CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: June 2008

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Elio Villafranca/John Santos Quartet at La Pena this weekend!

This show must have been added to the schedule reciently, as it was not up last i posted about the coming shows at La Pena.

This one should be fun... I wonder if Orestes will be on Timbs???

La Pena Cultural Center -

Elio Villafranca/John Santos Quartet

Sunday June 29, 2008

$14 adv. $16 dr. - 7pm

An engaging evening of Afro-Caribbean Jazz with Elio Villafranca/John Santos Quartet. They will present original compositions and standards with creative arrangements derived from the rich African Diaspora of Cuba and the Americas.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

JCR Congas - Master metal man Cali Rivera

For a long time, i heard about these bells made in the Bronx, that sounded much nicer than any bells we could get out in SF at the time.

A friend hooked me up with a small bongo bell from Cali before he was selling them out west.

This bell simply rocks, and i wouldnt sell it, at this point. Cali knows the sound the salseros crave out of their bells. His timbale, or mambo bells rock, and his agogo's are even nicer.

He ended up getting a contract with guitar center to distribute his bells. The newer ones are vey nice, but dont sound as nice as the older ones. They are still the best bells on the market, to my ear.

Anyway, Cali also makes some of the best bongo, and sets of Congas you have seen. I am told he actually has someone make the wooden shells for him, and he does all the metal work, but if thats not the case, im all ears.

Ive played Cali's oak congas, and some of his solid shell Cuban Mahogany bongo, and they sound top notch - about as good as it gets.

His oak congas were built like tanks, and were very heavy, but sounded more warm than expected.

His bongo are out of this world, and if you can get an old set of solid shells... jump on it. They are the most playable and best sounding bongo you will ever play.

From what i understand, Cali is making bongo again. We are so lucky to have him back in action!

JCR rep Isaac Gutwilik, pictured with Cali below, sent me an interview published in "world percussion and rhythm, volume VII issue 1" - not quite sure what year it ran. Thanks Isaac.

I didnt realize what a musician Cali is. No wonder... many people can make bells, but few have the ears to know what sound we are going for.

JCR bongos, JCR conga, JCR congas. J.C.R. bells, J.C.R bongos, J.C.R. bongo, J.C.R. congas

Monday, June 16, 2008

Robbin Ford at the Maritime Academy

After Sweetie Pies fat rumba, we headed up to the North bay for...

Yet another amazing free show!

Robbin Ford played at the maritime academy in Vallejo - a really nice outdoor venue right on the water. Free to the public, and in a very very relaxed setting.

Mr Ford... what can i say. This cat is all pro!

In the art of performance - very different than the art of playing your music - Robbin is a true master. He is a master of his sound, his equipment, his performance... a true pro, and very educational to watch. Of course he is a master of his instrument, without question.

His rodie (more a technical assistant) was tuning Robbin's guitars between each song, changing out a cleanly tuned ax for every tune. That was the first time i've ever seen that!

I bet it's to a point that Robbin thinks he is out of tune by the end of a song... what an ear!

I was filming the show, and the rodie asked me to stop filming, which was fine, of course. But to show what pro's these guys are, he comes off stage to hand me a pick and to explain why he asked me to stop... man, these cats even have the PR angle covered!!

So the set...

10 or so tunes, from driving power blues, to head nodding ballads, with a fusion tune thrown in for us jazz geeks.

Robbin had a two man rhythm section, with Travis Carlton on bass and Toss Panos on drums. - powerful and solid.. solid as in 'large granitic bolder' solid.

They laid down the groove so fat, it set a sweet stage for Robben's truly masterful playing. It was all Ford, with few distractions.

Nice to see how versatile a musician this man is. This brother has the blues... in a really good way, and is a very talented fusion artist.

I know of him from my fusion days - he worked with the Yellow Jackets and Miles Davis, himself.

He played a fusion tune.. one only, but it was so dang sweet. Man, i wish the entire set was fusion. But his southern style rock'n blues is so entertaining, we had a really great time.

To be retrospective for a moment...

This was yet another in a 40 year string of fun shows - thanks Pops, on fathers day. He dragged me out to every Miles, Chick and Dizzy show that came through the bay back then. I remember seeing Count Basie at the circle star... seeing Dizzy's latin faze when i was a tot, etc. ... blessed to be from a musical family.

Note on the video... thats my, usually private dancer in the last clip... ;)



Robbin has a very fat site....

Robben Ford is one of the premiere electric guitarists today, particularly known for his blues playing as well as his ability to be comfortable in a variety of musical contexts. A four-time Grammy nominee, he has played with artists as diverse as Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Witherspoon, Miles Davis, George Harrison, Phil Lesh, Bonnie Raitt, Claus Ogerman, Michael McDonald, and many, many others.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sweet Sweetie Pie Rumba! packed with heavies

My my my...

all the heavies were out in force for the second of many Sweetie Pie Rumbas.

