in for the long haul (let's hope).

Which leads us to our latest profile: Jonathan "JBlak" Troncoso.

To say that Jonathan can play is an understatement. Not only can he play, but he can play well and he seemlessly fits in with whichever groups he plays with. This fluidity has allowed Jonathan to not only become a first call percussionist but has also allowed him to play with most if not all NY's folkloric groups. He can sing, dance, he plays a mean caja to bembe and let's not even mention what he can do on a balsie drum.

(Jonathan on tambora, Photo Credit: Harold M Martinez)

Here is some info regarding Jonathan (taken from his myspace site):

Jonathan “JBlak” Troncoso, was born into a family of musicians (including grandfather Bienvenido Troncoso - the well-known composer) in Los Mina - Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1982. Jonathan was inspired to be a musician at an early age by his father, Domingo Troncoso, a percussionist. At the age of five, he picked up his first instrument, "la tambora", and amazed his family and neighbors. Jonathan’s ease and fluidity with the instrument had been learned observing his father, a professional musician. Shortly thereafter, Jonathan began playing guira and later, bongo. Versed early on in playing percussion for popular music such as merengue, bachata, and salsa, Jonathan began playing professionally as his father’s young protégé. His musical life changed and interests shifted when Jonathan moved to New York City in 1992, at the age of 10.

Displaced by the move to New York and fascinated by the presence of live percussion on New York City streets, Jonathan began training in Afro-Cuban and Afro-Dominican traditional percussion with Manolo Mota, his first teacher in a foreign land. By 2000 Jonathan was invited to join Claudio Fortunato y Los Guedes, a well-known ensemble of Afro-Dominican traditional musicians dedicated to preserving the Dominican traditions of “los palos” for sacred and popular functions. Increasingly, Jonathan was drawn to the pulse of street-side rumbas throughout New York and began to embrace Afro-Cuban musical traditions as eagerly as he embraced the musics of the Dominican Republic. At once, he had become a child of the Hip-Hop generation in New York City, where he performed Spanish Hip-Hop and Reggeatón. As much a student of professional musicians and traditional masters in New York, as the streets, Jonathan was a sponge for culture - a characteristic that broadened his musical horizons and inspired his study and later, mastery of several instruments in the Afro-Caribbean musical traditions.

Driven by his familial influences and the teachings of numerous other master musicians and percussionists, including David Oquendo, Roman Diaz, Pedrito Martínez, Pupi Insua, Felix Sanabria, Ernesto Rodriguez and Boni Raposo, Jonathan has dedicated himself to the African musical traditions of the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and most recently, Puerto Rico. As an emerging professional musician, Jonathan is known for playing a range of Afro-Caribbean genres, including, palo dominicano, Afro-Cuban rumba, bata, palo, and abakuá rhythms, and is presently studying Afro-Puerto Rican bomba y plena, two genres he embraced while collaborating with Puerto Rican percussionists Nicholas Laboy and Obanilú Allende. Influenced by the dynamic interaction between his peers - namely, young Dominican, Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians in New York - Jonathan co-founded Grupo Ilú Ayé (previously known as La Yuma) in 2003, a ground-breaking group of Afro-Caribbean percussionists dedicated to preserving and promoting the sacred and popular drumming traditions of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Jonathan is respected for his versatility and willingness to learn and experiment with fusions of different genres and rhythms. This versatility has propelled him to the stage with several well-established folkloric groups, including Raíces Habaneras, Felix Sanabria’s sacred bata ensemble Aña Ade, and folkloric troupe Los Afortunados. He has also freelanced with groups such as Oriki Omi Odara, Yerbabuena, Palo Monte, La 21 División and Alma Moyo. He continues to collaborate with musicians and noted musical ensembles throughout New York City. Jonathan’s career continues to expand to new venues and outlets. In early 2005, Jonathan was featured on NBC’s Third Watch, with Aña Ade.

Jonathan lives in the Bronx where he continues to collaborate with local artists, and broaden his own creative pursuits.)

