CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: Cecil Carter Benefit Show 2/12 - Masters show respect

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

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Cecil Carter Benefit Show 2/12 - Masters show respect

(update 3/13, RIP Cecil Carter we will miss you.)

If there is any wonder if this tradition has importance, or the importance of our personal role in it, the answer was clearly defined by this benefit show for our dear brother Cecil Carter.

Cecil has lymphatic cancer, and is in the fight of his life. He is one of our elders, here in the bay area Rumba and Latin percussion scene. He is also an elder in the Reggae and local Berkeley music scene as well.

Cecil is an amazing person, and is blessed with an uncanny ability to outwardly love.

He was one of the pioneers of Rumba in the US (Cecil is pictured above on the left, probably playing Mark Saunders dad's Junior Tirado tumba, and below with one of Sr. Saunders signature Chekeres - these are pics from his son Mark's amazing blog Fidel's eyeglasses, listed below, and highly recommended reading).

Cecil was a regular and an important cat on the Central Park Rumba scene in the 60's and 70's..

and an early contributor to the development of Afro-Cuban music in the SF bay area.

Cats like Cecil Carter, Marcus Gordon, Butch Haynes, Tabaji, Yagebe, Jose Luis Gomes and a few other important pioneers, along with cats like Chris 'flaco' Walker, Michael Spiro and John Santos.

Cecil is the middle player in a NY group above.

He was also a bay area pioneer, playing with cats like Butch Haynes (Mountian Rhythms artist)

You can see Butch playing as a kid in this old clip from a rumba in Berkeley in 1967:

So, the other day, after playing a long dance class, a few Rumberos and I went to visit Cecil. He was not in good shape, and we were not sure we would see him again.

We sung a Rumba for him a cappella, all packed in his small hospital room. Just Pescao, Pili and I, with Cec joining Rick in on coro, clapping clave .. it was so beautiful, and so powerful.

There is no mistake, Rumba unites, Rumba heals, Rumba strengthens and calms us in difficult times. We have community around this tradition, and it is strong.

After, Cecil reminded us of how important this tradition is, not only to us, but to the world. He urged us to be strong and carry the torch so this beautiful tradition can create and enrich community long into the future. I asked him if he would like to have a show in his honor, and he said he would like that.

Many people say kind things about a person when they are ill, but Cecil is exceptional. The man is almost saintly in his open kindness and heartfelt compassion for those around him.

Here is a post about him on his birthday last year -

Cecil is such an enlightened cat, in the true sense of the word.

I am trying to learn how to rise above a situation as well as Cecil. He blows 'small stuff'' things aside so easily, its quite incredible to witness. Yet he remains engaged, politically active and socially aware. Something brilliant to behold..

That is about personal mental strength, being able to control or reign in ones ill thoughts.. to quickly self correct and focus on love, kindness and awareness.. Cecil is solid and wise and someone from whom we can all learn.

He was surprised to hear how much of a leader he is to a lot of us. How he quietly sets such a rock solid example of how to treat others. Not looking for recognition, not looking to be the boss, or any more important than anyone else. And by doing so, becomes totally unique among us.

Our elder Cecil is struggling, and we, as a community, are here to help.

A benefit show we shall have, to raise funds for the man. And so the community would have something to do with the feeling of utter helplessness.

Its hard to watch a mentor and leader struggle so publicly, and the community is in need of help and healing as well.

I knew the show would be easier than most to put together, knowing Cecil has so many talented and dedicated friends.

That being said, these shows are a lot of work to pull off successfully.... more stress than a regular gig by far. Frankly, I am not very good at soliciting help and end up doing most of the work myself... I must enjoy complaining about the lack of help.. lol

The night of the show, I had amazing help from my dear friend Irma with setup and breakdown, Bob La Due and his friend Matt doing sound, and Consuelo running the door. Thanks guys!

So, as soon as Cecil oked the idea.. first thing I did was call La Pena to get a spot on the schedule, as time is of the essence.

