It was a really fun Carnaval in San Francisco this year, with nearly every troupe including someone I know.. every year it gets more of a personal experience.
When I first went to the Mission for this spectacular show of folkloric colors on parade, I was so overwhelmed.. I actually felt like I was in some fantasy, or a place and time that actually didn't exist.
And now, I find myself so comfortable, among my community... so familiar with my surroundings.
Carnaval is one of the great traditions in the great international city of San Francisco.
The annual procession through the Mission is like a long and colorful necklace of national pride - each group beautifully expressing their ancestral homeland, united in our multi-cultural experience here.
the day was filled with the sound of Samba, the smell of fresh Carnitas, and the sights of dear friends having the time of their lives..
(Fellow Rumbero Mike Scartezina playing with Sambada, here)
It was a big surprise, and such a wonderful sight to see my dear friend, the Grand Maestro himself, Carlos Aldama Perez, being acknowledged by the greater Folkloric community with a seat of honor on a huge white float! How cool is that! We should all carry the Maestro around fanning him with feathers, every day.. but it was very nice to see him recognized on this day, certainly.
As the procession rolled on.. One float after the next rolling by.. busting fat tunes, amazing costumes and great dancing from Bolivia to Botswana... The Sambaistas, in particular were in fine form!
Great to see Mike Spiro on route, who mentioned this is something like his 30th Carnaval in SF, if I'm not mistaken.. Amazing Mike! not just in attendance, but a driving force!
.. And as proof.. exhibit A..
By the way.. you have to hear his AfroCuban / Brazilian work Bata Ketu !!
Anyway.. the day was special for me, as there were several loved ones performing and hanging out.. it was super fun to see everyone..
And the family vibe on the Mission was truly wonderful, with tens of thousands of people out having a really great time together.
With so many people partying... you dont really see too many people really that intoxicated, or acting the fool.. its very nice to have so many people together just having fun.
I guess in the end, Carnaval is something just about anyone can relate to.. no matter where you are from...and it puts just about everyone in a great mood.
After the parade, there were so many free bands, it was hard to keep track of the lineup, not to mention getting through the crowd to the five official stages. (Five official, I say.. as the Rumbero's had to crash the event and take over a street corner... ;)
On the way to see the Bayonics, I was captured by my love of Rumba..
The SF Rumba scene is usually a zoo, and it's not really my scene.. but as I was walking by.. I hear the unmistakable Tumba of Maestro Yagbe Oline..
..so I follow my ear to find him joined by Pili Martinez and experienced Rumbero Troy, from LA. So I joined in for a street side session..
Out of the free bands performing.. Fito Reinoso Y Su Armonia totally ripped it up as the headlining act of the first day.
King Theo and his Samba Funk troupe just may have been best of show, with a huge contingent of sexy dancers in amazing costumes... feathered headdresses you could see coming for blocks down the parade route.
(One of my favorite dancers in the local Samba scene, Meredeth MacFadyen featured here)
..And to top it off.. we all did it again the next day at Mosswood Park in Oakland!
Mosswood was off the charts as well this year, with C.K Ladzekpo leading us in some heavy Ewe,
joined by other West African groups that came to play and dance..
a Funk band..
and our cats.. Trevino Leon, Yagbe Oline, Flaco Walker, Pili Martinez, Troy de LA, Javier Navarrette and myself laying the Rumba down for the relaxed sun soakers.
As if that wasn't fun enough... the butter on the cinnamon toast: Theo brought his whole Samba troupe to the park, float and all, for the day long bbq dancefest for the community..
In fact.. after a very long weekend, King Theo marched his crew out the park, and through the streets of Oakland for at least a couple of hours! I couldn't believe it.. what an animal.. and a truly gifted leader..
..ooo.. those poor dancers feet were hating it!.. lord..
.. somehow they kept smiling and dancing like it was nothing.. too fun..