Jonathan w/ Los Munequitos de Matanzas, Photo Credit: Barry Cox)

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

He has recorded with:

Ben Lapidus - "Vive Jazz"

Smithsonian Folkways - "Quisqueya en El Hudson"

*top pic, Credit: Harold M Martinez

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fundacion Cultural Bayahonda, Vol. 1 (1997)

The great thing about groups like Ilu Aye, is that they offer the listener an opportunity to broaden their musical horizons. I am without a doubt a self professed rumba nut. I can listen to rumba, bata, guiro and other Afro Cuban musical forms all day long. I can also listen to bomba, plena, latin jazz, and some mambo. Up until recently Dominican Roots music was totally off my radar. For some reason I just slept on it big time. With help from friends, Danny Diaz, Ramon Ortiz, and groups like Ilu Aye, I have been trying to play a little catch up.

Ramon Ortiz passed along a recording by the name of "Bayahonda". I was so grateful since I had no congo, palo, salve, gaga in my collection. Upon first listen I was completely in awe of the energy and technical proficiency of the drummers and singers. This is some heavy music and you haven't been to an Ilu Aye performance, then you need to check them out because when they break out the balsie drums and panderetas, watch out!

Fundacion Cultural Bayahonda, is basically an agency dedicated to the preservation, study and cultural development of Afro Caribbean art forms, (in this case Dominican Roots and some fusion). Here is the groups' purpose (in Spanish).

La Fundación Cultural Bayahonda es una institución sin fines de lucro concebida como un espacio plural y democrático, basado en la diversidad cultural y en criterios de participación colectiva .
La misión principal de la Fundación Cultural Bayahonda es de aportar a la revalorización de nuestra identidad y a los procesos de transformación social mediante la articulación de diferentes propuestas artísticas y culturales.
Su objetivo superior es aportar a la reconstrucción de nuestra identidad cultural mediante la revalorización de las distintas manifestaciones populares, dadas a nivel comunitario, regional y nacional y contribuir a los procesos de transformación de nuestra incorporando a la vez una perspectiva de genero y una opción de desarrollo articulada a la cultura y generar mayores niveles de calidad en las propuestas artísticas y de gestión cultural alternativas dentro de una opción de desarrollo viable y sostenible.

(Click on the following link for some sound samples)

So if this music moves you as much as it does me, you can get your copy by clicking on the pic above.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Siento una voz que me dice..... Are Iye O!

I have been trying to build up my rumba repertoire, and although I do not consider myself a singer at all, when I get together with the guys and we play a little rumba without lyrics, it kills me, so I'll usually work up the nerve to sing a verse or two and bring a coro in, just so things sound halfway decent. If its one thing that I have learned about the rumba is that it is comprised of 3 necessary ingredients: Drum, Voice, and Dance. Without this triumvirate you are just jamming. So I have been trying to learn as many rumba "standards" as I can. "Donde Vas, Mulato, Donde Vas", "El Kikiriki", "Palo Quimbombo", and "Malanga". So as I am singing "Malanga" again and again, while playing guagua, I start thinking, "Why not try and do a little research on the legendary rumbero, Jose Oviedo "Malanga".

Now Malanga, along with other rumberos such as, Chaborro, Andrea Baro, Mulense, Roncona, Pancho Mumba, Macho, have been canonized to the point where at times we may not even believe they existed as humans, but rather the legends they portray in the songs in which they are mentioned. But lets dig a little deeper shall we?

A quick google inquiry dug up the following, written by Maria del Carmen Mestas.

