CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: February 2008

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Oh yea, John Santos has a new SON!!!

I forgot to mention, John came to the rumba with his lovely family... with the addition of a beautiful son. I was too busy to get his name, but Im sure we all will know him one day.

There is a troupe of young... very young.. boys from the heavies in the tradition, it will be fun to see them all do their thing when they get older.

Jesus Diaz has two little boys, Sandy Perez's son Melik will be a MONSTER.. just wait, Santo's son, Barroso's son (super charged)..most are about the same age 4-5 ish with Jesus' oldest boy a bit older.

It'll be fun to see them all grow up... it makes me feel like an old uncle. ;)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Back to the Rumbas at La Pena i didnt report on, as of yet

In January there was this really heavy rumba at La Pena, i think i talked about the after party in previous posts... playing with Sandy Perez and friends till late...

anyway, this la Pena rumba was packed with heavies, Flaco, Yagbe, Sandy, Santos.. to name a few. It was ripping... see below...

sorry about the quality... its kind on purpose.... Everyone is worried, these days, that their art will be picked up on the web and used without their permission to make money, or to remix into something it shouldn't be.

This camera, just a little digital camera, for pictures, mostly, will work just fine for this use. Just to see what when on.

I hope to pick up a high end camera soon to do some really nice footage, one of these days.


Cajon from Mambiza percussion

here is the Cuban style Cajon i purchased from Reinhard Simon of Mambiza percussion. I love this style of cajon, as you can get fat slaps with the left hand. Its rumba in a box.

If played right, all you need to have a fat rumba is a cat on this box, one on a quinto cajon, a singer who playes clave and the coro....

Im looking forward to playing this often to hone my rumba chops.


Valje segunda - conga - 11.25 six lug Gem for sale !

This one sure is hard to let go...

but after all, im a player, not a collector. So on down the road she goes, to some lucky sunshine who will be a proud owner of one rare tub.

This Valje, made by the master drum maker Tom Flores, is a very rare 11.25 6 lug drum. It also has the nicest tight quarter sawn wood ive ever seen in a Valje drum. This was obviously made for a top pro, and not the run of the mill drum (like any of them were) that was sold out of his retail shop in LA.

Only a connoisseur of the tumbadoras can appreciate how rare this drum is.

Its in fine condition, with a new skin and the drum sounds great.

I also have the original stand.. Im asking $650 for this drum, as the market dictates how much i will charge.. this drum may be worth much more in the end... who has another one like this Valje segunda suprema?

I can be reached at


New Cata in the family

No, thats not it... but id love to have a fat Cata like this! ... its just a bit heavy for the rumba on the move groove i have going... ;)

I was lucky enough to find this old vintage bamboo vase, carved in China somewhere.

It makes the ideal Cata, with a very old school sound. It's very solid and closed on one end, so i can put the sticks and clave inside... very handy. And it looks nice on the shelf between rumbas!


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gon bops rebuild for Devires - Oak quintos

As a part of the rebuild project for David, I rebuilt an oak requinto (9.5") from the 70's, with inlayed wood band with the thick gon bops shell and the 'violent' bearing edge these have.

I fixed some significant cracks, refinished the drum, skinned it up... it sounds very nice.

In partial trade for the work i did for him, David gave me a gon bops oak quinto 10.5" with the thin shell (low end hardware). I love the sound of these drums, the ones without the inlayed bands.. they have a thinner shell (just as stable, if not more than the thicker shells) and they have a very nice sound.. very folkloric.. And they are more comfortable to play. This one is a Im going to try to build a set around this one.

I put a recycled Mule skin on it, as an experiment really, as it has major cuts in it. I want to see if it lasts... I must say... it sounds sweet.


conga skins, bongo skins, drum reskinning - best congas skins around!

so I have a back order of about 10 skins called the tannery to see whats up with supply. They are having problems keeping good stock in.

I special ordered 5 'sides' of raw hide and they should be here in a couple of weeks. In the mean time i have a few people waiting on skins. I need to get a nice thick inventory this time, and keep it up.

These skins are very nice, and sound better than any skin ive tried. Mule, if you can get a clean piece, is nice for some uses, but the skins i get are much nicer quality. They sound so sweet, now i have to change every skin that comes in the house!


Monday, February 25, 2008

Visit to Mambiza percussion - Reinhard Simon

This weekend we went to visit Mambiza percussion in Sf.

The mystery man Reinhard Simon, such a cool character... let us into his shop of wonders. its so dang cool in there. Steinway pianos, Solid Drum shells, Cuban religious material etc. a very cool place...

