CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: July 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jose Francisco Barroso - master dancer - the Fred Astaire of Rumba

Its crazy how talented the cats are in this tradition.. take Maestro Jose Francisco Barroso.

I call him the Fred Astaire of Rumba, he is so dang graceful. Ive never seen a more relaxed dancer, ripping it up like he invented the style.

Here is a pic of him and Pancho Quinto:

In the mean time, check out his site;

He can be found teaching in SF:

African Cuban Orisha Dance
Tuesday 7:00PM - 8:30PM
Thursday 6:30PM - 8:00PM

ODC Dance Commons
351 Shotwell
(between 17th & 18th)
San Francisco, CA

His DVD, pictured above, is a great way to learn the dances of the Orishas, very clear and well put together..... "TURN!"... (inside joke, if you've seen it)

some history of this amazing dancer and truly gracious master of his tradition. (from

Jose Francisco Barroso was born in Havana and was principal dancer and soloist with the Compania Folklorica Raices Profundas. Since his arrival in the United States, he has conducted master classes and workshops in the Yoruba, Congo and Haitian traditions at a number of different universities and settings.

He began to dance professionally at the age of 18 when he was invited to join Raices Profundas, where he was a principal dancer and soloist. He has performed as a guest artist and choreographer with several companies including YDADE.(Yoruba Drum and Dance Ensemble) and Siguaralla. In 1999, he formed Ebo Okokan, a group dedicated to maintaining the living legacy of dance. music, song, and cultural traditions brought to Cuba in the minds and hearts of Africans torn from their homelands during theslave trade. In addition to folkloric dance, Mr. Barroso's early years as a hip hop dancer won him many competitions in Havana.

Here is the master in action at La Pena in 2007.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Larry Vuckovich at Yoshi's with Hector Lugo 8/5

Once upon a time, i sat in with Larry Vuchovich, when John Santos and Orestes Vilato could not make it up to Napa. It was a train wreck, unfortunately. In place of the legendary section of Santos and Vilato, was me on congas and bongo and some middle eastern drummer who was all over the place. It was a nightmare situation, as this other percussionist and i could not find a groove. I had to play the most boring and straight tumbao, just to keep everything from falling apart. The whole night was awkward and unpleasent... fortunately it was in a lightly attended little club in the musicians wasteland of the Napa Valley. It was probably the last time I'll play with Larry, unfortunately.

Larry has a new project, and his is releasing a CD at Yoshi's next Tuesday night.

Good friend and master Bombero Hector Lugo will be on percussion. Should be a fun show, and the 10pm is only $10.

Larry Vuckovich Jazz/Latin Quartet

CD Release Concert
  • Aug 5, 2008
  • $16 8m
    $10 10 pm

  • featuring
    Larry Vuckovich, piano
    Michael Zisman, bass
    Hector Lugo, Latin Percussion
    Eddie Marshall, drums

Yoshis SF jazz club and restaurant

Bay Area stalwart pianist, Larry Luckovich returns to Yohsi's San Francisco. His resume includes stints with Anita O'Day, Joe Williams, Cab Calloway, Charlie Haden, Bobby Hutcherson, Larry Grenadier, and served as accompanist for vocalist/lyricist Jon Hendricks for many years.

Vuckovich comes to Yoshi's with his Jazz/Latin Quartet, featuring Eddie Marshall- drums, Hector Lugo - Latin percussion. Performs the music of the new High Wall: Real Life Film Noir CD including originals, film noir classics, swinging bebop, post-bop, contemporary jazz/modal, Latin/Brazilian, Balkan ethnojazz, flamenco, blues, & more.

"one of the premier west coast pianists." - Barry Harris

Hector Lugo at La Pena With Javier Navarette:

Some info on Hector:

Héctor Lugo is a versatile percussionist, singer and composer, and an experienced teacher. A native of Puerto Rico, Héctor has performed, toured and/or recorded with a variety of local and international artists, including, among others, the Familia Cepeda Folkloric Ensemble, Conjunto Céspedes, Gilberto Gutiérrez and Mono Blanco, Pete "El Conde" Rodríguez, Luis Romero y Orquesta Mazacote, Mission Project, and Jackeline Rago and the Venezuelan Music Project. He leads Son Borikua, an eight piece ensemble that performs original music inspired in the Puerto Rican musical folklore, in particular the "Bomba" and the "Plena". The group's sound balances the color and range of string instruments such as the "cuatro" with the percussive drive of the barrel shaped bomba drums, the hand held "panderos" of the plena, and the "güiro" and "bongó" of "jíbaro" music. Some of the group's pieces turn into spontaneous dance performances while others feature more choreographed presentations of bomba dancing, a traditional Afro-Puerto Rican dance form.