The cast of heavies, including several top players in the east bay, came together and played for hours. Yaya, Yagbe, Flaco, Pili, Sandy, Michiel, Enrique, Orlando, Toby, Jeff, Bruce, Art, Daniel and myself, was the roll call of the day.

There were very few people to watch - about 10 to be exact, as we haven't promoted the event as of yet. I was waiting for the kind of support by the rumberos we were so blessed to see yesterday.

In the middle of the rumba, out of nowhere, as it not a busy part of town, in walks a troupe of 12 Brazilian carnival dancers in full costume who just happened by!!! ...what???!!

Body Language Arts dancers in the house!!


Yes, full costume with feathered head dresses and skimpy sequin bikinis... They danced fantastically to a couple of rumbas, and headed on.... wild.

I cant tell you how fat it was. How cool. We now have a public scene every weekend, for those who cant get enough.

Irish Rick had fathers day duties, and was out of town, so i took my gear down. In the rush, i forgot my camera!! man... bad blogger... i know...

Im sure there will be many video posts in the future.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Sweetie Pie Rumba this Saturday 3 - 6

Hey all,

53rd and MLK in Oakland, is the place for Rumba on Saturday.

Hope you can all bring out the pops and have some soul food, and a Rumba fix!

happy fathers day!


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Soul Captives at the Elbo Room Monday 6/16 - SKA!!

Elbo Room presents $2 Drink Specials and:

Soul Captives

Mark Sexton Band

Tickets available:
Day of show only

Tickets $5

I used to book this fat ska band when they played up in Napa, and a few times, we ripped it up together.

This is one fun band! They really know how to play a entertaining set. Gotta love the horns!!

for $5, they are a great time, next Monday at the elbo room.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Radio Havana Rumba? on the Mission in SF

After the show at Yerba Buena, we went over to Radio Havana, a small bar at 22nd and Valencia in the Mission.

Ive been meaning to make it over the bridge to this Rumba for years now, but I always heard that it wasn't really worth checking out.

Well three years later, i finally made it.

Its a nice place to have a good beer, but it's rather small, and gets really hot and stuffy when you pack a bunch of sweaty 'BBQ drummers' in there.

The police showed up half way through, and made the owner keep the door closed - so no ventilation.

I have to be honest about this...

I cant really say its actually a rumba. I guess, at times, it must come together. But after playing for an hour, trying to get a group of people who could play something resembling rumba, we left frustrated and bewildered.

How can two white boys from the country, come into the big city, in the heart of Latin Culture north of LA - the mission in SF - and be the best players in the local public rumba?

With the experience far from complementing us, we felt sad that the Mission scene cant get a solid thing going for the community there.

Im sure something is going on privately...

But we are reminded how lucky we are to have the La Pena Rumbas, and now the Sweetie Pie Rumbas in the east bay.


Omar Sosa - John Santos - David Gilmore at Yerba Buena 6/08

What a wonderful day on the green at Yerba Buena Gardens watching Omar Sosa, and his band of merry rippers having a very relaxed and fun gig for all.

They had an unusual set list: from solid jams to disjointed struggles, with a few ethereal day dreamers in between.

These shows are so very pleasing.. to be square about it. They just rock. It puts me in a good mood for days afterward. The sun is shining over a totally packed, large grass field tucked in between the skyscrapers of down town San Francisco.

Omar played with an extremely fat band,

John Santos (the mission) Bata, Congas, Percussion
Childo Tomas (Mozambique), electric bass, m’bira, vocal
Marque Gilmore (U.S.A.), drums, electronics
David Gilmore (U.S.A.), guitar
Leandro Saint-Hill (Cuba), saxophone, flute

This cat Childo Tomas was one of the best bass players ive heard in a long while. What a solid Groove!! Man, this cat is truly a world class rhythm machene.

David Gilmore on guitar - one of my hero's from the my fusion days, played beautifully, and with his signature, incredible sound.

Marqe Gilmore is an explosive player, but somehow he was in the background of the solid groove Childo layed down.

John played well, but was in deep... almost over his head, as these cats play together often, with syncopated breaks and changing feels. At times, he looked like he'd rather be sitting in the audience listening, and enjoying the sun with his beautiful family. They had him turned down on the mix, and that didn't help much. They could have turned him up for his solo, at least.

Somehow, i dont think the mix on stage matched the mix to the crowd.