We looked at some shells, but they wernt the right size... Im going to wait till his next shipment... a big risk, as he is always hard to get in touch with. But I have a feeling the shells will come my way.

But in the mean time, it was nice for a visit, i picked up a cool Cajon, pics to come, some mini Bata for my alter, and a few nice sticks.

Reinhard is such an interesting cat. always on the move, traveling the world continually.

He is one cool cat.


Tito Garcia and Bata prospecting

Hey all,

Still in update mode, will be for the next few posts.

last week went to visit my mentor and guiding brother Tito Garcia. If you know salsa in SF, you know who Tito is. He is the band leader and timalero for some of the largest Salsa bands in Sf, they have this ripping horn section - two berries and two bass trombones... very fat...

He and I are talking about importing bata shells and selling them in the states. Lots of work on this project.. it has the potential of working, business wise...

Its off to a quick start, with a few heavies here and on the east coast wanting sets with which to make sets of Fundamento. Very cool.

I may get myself involved in the stringing of the bata, or pulling, as they say, but it looks hard on the old hands...

I may pick up a set and finish them myself.. pay Yagbe to teach me how to string them.. i bet the master would want to teach for free, but he will be paid, if i can help it..

This might be a nice opportunity to bring nice authentic Solid Cedar sets of Bata to the bay area at a reasonable price. - We'll see.

in the mean time, Tito will go to Nicaragua to talk about manufacturing with the cat who is helping up down there. I think the solution will be to teach this cat how to string down there, but we'll see.

Talk soon,


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mahogany gon bops tumba and conga - 1950's restore for DeVries

ok.. furthur updates...

I restored this set of Gon Bops for a cat in Santa Cruz, David DeVries. There were in bad shape, with major heel to toe cracks.

In fact, the tumba was almost falling apart when i got it. it was being held together by the skin only! I fixed the bottom of it first, as if i took the skin off the top at first, it would have fallen into pieces.

Almost all the pics of this restore are on a hard drive in a crashed lap top... anyone know how to extract files from a lap top hard drive without a lap top????

Anyway, lucky for me, i sent the cat pics when done - see above.

I also repaired an Oak Gon Bops requinto for this cat, and took a cracked Oak gon bops quinto in partial trade.. pics to come of those restores as well.

Talk soon,


Oak Gon Bops conga and quinto restore for Naime

Here is a set of oak Gon bops from the early 80's with inlayed bands...

they had some cracks... several, and needed new skins, but these drums were in nice shape, over all.

I recommended not to refinish them, and to try to keep the patina intact while fixing the cracks.

They came out wonderfully, and they sound great. im happy with this one...

off it goes today, back to the happy owner.

Thanks Enrique for the referral on this one!!


Cuban Rumba Blog - Afro-Cuban percussion blog

I think this is going to work out just fine...

... so since we last posted we had some great fun, rebuilt some drums and played more than ever.

Here is a pic of two La Pena Rumbas ago, all the heavies were there... Afterward we went to Anna Ponces to party... wow that woman can cook!!! Beans and rice, Empanadas, Temales... we are blessed to be among such talent in the kitchen!!

Orlando Rick and a few other cats were there early, the Sandy showed up some other Cuban cats... we played Rumba till late... I got a chance to play quinto for an extended time with Sandy, my teacher and mentor. He gave me some really nice advise about my style. Im on the right track, it seems.

I picked up a set of oak Gon bops to restore and reskin from a cat named Naime, picked up some mahogany gon bops, one requinto i sold to a cat named Geordie, and i kept the conga to restore.

Im in the middle of the mahogany conga project... ill post pics soon.

The Oak drums came together nicely and they sound great, Im going to drop them off today.

I plan on meeting with Reinhard Simon today to look at some of his Mombiza gear, he has the best claves in the world!! i think i may pick up a quinto from him today, well see.

Also today, im going to look at a Fat Conga with major cracking problems... its an old model before he went to the biskit joining. It keep splitting, after fixes etc.. i suggested he send it to Matt Smith in PA to take it all apart and rebuild it from the ground up with bands.. lucky guy, if he gets it done.

Im also going to pick up a set of old Afro congas to reskin in Marin while im down there.

Yesterday, i purchased a mariano model gon bops mahogany requinto i will resell to a cat in Guadalupe. He's been waiting for me to find him a matching conga to his mariano 10.5 for a year now.. hes going to be stoked!

It will take me a few posts to get caught up....


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Trevino Leon bio - Rumba at Tony D's

Entry for February 20, 2008
Hey all!!

Its been a while since i last posted... hope all is well with you.