"I started here at La Peña studying, I started playing and getting involved in music late in my life. And it was through La Peña I think that I started participating in some Afro-Cuban drumming workshops. I did that for a few years. After that I started performing and playing with different groups. Recently in the last couple of years since I put together my band, Son Borikua, we've had the opportunity to play [all over the Bay Area]. I've been playing in different folkloric ensembles, Venezuela and Afro-Cuban, Puerto Rican. I also like popular music but I guess it's more difficult to find places where you can present that other, more folk form."

"I always kind of try to make people aware, both people that play with me in my band, and people that study here in the workshops, and the people that come to the shows, first that you know, we play music that owes a great debt to the people that came before us. A lot of the music that we're playing is rooted in traditions that represent the experiences of previous generations. You know, the struggle of people coming together, and people that came from many different continents throughout the process of colonization of Puerto Rico. So I like people to understand that we owe something to those previous generations that created some of the sounds, and some of the songs, and some of these traditions and some of these dances. We're now taking them, and we're moving with them to a new place. And that's the other thing that I like people to understand. That we've got to respect those traditions and learn from them, but that our role, at least I see, my role in Son Borikua, in this band, is then taking that tradition further and putting our own contribution."

Photo by Hugh Lovell

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Samba Da' and the Jorge Santana at Stern Grove today at 2

Im not sure, but SambaDa' may be performing earlier than 2.. its always good to get to the grove early.

Sunday, July 27 at 2:00 p.m.
Stern Grove, 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco

Celebrate the sound of San Francisco with Voices of Latin Rock!

Born in the Mission District, Latin Rock was a defining sound of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when bands like Santana, Malo, Sapo, Abel and the Prophets, and Azteca melded the rhythms of Latin music with funk, soul, and rock. Voices of Latin Rock features veteran performers like Jorge Santana and Gabriel Manzo of Malo, Abel Sanchez of Abel and the Prophets, and trumpeter Bill Ortiz from Santana, among others, who shaped the sound of what became known in America as "Latin Rock." With an impeccably tight horn section, blistering guitars, and a host of percussionists, expect Voices of Latin Rock to lay down a sorching performance.

Local favorite SambaDá ( lead the afternoon with a high-powered concoction of Brazilian beats, samba, funk, reggae, and hip-hop.


A mix of samba, capoeira music, funk, reggae and hip hop, the album is the product of their collaboration with 3 time Grammy-nominated producer Greg Landau, who has worked with artists including Susana Baca, Patato Valdes, Maldita Vecindad and Buena Vista Social Club's Juan de Marcos Gonzalez. This new CD features vocalist, percussionist & dancer Dandha da Hora, a native of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil and a long-time member and performer with Il Aiy. Salve a Bahia features original music by bandleader & capoeira mestre Papiba Godinho (also of Brazil) and a guest appearance by Ozomatli's Wil-Dog Abers. While Brazilin natives Papiba Godinho and Dandha da Hora bring their profound knowledge and respect for the roots of afro-brazilian song and dance, the entire band has developed a type of samba-reggae-funk with a universal appeal.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sweetie Pie Rumba Today 3 - 6 53rd and MLK

Hey all,

Come by and feast on some Rumba slow cooked, and covered in BBQ sause.

Sweetie Pie and Poppies soul food is hosting a rumba today from 3-6. 53rd and MLK in Oakland.

By the way, this is a picture of a rumba in Matanzas, Cuba. Actual musicians may differ. ;)

See you there!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Want to go to Cuba? - check out

My friend and super dancer Alisa Froman has this wonderful site, full of lots of fun things Cuban.

She organizes trips to Cuba and I can tell you, she is hooked up, and can take any dancer or drummer to the right place on the island to work with, and study from the grand masters.

Alisa is a wonderful person, and very knowledgeable about the tradition - not to mention a fantastic dancer of Rumba and Salsa. She worked with Suzana Arenas for years.

Have fun, and do send me a report when you get back!


Restoration for Maria - 80's SF Valje congas

Here is a very nice set owned by my good friend Maria. She has been quite an advocate of mine, and a big supporter of the tradition.

