Friday, June 19, 2009

Jose Rivera

(Jose Rivera on caja, Angel Rodriguez and Babaila in the background, Photo Credit: Willie "El Ruso" Everich)

"Don't ever sit down with anyone who will ruin the montuno..." (Santiago "Iko" conversing with Jose Rivera)

I first heard of Jose through my compay Willie. From the way Willie talked about Jose, you can tell that more than admiration and respect followed his words, it was a sense of loyalty and brotherhood. More often than not, (especially in the music scene) we are quick to be betrayed, used, and disrespected. This has unfortunately become the status quo, so it's really a breath of fresh air when you come across someone that really ain't looking out for number one. I don't have to tell anyone that's met Jose, what a great guy he is. In any case here is his story:

According to his mom he started around the age of 4, banging on the old export soda cans. The moment came when he about 17 years old, and happened to be playing baseball at his High School (Adlai Stevenson), when he heard a car drive by playing some "plena" and he was hooked. According to Jose, he struck out and said goodbye to his baseball career.
His uncles taught him some bomba and plena beforehand, but this had been one of those special awakenings. Jose would go on to play conga in a band by the name of “Tony Aponte y su Conjunto”, the band would later dissolve after the band leader got married. They used to play Tito Puente charts among others.

(Jose on a beautiful Skin on Skin quinto, Photo Credit: Willie Everich)

Jose and a friend by the name of Alex used to play behind a high school on Friday nights in the Bronx, and one day some guy with a Doberman came by and it turned out to be the late Ralphie Davila (Chivirico’s Son). Ralphie asked Jose if he wanted to go to a big rumba on the concourse, and as time went on Jose got more and more into the scene. Apache had been playing rumba, and was ushered into the bembe scene by non other than Willie. Willie was playing with Totico's Okokan guiro group and after insisting for a while Jose finally joined eventually developed into the first call cajero that he is today. Jose has played with Totico's Okokan, Izzy Davila, and Bembesito.

I've had the good fortune of meeting Jose and hanging with him. Always humble, he is always willing to share what he knows as long as you are respectful. Once in a while Jose will play a bembe with the younger cats, and speak his mind as to certain behavior that goes on. Gentlemen take heed, because we could use a few more Jose Riveras in the game.

1 comment:

Barry said...

you said it, saludos José!