His body stopped moving and his soul departed to only god knows where. His eyes were still open and a fine line of blood left his mouth. José Rosario Oviedo, the best timbero ever had just enjoyed his last pleasure of rumba.
The day before he had had a weird dream: a faceless woman was taking him by the hand and leading him along a path of silence. He woke up and the vertigo made him feel as his bed was a ship about to sink. He looked out the window and the cold wind brought shivers down his spine: little by little he managed to get on his feet. It had to be that way. That was going to be a great day. His friends were waiting for him to watch him dance and he had to show them that he was still the king, the chosen one by the rumba goddess.
On his way to the party he ran across an old man who told him: "Malanga, don’t go. Go back home. This is not your day." The dancer laughed and his small teeth shone in the dark. He turned away and kept moving toward the challenge.
Before he got there he stopped and tapped the rhythm in his mind. He also rehearsed a few steps of Columbia, an exclusive dance for men, even when Andrea Baró and Chichí Armenteros became famous Columbia female dancers. He pretended to bat a homerun, then to bullfight a fierce bull ready to run him over, and finally to fly a kite willing to escape in the blue sky.
The party had already begun. Chenche and Mulense, with their usual skills, gave a magnificent dissertation to the audience. Then, José Rosario, who was never the first to come out, danced and danced to everyone’s joy.
Short and fat, but with quick moves, Malanga challenged gravity with a bottle over his head looking up the sky. Then, he produced several sharp knives from his waist and, with a unique, violent, and feverish dance, he stole a big hand from the audience. Then he had fun, cracked a few jokes, and strolled with proud amongst the women present at the party. He had a glass of cheap aguardiente in his hand.
Suddenly the great timbero dropped the glass and took his hands to his aching stomach. His look seemed lost in the distance. His legs weakened and then he fell heavily to the floor. Someone asked, "Malanga, Malanga, what’s wrong, bro?" The rumbero wanted to answer but his words wouldn’t come out. Then he died.
Who was the murderer? Whose hand dropped poison or ground crystal in the glass? Was it a broken-hearted affair? Was it vengeance? Was it the rivalry of another rumbero? Or maybe politics? Believe it or not, Malanga had enemies due to his increasing support to the liberal party, of which he was a political sergeant. Everyone gave his or her version of the facts. However, the truth was never known. It remains as buried as the famous rumbero.

Some people say he was born 5 October 1885, in La Esperanza estate, Alacranes. Others say he was born in Sabanilla del Encomendador, in the properties of a wealthy landowner named Oviedo, near Unión de Reyes, Matanzas. He was the son of an unknown father and Francisca Funciona or Pascuala Oviedo.
There are no pictures of him, only the spoken portrait of those who met him.
He was a nice guy. His face was marked by chickenpox. He had big eyes. He was nicknamed Malanga when he was a kid. He was a black guy who danced and played rumba very well.
People say that in Guines, Havana, he had a group of fans who would always come to watch him dance in the porticos of Café La Lombilla, where he often came to dance rumba. The businessmen of the café appreciated it so much that even gave him a commission because he drew many clients to the place.
He would often travel to Ciego de Ávila to the sugarcane harvest. There is a story that reflects his vocation for rumba. One day someone came to the fields looking for him. He was needed urgently. But he was nowhere to be seen. Then someone asked: Why don’t we play some rumba? And if fact, he showed up in seconds hoe in hand.
It is believed that he became so famous that the Club Atenas, and exclusive place for black intellectuals in Havana, welcomed him in their premises because of his dancing prodigies.
Before his involvement in the Guerrita de Agosto, the dancer had founded the Union de Reyes’s Timberos club, who followed him around the country.
In the 1920s he had a strike of bad luck. His daughter Bernarda died one month after she was born, and later he broke up with his wife Federica Crespo.
Even when his death might have happened in Ciego de Ávila, some people say it happened in a shantytown in Ceballos, Morón.
An old musician of the times, Cecilio Campanería -Campana Naveró-, ascertained that Malanga and a group of rumberos were invited by Chenche and Mulense to travel to Morón "to have a ball," but everyone "smelled a rat" and declined. Only the ever defying Malanga went looking for death. He paid no attention to his friends’ warnings. He wouldn’t listen to anyone.
"I saw him depart on that one-way trip. I insist it was envy, Chenche and Mulense’s envy. That poison was in their hands."
Where is Malanga’s body? That’s another mystery. A gravedigger who met him back then is sure he didn’t bury him in the Ciego de Ávila cemetery. Then, if he did die there as so many people claim, where was he buried? Or maybe his body was secretly buried to avoid a police investigation? Was it really a murder?
Research hasn’t shed any more light over his death, which shocked rumberos and friends alike. It is known that it happened in the 1920s, maybe in 1923, and that the Unión de Reyes mayor, Ramón González Quevedo, allowed a three-day feast as tribute to the great timbero. There is a park in Unión de Reyes called Parque de la Rumba José Rosario Oviedo, and musicians play their conga drums there to keep Malanga’s flame alive.

