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