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.
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...