So while the purpose of "Sentimiento" remains to highlight rumberos, bomberos, pleneros and Afro Caribbean percussionists from the NYC area, It would almost be criminal not to mention some of the early pioneers whose influence has definitely stood the test of time. Thats all on Malanga for now, but if you want to do more research on the Cuban rumberos of yesteryear you need to check out: (These are the cats that are really tackling the Cuban side of things)

Esquina Rumbera (Barry Cox' Site)

Conjunto Folklorico Nacional Blog

La Rumba No Es Como Ayer

Rockin' Rumba @ the Sports Bar 4/10/05 Bronx, NY

There was some serious intensity on dsplay in this segment of the regular Sunday night rumba held at the Castle Hill Sports Bar. I'll let the video speak for itself. All the usual suspects were in attendance.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

La Timba No Es Como Ayer........

Speaking from an East Coast perspective, ever since Daniel Ponce pulled out five congas in New York and played all five, nothing has been the same. He and others have certainly challenged the notion of the congas being a time keeping member of the rhythm section and maybe allowed to voice a solo on occasion. The possibilities exploded on the scene with the wave of great percussionists ushered in by the Mariel boatlift. There were some examples of the potential as portrayed by the late great Chano Pozo and the little known Peanuts Taylor (check him out on YouTube) who played as many as six drums at a time. Mongo Santamaria has got to be mentioned. They were few and far between however. Giovanni Hidalgo has blown away all convential wisdom as it pertains to the tumba and its application in various musical settings. He has been followed by scores of great young percussionists including Los Postritos from Puerto Rico under the tutelage of "Mole" Ortiz. This freedom of expression has found a rather new voice in explorations in clave in odd meters. Musicians, when not playing, like nothing better then to discuss music. I have two Internet buddies, Max Garduno from Califas and Conor Guilfoyle from Dublin whom I have dubbed the Odd Couple because of their steadfast dedication to pushing the clave envelope into uncharted waters. We have indulged in an ongoing debate about odd meters in clave for months now. I was taught by traditionalists. I tend to be conservative in my views of just what constitutes clave driven music. They have been working on me however and I'm beginning to see their respective points of view. Conor sent me a video where he plays a straight ahead 4/4 swing time against the rumba clave and it really works well to my ears. These guys are into 5s, 7s and 9s as well and have developed some interesting ideas. Many Latin Jazz ensembles offer odd meter numbers in their repetoires over the last 5-6 years. Listen for them and you'll see what I mean. Willie "El Ruso"

Los Afortunados - Musica Yoruba

This particular clip features the vocal talents of Emilio Barreto (akpwon). Felix is on Iya, Miguel Rios is on itotele, and Mikel Sotolongo is on okonkolo. Ernesto "El Gato" and Pedrito Martinez are in the ankori section. The great dancer Xiomara Rodriguez is seen here dancing a mean "Elegua". They then go into an Arara, where the drums stop playing and hand claps take over as is usually done when singing Arara.

* from the Felix Sanabria collection...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Los Afortunados con Changuito, Part 2

Looks like Felix beat me to the punch on this one. The night I went to Felix's place we were so focused on capturing vids, that I think we called it quits at about 2am. This is part 2 of Los Afortunados w/ Changuito playing quinto, Felix on tumbador, and Tony Rosa on tres dos.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How It's Made - Conga

I was talking to Willie earlier and he mentioned that tonight on the Discovery Channel they are going to show how a "conga drum" is made. According to the listings it starts at 11pm tonight, so don't miss it. It would be cool if they showed how a drum is made by hand (i.e. Skin on Skin) but I have a feeling they will take us through the LP factory or something like that. I hope I'm wrong.