We were fortunate to have an open spot less than two weeks out, due to a cancellation.

I wanted to have the show as soon as possible, to make sure Cecil had the opportunity to see it, and spend the funds we generated. But doing a show this quickly meant not being able to take advantage of the traditional print advertising for the show. (pic of Cecil playing at the La Pena Rumba in January of 2012)

It also meant that booking all the talent was going to be a race to the finish. I was confident that the Thursday night we were afforded would be available on most musician's schedule.

La Pena was very kind to donate the space for the evening, no less than a $400 gift to Cecil.

We had to pay for a house manager, but other than that, all of the funds would go directly to Cecil.

So, my first call was to John Santos, who due to being out of town, didn't get my message for a weeks time. Had me worried we'd have to do the show without Cecil's most famous friend, but as soon as John returned, he called to to say he was happy to do the show.

John Santos is a multi-grammy award nominee, and the only reason he doesnt have a grammy, is that the short sighted award show axed the Latin jazz category, pulling the red carpet from under the maestro, just as John was expected to win.

Now, it was a matter of seeing how much talent we could pull in around John, to make this show attractive as a fundraiser.

I called on the master musicians and folklorists that know and love Cecil Carter. Including Grand Master C. K. Ladzekpo, Master and elder Yagbe Oline, World famous Cuban percussionist Sandy Perez, Chris 'flaco' Walker, Javier Navarette, Trevion Leon and Pili Martinez.

Each and every one came out to perform for Cecil. Truly amazing and wonderful to see so many masters on stage together for brother Cecil.

To add to the fat linup, Cecils good friend and fellow performer Jah Levi stepped up to play a set, and to lead a set of Nyabhingi drumming to offer prayers of healing for Brother Cecil.

Ok, with the talent locked up and about a week till the show, no one even knew the show was on. I needed to hit social media and email blasts, along with phone calls, texts and word of mouth, the full press was on. I didn't stop promoting the show till an hour before we were to go on.

The show started with a Royal performance by Hassania Walker and her group - Beautiful Spiritual music from Morrocco. How lucky are we to have Hassania in our community. She is Royalty back home, and she is certainly a Queen to us here.

The set was a really nice way to start the gig. The songs sounding meaningful, spiritual and ancient.

Next up, Chris Walker was so kind as to play 'the warriors' on Bata with John Santos and Yagbe Oline.. a wonderful tribute and prayer for brother Cecil.

C.K. Ladzekpo then took the stage with Yagbe Oline along with several strong players such as Pili Martinez and Trevino Leon. Yagbe sang and the group laid down beautiful polyrhythmic bell work, along with C.K.s virtuoso thunder kicks on Bajo!

And if that wasnt enough for the first set, the Rumba crew hit the stage, let by Master Cuban percussionist Sandy Perez.

The Rumba included John Santos, Chris 'flaco' Walker, Yagbe Oline, Pili Martinez, Javier Navarette, Trevino Leon along with elders Bruce Williams (the MC for the evening), Butch Haynes, and Daniel Marimbula

At one point, Sandy got up and showed off his legendary dancing chops... something he would do on a regular basis on tour with AfroCuba de Metanzas back in the day... awesome!

So, after an intermission, Jah Levi and his Nyabhingi drummers took the stage for a long prayer session for brother Cecil

And then Jah Levi opened it up and let loose with a wonderful set of Reggae with guest master guitarist Ronnie Ray Padilla.

In the end, all the work payed off, and then some.. The place was nearly sold out, on a Thursday night.

And after all was said and done, we all came together as a community, thereby strengthening our traditions.. and we raised $1633 for our dear brother Cecil in the process. I was also able to get a copy to Cecil's bed side, and he is said to be watching it tonight or tomorrow morning. It will be so healing for the brother to see all of his friends come together in his support... it will be so good for him. Thanks to everyone who made this happen.

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