So much to talk about, but im looking into another blog service with video capability, so Ill get back at it soon.


Wednesday February 20, 2008 - 11:09am (PST) Permanent Link | 0 Comments
Entry for November 09, 2007
Trevino Leon,
seated playing the Valje...

This cat has smooth chops and a very graceful way of hitting his marks. He is very musical and has an extremely nice groove that stands out in all his playing.

He is understated and 'tasty' when he is on quinto, solid and groovy when on the supporting drums. His Quinto work is so 'in the pocket' and nice to hear. You can tell hes been a Rumbero since he was a child.

He is well versed in several folkloric styles from Africa which has formed him into a very talented 'worker' of polyrhythms. He plays bata, and is a moster on the traps or the timbales.

His stick technique is fat. he really has feel with sticks in his hands. His bell work and his cata always steps the sound up, and we all play better when Tre is a part of it.

Most everyone has much respect for Trevino as he is such a solid player, and a really humble and kind person.

He is having his 50th b-day again, this one should be fat, ill post after the party.

Pic is of Trevino on congas and the Master drummer Yagbe singing

Tags: afro-cuban, bongo, bongos, drums, conga, drumming, drum, cuban, cuba, congas, latin, percussion, trevinoleon, rumba
Friday November 9, 2007 - 10:52am (PST) Permanent Link | 0 Comments
Entry for November 07, 2007
I am thinking of doing a bio of the players with whom i am so fortunate to know and work. Thought id start with Trevino Leon. One fat player.

Here is a bio i wrote for him when he came to do a workshop on Conga de Comparsa up in Napa last year...

Trevino Leon is very fortunate to be from a family of talented musicians form Matanzas Cuba. Immigrating to Spanish Harlem, Trevino and his family was surrounded with Afro-Cuban, Hatian and Brazilian culture.

Trevino began to study the Folkloric musical traditions of the Caribbean and Africa at a very early age.

27 years of study later, Trevino is an accomplished talent in a tradition deeply guarded and protected by the masters of the old country.

Truly a “keeper of the flame” and a generous provider of sacred information, Travino is a wonderful resource for those who are not lucky enough to be born into the tradition.

Traveno currently plays and works in the Bay Area with some of the foremost latin musicians alive.

He is the principal percussionist for C.K.Ladzedpo, the famous Ghanan Master drummer and plays in the Beninese, Nigerian and Togolese traditions as well.

Trevino is my brother and mentor. I am so lucky to know such a cool cat, who has such fat chops! He is such a nice guy with love for all people deep in his heart. Gotta love Tre.

Tags: afro-cuban, bongo, bongos, conga, congas, trevinoleon, cuba, cuban, drum, drumming, drums, rumba, salsa, percussion, latin
Wednesday November 7, 2007 - 09:56am (PST) Permanent Link | 0 Comments
Entry for November 07, 2007
La Pena's rumba was too fun, as usual, and we played really nice versions of Columbia and Yambu.

The line up this time included the multi master Yagbe, the solid Chris 'Flaco' Walker, Javier Navarette, Hector Lugo, Trevino Leon, Tony D., Yaya Maldinado among others.

I played some quinto with Yagbe on 3-2 and Flaco playing such a fat tumbao - man... Flaco can swing that tumbao!

The Pats Colts game was on, so the cats showed up later than usual, which got a late start, but it ripped till they kicked us out.

Trevino, YYaya Rick, Hector, Javier and i went over to Tony D.'s studio in ooaklandafter the La Pena rumba, we played some fat rumba, YYayaand Hector sang so nicely.

TTreplayed some really fat trap rhythms on Tony D.s amazing set. That set sounds so dang cool. Tony D and TTreare both very talented trap drummers with incredible feel. Tony D. is the chosen ska drummer in the east bay, he rips!

Its such a cool scene over there, very chill. Tony is such a nice guy, and quite a musician.

Pic is of the rumba at Tony D.'s

Jammin with Ralph Woodson Oct 2007

Entry for October 29, 2007
Played with this cat Ralph Woodson the other nights. He is on hell of a guitarist. He was doing a solo gig and i gave him a hand on a couple of his original tunes.

This guy blazes. He has really nice lines and a great sense of timing. He does the Jimmy Hendrix thing just about as good as anyone ive heard. His voice even sounds like Jimmy.

Im looking forward to what he does down the road, as he is in his early 30's, id guess.

He gave me an open invitation to play anytime he's in town. Who knows, may be a paying gig eventually ;)

We talked about laying down some tracks on his next CD. You can hear some tracks from his last release at cdbaby.