A Tambor as Sweet as Honey

Felix sent me info regarding a tambor de fundamento on Sat.

Anyade is playing, bembe is singing and I have Oludare, Nicko,Jblak, Dave, Danny, Nolberto, Emery and Echi.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Los Rumbero All Stars - Rocky's Bday

Here is a rare video, courtesy of Felix Sanabria. Unfortunately Rocky (ibae) was to pass away not too long after this recording. Los Rumbero All Stars, arguably one of the most important and influential early rumba groups in the city, never got their due. Their influence will live on in the minds and memories of those rumberos that happened to be in the right time and place and witnessed them play in person. This particular clip shows the rumberos playing for Rocky's birthday up in Peeskill. It seems that Juan Vega "Bamboo" was not in attendance for this particular jam, but they had more than enough players needed to get the party jumpin'. Enjoy.

Veterans Day

I'd like to take a moment to share with you a couple of names of rumberos/percussionists which hold the distinction of having served our country. Their sacrifice and bravery have made our country a safer place to live in and we are in their debt.

Johnny Conga
Angel Rodriguez
Luciano "Chano" Rodriguez (ibae)
John "Babaila" Martinez
Juan "Bamboo" Vega
Babafemi Akinlana
Rene Lopez Sr.
Gene Golden
Canute Bernard (ibae)

*I'd like to thank Willie and Felix who shared some of the names with me. I know there are many more, so If you would like to add, let me know.

A reminder.....

If your taste runs to Latin Jazz and vintage Afro Cuban music, click on Street Level Productions in the upper right hand section of the page for videos featuring greats such as Chico O'Farrill, Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente and many others. Most of these videos are one of a kind and do not appear on YouTube.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Matthew Smith Bata

(Iya, Itotele, Okonkolo, Photo Credit: Hugo Zapata)

I always get a kick out of talking to Matt. He called me today in response to an itotele inquiry I emailed him about. I think we talked for all of 5 minutes about the itotele and for about 20 minutes on Grupo Folklorico and how great Pedrito Martinez is. If you went to the Grupo concert on Sat (11/1) in the Bronx and didn't see Matt, shame on you. One may have the misconception that Matt is another ex furniture maker that has found a sort of niche in the drum building market. Nothing can be further from the truth, while his drums certainly look exquisite, Matt's main goal is to provide the discerning percussionist a dependable, heavy duty drum that in most cases will outlast its owner. His craft comes from his unwavering respect for the culture of the drum and those that came before him. He is (like most of us here) a latin jazz and rumba aficionado and thats where all this stems from.

In any case, a while back someone sent me some pics of Matt's bata work and I'd figure I'd post it here for all you drum fiends. Matt would probably cringe at the thought of me posting this but unfortunately words alone do not do these beauties any justice. I will soon be commissioning Matt's talents for an itotele. As far as Matt's bata, I have never played them or even seen them in person, but if his conga work is any indication I will not be dissappointed. If one thing holds true about bata construction is that no two sets are alike. Measurements vary widely from set to set. Alot of research went into Matt's early bata work, he referenced Fernando Ortiz's measurements early on, and Peachy Jarman (out of Philly) also provided valuable insight and critique as well. At some point Matt reached some measurements which he found most conducive not only for sound and aesthetic purposes but most importantly keeping in line with the tradition that these drums present.

As soon as I get the itotele (which will be a while from now), I will share my two cents or as Johnny Conga says, my two congas).

(all pics courtesy of Hugo Zapata out of Chicago)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Los Afortunados con Changuito...

Here's a rare treat with Changuito on quinto and if you notice he's also playing a little iya. Miguel Rios (Puntilla Jr) is on tumbador, and the great Tony Rosa (Conjunto Libre, Puntilla's Crew) is playing tres dos. I kinda like what Miguel is doing on tumbador, its really sparse.