The picture includes a LA Valje quinto for comparison.

She has had many a heavy over at here house to play these drums, including Regino Jimenez himself.

They had much use over the years - they needed new skins and a few cracks repaired. We wanted to keep the original patina, so no refinishing this old set.

Another fun project... these tubs, set up with the best sounding skins i could find, are ugly to look at, but really nice sounding. I could have got a matching set of skins for her, but i set them up for a musicians ear, not a dancers eye - as per her request.

They were broken in last night by Sandy Perez and Roman Diaz, cant get any better than that.


Yosvany Terry and his brothers at La Pena - demonstration

We were so blessed to see these cats one more time before they head out of town.

Once again, Silvia at La Pena comes through. Thanks for your support of the tradition!

Man, these cats rip... to say the least.

Yosvany was tearing it up on the sax, and Pedrito was singing so nicely, i thought i was on a beach in Havana.

It was billed as a workshop on Arara, and turned out more like a one set performance, and some general discussion. Its funny, these cats are such fluent musicians, it was a challenge for them to see how a novice would find their compositions a mystery, and thus had a challenge in explaining how the various styles of Arara inspired the various compositions where they were used, for example.

Yosvany and these cats are so smooth with their grooves - so comfortable with both idioms. Its hard for them to understand how someone outside of Cuba can be a bit overwhelmed by the complex fusion of the strict Arara tradition, and the freedom of Jazz.

Some of their compositions are way heavy....5 on 12, ok... i give... as in uncle...

It reminded me of my days studying East Indian Tabla... and some of the recent Flamenco fusion. 5 over 12 ending on 10!! That takes a while... .... a while for pattern to roll around again. Waiting for 15 to roll, as in some Indian Ragas, is difficult enough for me, for the moment.

so, after the session, the band and a few of us Rumba junkies (Pili, Javier, Josh Jones, Morgan Simon, among others) went over to Maria's house for some late night ripping.

Getting to hang with these cats, in such a comfortable space, is truly something special. ... ok, i could find a more powerful word, but these cats are especially special...
Roman Diaz, one of the most humble masters ive known, purchased a requinto from Pili (Isla Percussion), and a Matanzas style quinto Cajon made by our beloved brother Enrique Carrerao.

As homage to Roman and his mastery of, and contribution to this tradition, Im going to box them up and deliver them to his hotel today, to be shipped off to the east coast. To say thanks, Roman sported me a black beer... not the first time a grand master has sent a beer my way... and for an Austrian, there isn't a better way to thank someone. Thank you Roman.. I felt like keeping the glass as a memento.

Thank you Roman, for producing one of the fattest folkloric cd's in production, Wimelere... what a treasure for us all!

Here is a Rumba at Roman's house where you can see this drum in it's charmed life.

At one point in the night, Carlos Aldama takes my by the hand and tracks down Roman, to tell him what a dear friend i am to him, and how he respects me... am i dreaming? What have i done to be so respected... It makes me feel awkward, with this showering of respect from such heavies... who the hell am i, in the grand scheme of the tradition... ... just a humble student of such grand and talented masters... Im very lucky to know them.

The rumba at Maria's was more than 'all that'. Sandy was playing some of the most terrific quinto ive ever witnessed. Roman Diaz on tumba, Tony Escapa on segund, Yosvani Terry on Cata, Michael La Brada and Carlos Aldama singing, me on chekere and coro... was i dreaming?? I hope i never wake from this precious slumber... an unbelievable fantasy come true...

Late in the night, I was one of the last to leave. I just had to squeeze every last drop out of the experience.. and this morning, i'm more thirsty than ever.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Worshop on Arara tonight at La Pena w/ Yosvany Terry and his heavies


Yosvany Terry: Ye-dé-gbé & the Afro-Caribbean Legacy

Tuesday July 22, 2008

$10 adv. $12 dr. - 7pm

Lecture-Demonstration with Yosvany Terry: Ye-dé-gbé & the Afro-Caribbean Legacy. 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.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Playing with Pedrito Martinez, Roman Diaz, Carlos Aldama - wow!

So, unbelievably.... after the rumba at La Pena, we went over to a house in North Berkeley for an after party. So blessed, so blessed...

We showed up at this party and were welcomed with open arms by Michael La Brada, Carlos Aldama and his wife, and a few other Cuban cats we know.

They immediately gave us big hugs, and bigger smiles - grabbed me by the hand to introduce me to the heavies from New York, like i was royalty or something. I felt so honored.