I'm looking forward the next show at Yerba Buena Gardens: a Nigerian group on the 22nd of this month.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Shows at La Pena of note

Cuban Music Dance

Descarga with Yosvany Terry: Ye-dé-gbé & the Afro-Caribbean Legacy and special guest artists:

Descarga with Yosvany Terry: Ye-dé-gbé & the Afro-Caribbean Legacy and special guest artists:

Yosvany Terry & the Afro-Caribbean Legacy with Jesus Diaz, John Santos and Michael Spiro

Friday July 18, 2008

$15 Adv/door - 8pm

Yosvany Terry (saxes and chekere) and the Afro-Caribbean Legacy which includes Pedro Martinez (lead vocal and percussion), Osmany Paredes (piano), Ramon “Sandy” Perez (percussion), Felix “Pupi” Insua (dance), Roman Diaz (percussion), Yunior Terry (Bass) will throw down for an inspiring and energetic evening of Afro-Cuban Jazz. They will be joined in this jam session by Bay Area guest artists: Jesus Diaz, John Santos and Michael Spiro.

ALSO: Lecture-Demonstration with Yosvany Terry: Ye-dé-gbé & the Afro-Caribbean Legacy: Tuesday, July 22, 7pm

In this program, Yosvany and the group will demonstrate Afro-Cuban folkloric rhythms, in particular from the Arará tradition. The artists will also demonstrate and discuss how they approach melodic, harmonic and rhythm to integrate the folkloric rhythms to Jazz music.

Events take place at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 947

05 . For more info, please visit or call 510-849-2568

Presented in association with Yerba Buena Gardens Festival (link) and Stanford Jazz Workshop (link)

These events are part of Yosvany Terry: Yedégbé – The Afro-Caribbean Legacy project with additional performances at

Yerba Buena Gardens Festival on Saturday July 19, 1-3pm

Stanford Jazz Festival on Sunday July 20, 2008, 7:30pm

Orquesta La Moderna Tradición

Friday June 27, 2008

$12 - 9pm

Come listen to some great

charanga, & support the Bay Area's own playing classic & modern Cuban dance music. Orquesta La Moderna Tradición
Hear the Orquesta performing great Cuban dance music, from Danzón and Cha-cha-cha to Songo and Timba, as well as new arrangements of compositions by Juan Carlos Formell. You'll be dancing all night long!

Noche de Bomba!

Bomberas de la Bahia

Friday June 13, 2008

$12 - 8pm

An evening of Bomba Music & Dance. Bomberas de la Bahía. Founded in 2007, this collective of Bomberas has actively contributed to the growing of the tradition of Bomba; Puerto Rico's oldest community & dance tradition. Highlighting the important role women play in these traditions, Las Bomberas de la Bahía will be performing their arrangements of traditional Bomba songs.

John Calloway and the Tumbao All-Stars - Pier 23, June12th

John Calloway and the Tumbao All-Stars

Thu 6/12/2008
9:00 p.m.

fee/admission: $10

Pier 23 Cafe
Embarcadero at Pier 23
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 362-5125
(Fisherman's Wharf)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Omar Sosa and his Afreecanos at Yerba Buena Gardens Sunday 12:30

The free shows at Yerba Buena Gardens - can we get anything better than a free show at the gardens on a lazy Sunday afternoon...

With fat performers like Omar Sosa playing in the sun of a spring day.. its not hard to figure why the bay area is such a fun place to live.

Hope to see you all out there!


Event Details

Omar Sosa Afreecanos Sextet

Date: June 8, 2008

Time: 12:40 pm - 2:30 pm

Location: Esplanade

Cuban composer and pianist Omar Sosa’s new touring ensemble, Afreecanos, explores the rich heritage of African music in jazz and Latin music. Drawing upon his Afro-Cuban roots, Sosa artfully weaves traditional elements from across the African diaspora and the Americas with his own distinctive sound, producing a thoroughly unique jazz idiom. The band’s arrangements combine the folkloric with the contemporary – the ancestral with the urban – all with a Latin jazz heart. Omar Sosa Afreecanos Quintet is presented by the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival as part of the San Francisco International Arts Festival. This special concert will feature the following excellent musicians:

Omar Sosa (Cuba), piano, Fender Rhodes, electronics, vocal
Childo Tomas (Mozambique), electric bass, m’bira, vocal
Marque Gilmore (U.S.A.), drums, electronics
David Gilmore (U.S.A.), guitar
Leandro Saint-Hill (Cuba), saxophone, flute
Tim Eriksen (U.S.A.), vocal

DJ Third World Liberation Music opens the show at 12:40pm and John Santos will appear as a special guest.

12:40-1pm: DJ Third World Liberation Music
1:05-2:30pm: Omar Sosa Afreecanos Sextet

Many thanks to

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Unknown vintage congas - Interesting and rare

Here are a few vintage congas I have yet to identify. Im only interested in the obscure ones that look/sound very well made.

Anyone know these lost souls?


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Thomas Altaman's work with John Amira - European Rumberos

These two cats rock. Simply and completely...

As a European, the academic analysis of this tradition is often needed to bridge the gap between how our two different peoples digest information.

Somehow, i have one foot in Africa, and the other in the Alps. I feel both cultures, as expressed through me by my ancestors and guiding Orishas.