Here you can see Abie and Manuel singing duo up close and personal. As I have said before Abie sings a hell of a duo, and here is just one more example. This is only part one, as part 2 has our own Felix Sanabria on tumbador (which I am working on putting up shortly as well).

*film courtesy of Felix Sanabria

Friday, November 7, 2008

Osvaldo "Bembesito" Lora

(Bembesito, Photo Credit: Harold M Martinez)

A couple of years ago Willie invited me to tambor de fundamento at Julia de Burgos. It was Totico's Aña, and Willie and Jose (Rivera) met me there. Willie and Jose didn't play bata but were there to help with the ankori section. When I got there I saw a couple of people that I had been following for some time already. As I walked up from across the street I saw Jonathan Troncoso outside talking to Camilo Molina, and someone else. When I got inside the guys were just setting up and Ted "Woochie" Holiday would be playing Iya, Mikel Sotolongo was going to play itotele and Ramin Quintana would be playing okonkolo.

Then a high pitch voice brings in the oro, and it is non other than Osvaldo "Bembesito" Lora. I had heard of Bembesito through Felix previously but had never heard him sing live. Supposedly he was this great young apkwon, and let me tell you he definitely lived up to the hype. His knowledge and "Africania" as Willie calls it is off the charts. Just imagine a Dominican "Cusito" singing the hell out of a tambor. Without a doubt Bembe is not only one of the great "young" singers in the NYC, but probably one of the best "all around" singers period, and the great thing about it is that he does it so effortlessly.

(A younger Bembesito, guess which one he is?)

I reached out to Bembe and asked him for some biographical info which I will share with all of you. From what I can gather Osvaldo Lora is out of Queens, and is of Dominican descent.

RD: At what point did you decide to start playing and whom or what influenced you early on?

OL: I have been a percussionist since I was 14 and I'm now 28. I went to Boys Harbor and studied under people like Jose Madera (Tito Puente's musical director an arranger) and also Victor Rendon, etc. I played with many Latin Jazz Orquestras and big bands. I was also involved in the bachata scene

RD: I understand that early on you have played with Babaila and Felix's groups, were you singing then or just playing?

OL: I started playing folkloric later on after getting initiated into Santeria (Regla de Ocha) where I got heavy into the orisha music and started with many of the locally known musicians of that scene, including Mario Pipo Diaz, Babaila, El Moro, Frank Bell, Totico, Roman Diaz, Pedrito Martinez, and many more. I am sworn to Anya Ade wich is Awo Orunmila Oshebile's (Felix Sanabria's) fundamento.

RD: I understand that Ilu Aye came out of an earlier group called "La Yuma", how did La Yuma start and what was its purpose?

OL: Most of the Ilu Aye members are sworn to it (Anya Ade). Ilu Aye was was started by Jonathan Troncoso when he started putting all its components together so for more info I'm a give his number so you can contact him...

*Bembesito was gracious enough to respond to my inquiry via cellphone/text.

When I saw Bembesito and Ilu Aye at La Pregunta on Labor Day Weekend, they really did their thing. Bembesito sang some bomba, rumba, bembe, palo, and if you were there you know that the place was literally rocking.

Bembesito is a serious student and has really done his homework when it comes to the songs. Jose would tell me that at times Bembesito would sing something at a guiro/bembe that no one would be up on, and when asked about it, he would shrug it off like nothing. Bembe's maturation is truly something to note, as he seemed to have developed quite a repertoire in a rather short time. Although it could be that he was playing low key until it was the right time. Something about the rumba/santo scene, as they say, "Si no sabes no te metas".

Nowadays Bembe is a first call apkwon, and is currently doing things on the R&B side as well. We at Sentimiento just want to give props where due, and Bembe if you are reading this, keep doing you thing, and keep your head in those books.

(Bembesito & ?, Photo Credit: Ralph)

(Video Credits: Dennis Flores)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nicky Laboy

(Nicky Laboy, Photo Credit: Harold M. Martinez)

Afro Caribbean percussion has an established history in NYC. We are speaking of tradition that has been passed along for a couple of generations already. With each generation more knowledge is ascertained and subsequently created upon, making the next generation of percussionist more proficient than the last. Enter Nicky Laboy.