Here are these cats, who's musicianship is so incredibly profound, one would think they would be stuck on themselves. But they were so welcoming and kind, and when we started playing, so respectful, patient, and down right brilliant.

Pedrito Martinez is one of the best rumberos ive ever seen up close, much less played with.

I was on tumba, with Orlando singing, Rick on cata, Pili on quinto and Super monster Maestro Roman Diaz (Yoruba Andabo) on segundo. I had no idea it was Roman Diaz, i'm embarrassed to say, and I was trying my best to drive the bus on the tumba... not knowing who i was playing with. - oh, THAT Roman Diaz!! man... what a heavy player, religious leader and such a gracious cat. He was the musical director for the CD Wimillere, one of the best folkloric cds i own.

Next thing i know, im tapped out by the one and only Pedrito Martinez. I had no idea he was right behind me, respectfully waiting to play. As lame as it must have sounded to him, for a few minutes, he patiently waited and let me have some fun; how polite and respectful these cats are.

He sat down and completely rocked the house with the funkyest low end ive heard in a long time. It made me look like an armature - no surprise there. What in incredible talent.

Tony Esencio, the trap player in the band, picked up the cata, and it was on!

Carlos Aldama singing and dancing... Master Dancer and folklorist Felix "Pupi" Insua picking up where he left off, working the Rumba like a world class jockey on a thoroughbred.

I was thinking to myself, playing chekere and singing with these masters - providing a very small part of this fattest of fat rumbas: this is unbelievable.... and I feel right at home. Life is amazing.

I'm planning on making the workshop at La Pena tomorrow night, (Tuesday the 22nd) and who knows what we get ourselves into then! to play for a dance class in Napa...


Pedrito Martinez, Roman Diaz, Felix "Pupi" Insua - wow, these cats are all that.

Roman Diaz is one of the most respected folklorists on the east coast, and is one of the top players of this tradition in the world. Here is a shot of him playing with no less than:

Left to right: 'Goyo' Hernandez, Roman Díaz on bonko, 'Maximino', Pedrito Martinez, Miguel Chappotin, Juan de Dios (Director of Raices Profundas)

"Roman Díaz is a master percussionist from Havana, where he was trained by elders in the fine arts of classic Afro-Cuban musical traditions. He performed with groups including Raices Profunda (Juan de Dios Ramos), Grupo T con E, Ochestra Sublime, Yoruba Andabo, and Grupo Anaki (Pancho Quinto). In the US, Diaz has collaborated with musicians including Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, Oriente Lopez, Paquito D'Rivera, Juan Carlos Formell, Pedrito Martinez, Onel Mulet, Candido Camero, "Chocolate" Armenteros, and Orlando "Puntilla" Rios. He organized a performance ensemble called Omi Oddara. A collective that soon became the thunder behind Insua's dance company known at that time as Oriki. They perform ritual Santeria, Abakua, and Palo Monte music, as well as continue the rumba and Son lineages of Arsenio Rodriguez, Chano Pozo, and Ignacio Pineiro's Septeto Nacional, all of whom drew upon Cuba's African heritage in their music. Contrary to the typical use of these traditions as "spice" for "world music", Diaz's ensemble is distinguished for respecting these traditions through artful and passionate performances based on deep ritual knowledge. Diaz is recorded on Calle 54 (film/CD), Del Yoruba al Son, Ache IV and V, and Montvale Rumba (LP Productions) to name a few. He produced and arranged Wemilere (2002). Diaz is currently working on new compositions for Oriki's upcoming performances."

here is Roman on quinto, playing with Yoruba Andabo... wholly molly....

Pedro Martinez

Pedrito Martinez began performing at the age of 11, where he played and sang in comparsa groups in school. Born and raised in Cuba, he had the unique opportunity to work with numerous Afro-Cuban groups, such as Yoruba Andabo, Obba Ilu, Tata Guines, Changuito, Anga and many others. He also recorded several albums, one of which was entitled "Guemilere", which was produced by Roman Diaz, as well as the group Los Nani.

Pedrito also had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica, France, Spain, and the Canary Islands, and came to the United States in July 1998 after performing with saxophonist Jane Bunnett at the Canadian Jazz Festival in Toronto.