Tags: bongo, bongos, rock, blues, conga, congas, drum, drumming, drums, jazz, percussion, latin
Monday October 29, 2007 - 09:19am (PDT) Permanent Link | 0 Comments
Entry for October 28, 2007

Yea, had a nice weekend, sunny weather in Napa.

I played a couple of Halloween parties, one square, one hep.

Played a slamming Hip-Hop set with the band "Swerve" (see pic). We played for this packed house of ghosts and goblins across town (Napa) on Saturday. Its always fun to play with these cats. Such a solid groove and Ryan is a kickass front man on the mic!!!

Also, RitmoNapa, my little local folklorico, played a square teachers party - hey! all the punch you can drink!! .... sometimes it is work ;)

Happy Halloween everyone, be safe.

Tags: afro-cuban, bongo, bongos, conga, congas, cuba, cuban, percussion, latin, jazz, drums, drumming, drum, dance, rumba
Sunday October 28, 2007 - 04:58pm (PDT) Permanent Link | 0 Comments
Entry for October 22, 2007

Well, the technique worked ok, but i will be using the white masing tape, as some of the blue sucked into the cracks.

The two ply nature of this shell made the repair difficult. Much tention was needed to get the crack to close, and it almost made it. There is a hairline fill, hard to see, but not perfect.

Off to Craigslist with this one. It belongs to a friend of mine and he wants me to sell it for him.
Tags: conga, congas, bongos, latin, percussion, cuba, cuban
Monday October 22, 2007 - 12:57pm (PDT) Permanent Link | 0 Comments
Entry for October 22, 2007
Im going to use a new technique with this project. masking and cutting out the crack, so i can force glue into the it without messing up the finish. Im looking forward to seeing the results.

Tags: conga, congas, bongo, drum, drums, percussion, cuba, cuban, afro-cuban
Monday October 22, 2007 - 10:46am (PDT) Permanent Link | 0 Comments
Entry for October 22, 2007
Here is a before pic of the repair of a Giovanni conga

La Pena Rumba - Oakland Oct 2007

Entry for October 22, 2007
What a cool day yesterday.

I was worried, the last rumba was lacking in energy, somehow. I think it was due to our friend and fellow rumbero Jeff cut off his come over.

Usually, when Jeff had a comeover, and the rumba was really taking off, one could always tell when it was really going to rip by the frenzied flapping of said lock of hair. It would waive, like a flag, calling all rumberos to lock in and rip.

Seriously, the rumba yesterday was incredible. Sandy Perez came and completely ripped on Quinto. I mean ripped! He played as well as ive ever seen him play.

I asked him after - do you ever have a thought that your hands cant play? - answer, a humble no... ;) he is the shit.

So the line up was heavy, Pili, Flaco, Javier Navarette, John Santos, Yaya Maldinado, Enrique, Orlando, Micheil played. Tony D. and Ricky Agulara were in the audience.

Later in the Rumba, when i thought Sandy had left the building, i played quinto. Played ok, then looked up to see Sandy standing there smiling at me! So i got up and let him sit down. It was such an honor that he didn't just come up and ask for the drum, but waited till i wanted to give it up. After, Jeff said i needed to remember what i played, as he thought i was 'in the pocket'.

I hope Sandy isnt just being kind when he said that he heard someone playing quinto, he liked what he heard, poked his head around the corner from the bar to see his brother Tony on Quinto. I bet he was surprised, as he's never seen me on Quinto. Im so dang lucky to hang with these cats...

Do the rumba continued... we played a really nice Yambu, and a Columbia that Sandy bellowed into a complete blaze!!

After, Rick McKinney (a student of mine and fellow rumba hunter) and i went over to Tony D.'s studio to chill and play. He has a huge building in Oakland downtown and has the most amazing trap set you have ever seen, or heard. This set sounded like it was already going through a board... amazing sounding set. Tony D said "you will never hear a nicer set" and i actually believe him. In my 30+ years of playing, ive never played such nice toms.

Tony D., Rick, Javier Naverette, and I played some heavy african material Tony D. knows. It was crazy fast and bata like. I was sweating to keep up! But it ripped. Id love to see the dance that accompanies this rhythm! I think it was from Mali.

Tony D. is one hell of a trap player, Trinidad, i believe. He can play the hell out of the congas as well. He is very well respected among the heavy players of the bay area. A really nice cat too...

Another very cool Sunday in Oakland.

re: drums... put up a cedar set of Cuban Bongo on ebay, and two vintage stands for an old Valje Conga and Gon Bops quinto. I sold a Chekere, a Didge and a set of fiber skins i had laying around from when i used to like that sound. I will drop off the Valje rebuild from last week, another project completed.