Nicky Laboy plays it all, rumba, bata, palo, guiro, palo Dominicano, salve, congo Dominicano, bomba, plena, house, latin jazz, you name it. It seems that with the resurgence of young percussionists, Nicky is definitely playing a central role. He plays with pretty much every important folkloric group in the city (i.e. Ilu Aye, Anya Ade, Yerbabuena, among others), he has recorded with the likes of Lil' Louie Vega, and does work with House of Rhumba.

(Nicky Laboy, Photo Credit: Harold M. Martinez)

I am not going to speak too much on Nicky because he already has a bio out on his myspace site:

Nicholas Laboy (born June 18, 1980 in Spanish Harlem/ El Barrio, New York) is a driven musician with innate and continuously growing talents, placing him among the top young percussionists in New York City. Niko, as he is known in his professional circles, grew fond of music in his early childhood. His instruction began in a household surrounded by drums, bongos, congas, timbales and many other musical instruments. His father- being his most important influence- would sit with him, teaching him not only skills critical to his technical development, but above all, discipline. Playing on pots and pans as a child enabled Niko to create great sounds, eventually steering him toward formal musical training and cultivating his innate respect and love for the drums. Niko's formal instruction began at the age of 12 when his father enrolled him at the Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts, a renowned music school highly regarded for its commitment to teaching Latin music and percussion alongside other traditionally esteemed musical genres. Located only a block away from his home in the legendary "Spanish Harlem", Niko eagerly pursued music education at the Harbor, with his father's enthusiastic support. There he later met his mentors and teachers, the acclaimed Johnny Almendra and highly regarded Ramon Rodriguez. Johnny strengthened the potential seen by many and utilized rigorous drills and techniques to sharpen Niko's abilities. Under the guidance of his mentors at the Harbor, Niko obtained skills in Afro-Cuban traditional rhythms, and began the rigorous training which would help improve his stamina and speed on the congas, bongos and timbales Niko earned a Tito Puente Scholarship for 3 years at Boys Harbor, where he eventually went on to meet the legendary Tito Puente, and later began playing professionally with various local groups. Directed by Ricky Ayala at the Third Street Music School on the Lower East Side Manhattan, Niko has gone on to perform with renowned musicians such as Frankie Morales at the Copa Cabana N.Y and Masters at Work with Louie Vega at Opium Gardens Miami FL and NYC. One of his many goals in music as he once said; "To be able to use what I've learned and share with upcoming musical talents… We never stop learning and sharing our knowledge." Niko has worked on spreading the knowledge and has taught various percussion classes and Afro-Caribbean workshops throughout New York City and in Miami, FL. Niko is a current member of several notable Afro-Caribbean popular and sacred performance ensembles, including Puerto Rican roots band, Yerbabuena. Niko is also a founding member of Ilu- Aye, an Afro-Caribbean music collective dedicated to preserving the rich African musical influences in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Among his many noted contributions to these ensembles, is his superb ability to arrange and direct the groups, adding his own innovative touches and musical flavor. His talents have placed him among the most sought after young percussionists and stimulated the interest of numerous bands in including him in their recording projects. Among several bands and artists that he has collaborated with are: Latin Sensation directed by Jose Mangual Jr.; the internationally acclaimed dance music producer and DJ, Louie Vega ( M.A.W Inc.) for whom he recorded the highly praised percussion on "Steel Congo"; Lou Gorbea; Ashe Productions; and Yerbabuena, on whose forthcoming debut album he will appear. Also, most noted recently was his stay in Singapore.On behalf of SteelVybe Ent, Niko was sent to Singapore for 4 months in order to assist in a grand opening of teh super club Clinic located in Clarke Quay. There he joined Stefanie Rene(vocalist) and Kafele Bandele(trumpet), to add a live sound to the deep soulful house vibe the club was trying to engage. There, Niko met, and worked with the staff and management of Ministry of Sound,Clinic,Head kandy Bar, and Cuba Libre. Niko performed live at Clinic 4 times a week. Noted of his stay, got together with Alma Latina. A group of rich musicians ranging from Cuba to Singapore. They performed mostly every night in Clarke Quay, where Niko would come to sit in on a couple of tunes. The most recent, was a replacement for Anthony Carrilo at Pregones Theater. Desmar Guevara, the musical director, recommended that he do the job. Game Over was the name of the play. A live musical play, where Niko had to engage with many different instruments including timpanni,darbuka,barrile de bomba,bata,and minor percussion.