It's interesting how different the schools of learning are.

For instance - its very African to take in a folkloric tradition as it is expressed - as a part of an entire experience to be felt by all the senses in real time, as its happening.

The European compartmentalization and isolation of a concept, to analyze it, massage it and examine it closely - to find how to incorporate it into the whole in a way that makes intellectual sense.

Both methods are useful, in my experience. i think people who use both methods to internalize these rhythms, for instance (just a small part of this tradition, keep in mind), are in on the fastest path to understanding this folkloric tradition (not like i know the tradition well, as it's my 4th year on this path).

Colin Douglas, Michael Spiro and Chris "el Flaco" Walker are examples of people of European decent who have used both methods to digest and understand this tradition successfully.

They are my inspiration. They are shinning the light at the end of the tunnel.

Thank you, my brothers. Thank you.


Rumba Clave, a scientific analysis by brother James

Check out brother James' blog with a very cool technical analysis of rumba clave, and the actual 'feel' so difficult to express with western notation.

This is some of the nicest work to date, that ive seen, as far as the science of Clave.

have fun,


¡Vamos a guarachar! - the fattest rumba blog on the net!

Will you check out what this cat put together to honor our dear founding Rumberos.

What a nice job, on this site. So much to learn... hope you make it back to my little 'not so cool' blog so check up on current events. ;)


Monday, June 2, 2008

Groupo Folklorico AfroCuba de Matanzas - from myspace

Grupo AFROCUBA de Matanzas AFROCUBA de Matanzas AFROCUBA, one of Cuba's most acclaimed folklore groups, performs the traditional dances, percussion and songs which still flourish as an integral part of the island's living legacy. The nineteen member company was founded in 1957 in the city of Matanzas, known as one of the cradles of Afro-Cuban folklore. There, many of the centuries-old African based traditions have been maintained in their purest form, some existing presently only in Matanzas. AFROCUBA is widely recognized in Cuba and worldwide for their mastery of the full spectrum of Afro-Cuban folklore, including presentation of certain genres performed only by them. The group members are not only top-notch professional artists, but also practitioners of the religions whose music and dance they perform.

Their instruments have been painstakingly hand crafted using centuries-old methods and original materials, making for an incomparable richness and authenticity of sound. "The group's repertoire contains a wide and complete panorama of the traditions brought to Cuba by the African slaves, and the results of their evolution and integration into modern Cuban society", says director Francisco Zamorra Chirino.

Their shows include music and dance of Lucumí (Yoruba), Arará (Dahomey), Bantú (Congo), Calabarí, and other African origins, as well as the more Spanish and Caribbean influenced traditions. Our goal is to keep the legacy of our ancestors alive, while enriching our creative interpretation".

They have several recordings, most recently "Rituales Afrocubanos" (1993 EGREM, Cuba), and "Oyelos de Nuevo" (1994 QbaDisc, recorded in 1968 under the group name "Folklore Matancero"). In February 1996 AFROCUBA recorded six pieces with Steve Coleman at the Havana Jazz Festival. These pieces which mix odd-metered jazz and hip hop vocals with polyrhythmic Afro-Cuban rhythms appear on a Steve Coleman recording on the BMG label.

La Pena 6.08 - Maestro Aldama and his VW

What a fun day that was.

We started early, and had a serious rumba going by 3. We were all in the mood for a nice day of playing. By mid session, Carlos Aldama and Sandy Perez showed.

Most of the regulars were there, Javier, Orlando, Yaya, Pili Irish Rick, Michael, Jeff, Enrique, among others.

In the middle of the rumba, I go outside for a breather to see Carlos Aldama and a few cats gathered around his signature VW bug. He had broken his throddle cable, a repair i had done many a time in my youth, as i used to own several bugs and vans.

In less than an hour, we had it fixed and had him back on the road... it was so cool to see us all help to get him setup. Very cool and tight community, this is. I called for the part, Art went to buy it for Carlos... very cool.

So, in the mean time, Carlos played quinto at the rumba, to everyones joy. A true legend in action.

Carlos thanked me with a big hug, and told me to come by for a lesson, on him. What a pleasure to help him, and see him smile as he drove away... so blessed, we are, to have him around.

After the rumba at La Pena, I went with Sandy over to Toby's house for a jam. Only thing was, Orlando showed up with his Bass!

Oh no... Orlando with his Bass - always a sign of a pending train wreck! And sure enough.. it was hard to get a good thing going.

I realized, its always a good idea to go with Sandy, no matter if it pans out or not, as far as playing. The times that are hitting, are so fat, its worth the off nights when nothing gets going.

.. Video clip is dark, sorry about that... Michael on quinto, Yaya on Segunda, me on Tumbao, Enrique on Bajo cajon, Irish Rick on cata, Orlando singing... too much fun.