Today im going to fix a crack on a Giovanni Hidalgo LP. Its two ply and the crack seems to only be on the outside ply. I need to fix the crack from the outside without messing with the gloss finish. This time i will take before pics!!

Then, the dance class tonight. Should be cool as there will be a couple of new dancers.

Tags: afro-cuban, conga, congas, cuba, cuban, dance, drum, rumba, latin, drums, drumming, sandyperez, salsa
Monday October 22, 2007 - 07:44am (PDT) Permanent Link | 0 Comments
Entry for October 19, 2007
Here is a closeup of the repair.

I love to have a client play the game - 'find the crack' as some of the repairs are close to invisible.

This old set of Valjes were interesting. The quinto, 10.25" was very bullet like for a valje. my 10.5" has a much bigger belly. I like the sound of my 10.5 much better, and im quite suer its the big belly, as it has a similar skin to this bullet 10.25.

Some odd notes... the side cuts on the inside - classic Valje technique to get the shape - were painted with glue, ala Akbar out of SF. But these beauties are 31" Sunset strips. Perhaps it was done by the person who refinished it some years ago.

Tags: afro-cuban, conga, congas, drum, drumming, drums, latin, percussion
Friday October 19, 2007 - 05:41pm (PDT) Permanent Link | 0 Comments
Entry for October 17, 2007
Here is a shot of the two valje's i worked on. They are two of a matching set of four. Again, the owner wanted the crack repaired without refinishing the drum.

The stamp stuck to the drum shows where the crack used to be.

An interesting note... to some...

The famous company is actually pronounced Valjeee in stead of Valjay as we all know them. I spoke with Ralph Flores, son of the the founder of Valje, and he said the name came from a combo of two womens names... wife and daughter i think it was... Valerie and Jean. ... bet you never heard that one before!

By the way, it looks like i might be able to hook Isla Percussion up with a stainless steel manufact. to fabricate their parts. One of my dear friends is one of the best brewers in the US and knows many contacts in the stainless manufacturing arena.

Joseph 'Pili' Martinez (my friend and fellow Rumbero) and his friend Mario run this up and coming drum making business in LA, Isla Percussion.

They make some fine instruments, and they keep improving the quality. Soon they will have one of the best made congas to be produced today - one to watch...

Tags: afro-cuban, conga, congas, cuba, cuban, drum, drumming, drums, latin, percussion
Wednesday October 17, 2007 - 02:10pm (PDT) Permanent Link | 0 Comments
Entry for October 17, 2007
Here you can see how big the crack actually was.

The expanding glue is messy, but you cant beat it for getting into hairline cracks.

You can also see the fiberglass ring, factory installed near the bottom - makes it stronger, but probably ringy-er. I never liked the idea, but it does make it more stable.

This shot is of the inside, the outside of the drum looks like it was never cracked.
Tags: afro-cuban, conga, congas, cuba, drum, drumming, drums, latin, percussion
Wednesday October 17, 2007 - 01:34pm (PDT) Permanent Link | 0 Comments
Entry for October 17, 2007
Just rebuilt and reskinned a pair of Valje Conga drums from the 60's. The conga was split, head to toe, and the owner wanted me to fix it without refinishing the drum.

So, i glued it from the inside with expanding glue, wrapped it in rope to clamp, and wiped off the glue as it expanded. It came together nicely, and you cant see the repair.

I skinned the quinto with a nice med-thin skin, as requested. It should sound great when it dries.

For some reason, i always forget to take a before pic! but here is a shot after the repair. The old school drum has many a mark, but you cant see where it was cracked.

The owner may refinish these, or have me do it, so they may get a face lift in the future. but in the mean time, they are funky and old school looking - very cool set.

The quinto is an older Valje, as the hardware is hand cut and not exact. It must be early 60's. The Conga has a fiberglass ring in the inside of the bottom and macheined hardware, probably 70's, both LA Sunset strips made by Tom Flores.

More pics to come...

Tags: afr

Jammin with Saul Kay at Downtown Joe's

Entry for October 17, 2007
Well, sat in with Saul Kay the other night at Downtown Joes. He had a real pro with him from Sonoma, a young female singer song writer with a great sense of pitch, not to mention that she was really easy on the eyes. She has a shot at a career in music. Ill get her name to you soon, perhaps some demo songs as well.

I will try to book these two in the valley. Saul is a hard working pro; one of three i know of in the Napa valley.

He has a really relaxed style, that is very cofortable to hear. Check him out at