Whenever I give Jose Rivera a call, I always ask him about Nicky and how he's doing. Jose plays with Nicky at times, has a lot of love for him, and tries to look out for him the best he can. We at Sentimiento are very supportive of Nicky and only hope the best for him.

So Nick if you are reading this, keep up the good work bro, we'll be checking for you.

(Nicky on tumbas, Obanilu playing a mean quinto, Bembesito singing, Tito dancing, Video Credit: exquisitemambo)

(Yerbabuena, Video Credit: BarrioMedia)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

CFN Trivia

( Justo Pelladito (tumbador) / X / Mario Jáuregui (quinto)/ Fermín Naní (tres-dos?), Capture Credit: Patricio)

If you are old enough to remember, in 80' a historic performance took place in Brooklyn. For the first time the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba touched ground on US soil and performed music and traditions that most if not all had ever seen in person. It was the first time for many a NY rumbero to witness firsthand how things were done in Cuba, and done rightly so. Anyone who was anyone was at that concert.
Patricio has a blog out dedicated to the Conjunto and has an interesting post with many pictures from this historic event.

Check Patricio's site and see if you can fill in the blanks:

*keep up the good work Patricio

** I would also invite anyone who was at this historic event to please drop a line or two in the comments so we can get an idea of what this event was like. I was not even born at the time, so I would like to know more than anyone.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Abakua Drums

In the previous video, we have Los Afortunados playing an Abakua rhythm on tumbadoras. Here is a photo of the actual drums used in an Abakua ceremony

Monday, November 3, 2008

Abakua - Los Afortunados

Here is a great "Abakua" with Roberto Borrell, dancing a mean ireme part. This is a cool video because you have Felix Sanabria on itones, Benjamin "Brinquito" Burney on Obiapa, Yeyito Flores on kuchiyerema, Ralph Sosa on biankome, (one of the few Dominican cats that were playing this music at the time), Victor Jaraslov on erikundi, and Gene Golden playing a mean bonko enchemiya, truly a United Nations of rhythm. Paula Ballan, Evelyn Smart and Gina Iyaleo on coro. This was at the now defunct Black and White in Color in the Bronx.

Abraham Rodriguez is singing duo alongside Manuel "El Llanero" Solitario. Believe me folks you would be hard pressed to find an Abakua done this well outside of Cuba.

*film courtesy of Felix Sanabria

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Amigos de la Plena - Mama Angela's 80th Bday

"Nuestra cultura se debe de aprender entre familia."

Mama Angela was Felix Sanabria's mother, may she rest in peace (ibae). Felix and fam had gotten together to throw her a party for her 80th birthday. Felix wanted a traditional party so he contracted los "Amigos de la Plena" to play for his mother. If you notice you have Aurora Flores (of Zon del Barrio fame) and brother Yeyito playing with the group.

Felix is playing primo on this particular standard ("Campo") and to his surprise his father gets up to dance and Felix finds himself in the rare instance of having to marcar his father steps. Needless to say this was extremely important for Felix, having seen his father dance bomba right in front of his drum served as confirmation for Felix, as to why he is a drummer in the first place. Later on in the clip Felix's father and mother dance together.

The title under the video alludes to the fact that this/our music should be learned within the family. The sense of community and togetherness is evident in the video above and that is how it should be.

*film courtesy of Felix Sanabria