CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: La Pena Rumba - The full moon was out in force

Monday, August 18, 2008

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La Pena Rumba - The full moon was out in force

Man, what a wild time at La Pena.

This session included Carlos Aldama, Sandy Perez, Chris 'Flaco' Walker, Yaya, Buddha, Pili, Enrique, with the entire crew of regular "keystone kongeros" in tow.

The full moon was potent.

Most of the brothers seemed to be on edge, with some of the energy making it across the divide to create a great rumba. Other times it became bogged down and confused. Sometimes it reminds me of a scrum of ego's.

Its as very complex social situation: an open Rumba. There is often tension regarding the social 'order', and associated politics.

Within every group of people collectively creating something spontaneously, there must be a set of guidelines to keep things from becoming chaotic, thus creating nothing. Add the personal investment one has for the music their own body creates... multiply that times 15...

... and you have a complex social situation, to say the least. Its not surprising there is conflict, from time to time.

For some cats, a lack of understanding of how things work in a rumba, even if they think they are familiar with it, is a source dissatisfaction for them. Its hard to know what you don't.

There is a social order, well in place.

For example, if someone asks you to stand up and let them play, you do. Simply, in most every circumstance, no matter who you are. All the heavy players will let you have a drum right away, if you ask. seemingly, only the rookies or the less talented, say no, and keep on playing.

There are exceptions to the unofficial 'give it up' rule. For example, if a younger rumbero "taps out" an older rumbero, regardless of skill level, he has the option to say no, without a problem. But one cant repeatedly refuse to give up the drum, without bothering people slightly to moderately.

Also, one has to have timing when asking for a drum.. when a players starts to tire, when the rumba hits a lul, at the end of a song, when other drummers are rotating... for example.

Examples of the wrong time would be: when a player has just sat down, when they are all happy and on a roll, when the other players are clearly above your skill level and you may mess with their experience (one person can pull 12 cats down quickly), when everything is working well musically ( Coro is working well, dancing going on, etc), right when the Coro is coming over (unless the players is tired and wants to give it up). If you're not sure when the Coro comes over, you should be listening.

There are plenty of opportunities to play, for those who can hang. there is really no reason not to follow these simple social norms. If one does not have the skill, they need to 'wood shed': go to work and improve their skill and knowledge before playing in an open rumba - out of respect to the tradition, our ancestors, and the Gods. Its selfish to jump in on a rumba and mess up the experience of almost everyone there, player and listeners alike.

After playing the congas for over 15 years, 5 years professionally, i sat on my hands for TWO YEARS straight at La Pena. Listening and watching. Studying, learning, woodshedding! till i had something to contribute. Now i feel open to play whenever i want, with whomever i want, because i have payed my dues and given my due respect.. But in reality, its because my playing has now become good enough to contribute to the rumba every time i play.

I follow the 'guidelines' strictly, every time, as a good rumbero should. Its respectful and polite.

Not to say everyone has to do it like i did, or do, but the guidelines are in place for a reason, no one put them there to bother the people, its just how it works - but most will assuredly bump their heads against the wall till they figure it out.

These are just social mores, and they seem to work rather well, when followed, to create a cohesive rumba. Thats the idea, right?

If one is not hanging with the part, one should respect the ear of the more experienced player, give the drum up, and happily listen to what they need to do next time. Its not personal, obviously. Its not easy, its rumba.

People act like you invented the social 'rules' of a rumba, when you ask for their drum.. One has to be patient, like with a kid... they just don't know any better.

ok, off my soap box (yea right;)

All in all, it was a ripping session. It was so nice to see Carlos Aldama there!

Unbelievably, he came bearing gifts for me. treasured, sacred gifts.. What have i done to deserve such kindness from such a Grand Master.. i was taken aback, and had to go catch my breath... He is a truly amazing person.

It was such a joy to see him singing playing and dancing like a young man! Bless him... yes, yes.

I got to play cata for Carlos, Sandy, Flaco, Enrique, Yaya, with Buddha dancing... man... that was heavy. What a great rumba, once again.

So, after some drama, and another pint, we headed to Ernie's studio for a descarga, in it's truest sense. Sandy on Traps, Toby, Trevino and I on the tumbas, Pili on Cajon, other cats on bass and piano, Mikael and Orlando singing its was too much fun... but there were not enough social mores around (eyes rolling), so i headed home early (ie, wasnt the last to leave).

As i left, Sandy and I talked about producing more shows this next year. Should be fun! We'll see. he has a show coming up on the 31st... details to come soon...


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