CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: Rumba with Piri Lopez and Juan de Dios Ramon Morejon

Sunday, May 20, 2012

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Rumba with Piri Lopez and Juan de Dios Ramon Morejon

I suppose I should expect these kinds of things to go down these days, but it was such a surprise and honor to have Raices Profundas in town, and then to actually play Rumba with them into the night.. all week long.. was a dream come true.

I didn't expect my favorite young Rumbero on the planet would be the principal percussionist for the tour - I was so surprised to see Piri Lopez, superstar in the Los Chinitos clan - an incredible player with the funkiest of rumbas. I should have known he would be here, as he is the Iyacero on the legendary Abbilona series of folkloric recordings as a teenager and has been the troupe's main player for some time now..

Piri, the lead player in Los Chinitos, is the new superstar in the folkloric scene in Cuba, and is know as one of the best of the new generation of folklorists. He is fearless and plays without reservation, to say the least.

After all, Piri grew up among his father, Pedro Lopez and his uncles, Bartolo, Irian and Raynaldo.. the legendary cats who invented Guarapachangueo in his youth.

John Santos was telling me about how this  family is all street (a huge compliment). To my ear, they have the fattest Rumba.. I totally love it.

The Lopez family was also closely connected with the great and legendary Juan De Dios Rámos "El Colo", Maximino Duquesne Francis, Mario "Aspirina" Jáuregui, and Pancho Quinto Mora. .. amazing family friends to have, no??

His family and immediate friends, cats that would be hanging out around the house, were founding members of Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba (like the great Carlos Aldama pictured  above), Raices Profundas and Yoruba Andabo. They are also a significant influence of the new generation of Rumba be created today.. most prominently in the style of one of my favorite projects, Clave Y Guaguanco.

Piri ate the other side of clave for breakfast.. washed it down with Coro lines and a Quinto lick.. totally immersed in the fattest of settings.

Piri's dad Pedro worked with wood for a living, and is said to have developed and popularized the pyramid shaped cajons used in the tradition today. (Id site the source for this and other info in this post, but Piri asked me not to)

The Pancho Quinto influence in the sound of Guarapachangueo is strong, if not primary to the form, and you can easily hear Pancho's style in Piri's playing.

So, it was quite a pleasure to have Raices Profundas, to say the least.

Their stage show was an amazing site, with full costumed dancers and wild choreography.

They totally ripped it up.. played and danced beautifully, with Piri playing Iya like a wild man..

I was fortunate enough to get comps for all five shows, so I was there every night except Sunday... missed the last show scouting out rumbas in the east bay... Raices Profundas had to head out of town right after the show Sunday.. not sure what I was thinking, actually.. should have seen them one last time...

But that was one incredible week!

We played Rumba with the troupe every night after the shows, well into the next mornings..

It was an incredible pleasure to play and sing with these cats..

At several points in the week, the Rumbas involved Juan de Dios and his son, Carlos Aldama, Piri Lopez, Jesus Diaz, John Santos, Erick Barbaria, Yagbe Oline, Pili Martinez and myself... with the whole troupe singing and dancing.. it was unbelievable.

.. several highlights -

- Playing Quinto for Juan de Dios while he danced Rumba for a good long time!

- Playing Cata for Piri Lopez on quinto, and Carlos Aldama singing.

- Playing Segund next to Piri on Quinto

- Playing Tumba while Carlos and Juan de Dios traded songs.

- Covering the whole rumba with just Segund at one point, no clave or cata, with the whole place singing and dancing...

- Playing quinto and having Piri poke his head up over the crowd to see who was playing.. gave me thumbs up! - Jesus Diaz smiling in surprise.. probably harder to make happen than the rumba.. ;)

- Being called for across the room by "" to come play rumba for Juan de Dios at one of his workshops.

- Juan de Dios playing my El Chino congas like a young man.

- Hanging out with Piri Lopez and Mikey Skartezina getting a kick ass private lesson, then chilling in Yerba Buena Gardens, having lunch and watching Omar Sosa. (just about the only chill time Piri had while in the bay area).

The festival also included a Flamenco performance, and at one of the afterpartys across the street where most of the Rumbas that week wend down.. Flamenca Kina Mendez, an amazing singer and folklorist wowed the crowd.. how I love the bay area.. 

Flamenco after party

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