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)

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