CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: Radio Havana Rumba? on the Mission in SF

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pin It


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.



  1. 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.


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. dear tony, your description of the radio Havana rumba is hateful. Music is supposed to inspire and not produce hatred.

  4. Sorry you feel that way, mr anonymous.

    I look at it quite differently.

    I love BBQ drummers and drum circles.

    And i love the tradition of Rumba, and what i saw on the mission made me sad, frankly.

    This is a tradition with strict rules, like it or not. There is only one reason for this - the music does not work otherwise. Its not my rule, its just how it works.

    Those who know the tradition know this.

    A rumba can turn in to nothing quickly when only one of 6 cats plays their part without the right feel, or pattern.

    Isnt that selfish of those who are playing at a 'rumba' and have little experience in the tradition, or have never studied one on one with someone who knows the tradition?

    I know i sat on my hands for two years straight at La Pena, watching and listening, studying and listening - before i laid hands on a drum in a actual rumba. - out of respect for the tradition, and the other players. Id been playing the congas for 20 years, at that point.

    Its ok for others not to respect the tradition as i do, of course.

    But its also ok for me to call them on it.



  5. One last thing on this...

    I will always be a straight shooter, and call it as i see it.

    If it was off the hook, id be the first to say, and would promote the living daylights out of it.

    I think that honest criticism, scathing as it may be, can be a powerful motivating force.

    Motivating those who need it, to seek advise on how to play this tradition, weather its an uncomfortable process or not.

    More likely, people are limited by what they dont know, and will see my review as motivated by some dislike of SF or something.

    This 'not knowing what you dont know' think makes it very hard to understand why others dont appreciate what they are doing (ie playing rumba without working on the tradition till you are good enough to play with others and not mess things up).



Thanks for checking in, please feel free to contribute.

Feel free to contact me directly at