In September 2000, Pedrito won First Place in the Thelonious Monk Institute's Afro/Latin Jazz Hand Drum competition at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. This honor led to several more high-profile projects, including work with Nelson Gonzalez, Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, Robby Ameen, Paquito D'Rivera, Giovanni Hidalgo, Patato, and Candido Camero, among many others. He also performed in the motion picture "Calle 54", as well as other television works.

Dancer and renound folkforist Felix "Pupi" Insua, founder of Oriki, and one time principal dancer for Yoruba Andabo.

"Oriki's repertoire illuminates the roots of the Cuban rhythms beginning with the sacred music, song and dance of the Yoruba, Congo, Calabar and Dahomey cultures and their influences on contemporary and social dance forms. Given his mastery of the folkloric technique coupled with his extensive training in classical and contemporary ballet, modern, and jazz, Insua’s choreography surpasses the realm of traditional dance."

There are great bio's of each of the performers on the Stanford jazz site -

Yosvany Terry and Sandy Perez at Yerba Buena, Melik Perez jams

How fun was this weekend?!


So, fun it had me wondering how i got so lucky.

We went out to see Sandy play with Yosvany Terry at the Yerba Buena Gardens.

I just love this venue, outside in a nice, big, sunny park in amongst the towering highrises of the financial district in SF.

This was a very interesting show, with Arara and Bembe behind some very clean, what i would call, smooth fusion.

The rhythm section has serious Jazz chops - very skilled musicians. Being raised in the Jazz tradition (family of Jazz musicians), to my ear, its rare to have such a 'clean' jazz sound, not being mixed with Cuban licks and feel, backed up by mother Africa itself - Sandy Perez, Pedrito Martinez, and Roman Diaz. It was a really well constructed fusion, and they were effective, for the most part, in creating a unified sound, from such differing feels (Cool with Arara, for instance).

Sandy's son, and soon to be master musician Melik Perez joined the band on stage for the last couple of tunes. This little brother is going to be incredible. I feel honored to have produced his first show.

He looks up to me as one of his uncles - Tio Tony, one of many people looking out for this lucky young man. I feel lucky to know him, and look forward to watching him perform and have a family of his own, in my old age.

Little did I know, but that night, I was invited to a party and I would be playing and hanging out with all these cats till late. - Playing and singing. wwwwowwww, one lucky brother i am...

Here is a video of Yosvany Terry and his cats doing their fantastic thing.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Explorations of AfroCuban Dance and Drum workshops in Arcata to start this weekend.

Howie Kaufman puts on a very well planned and well executed series of Afro Cuban workshops up in northern California, every year in July. If you are serious about learning this tradition, this might be the place for you to become inspired to search for a deeper understanding of this amazing folkloric world.

In the past, they have had some very heavy players come to teach, and this year is also packed with talent and direct experience. The workshops with Francisco Aguabella are worth the trip alone, but there is much to offer players of all levels. The after parties are off the hook, as i am told.

This is one of the jewels, for those who dont usually have access to these players, or this tradition as it is lived in real time.

How blessed we are to have these cats up north put this together, and keep it successfully going year after year. Nice work!!

I talked to Howie once, never played with or met him, but he was very helpful in making some flight arrangements for some of the players to get down to the bay area for performances last year. Thanks Howie!!

Kaufman: Explorations in dance and drum

[photo of Howie Kaufman]Howie Kaufman grew up in the San Fernando Valley and moved to Arcata in 1982 to study math at Humboldt State. He had been playing drums since he was a teenager -- but not hand drums. In 1984 he met Peñalosa when David came up from Southern Humboldt to teach a percussion workshop, and with sponsorship from HSU's Extended Education, a week of drum and dance classes was held.

"Howie has created something that's pretty remarkable," said Peñalosa. "It's the biggest assemblage of Afro-Cuban folkloric masters in the country and it's right here in Arcata."

From the site:

[Photo of Lazaro Galarraga]

Lazaro Galarraga is a native of Havana, Cuba. He was a founding member of the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba. A world-renowned teacher, performing artist, choreographer and writer of Afro-Cuban music, culture and folklore, he has recorded, performed and taught across the U.S. and worldwide. He is now the musical director for the Caribbean Crew and for the Percussion Artists Workshop (PAWS) Afro-Cuban Folklore ensemble in Los Angeles.

Drum Instructors

Lazaro Galarraga (see above)

[photo of Francisco Aguabella playing conga]

Francisco Aguabella, the “virtuoso” percussionist of Afro-Cuban rhythms, was born in the province of Matanzas, Cuba. He gained notice for his secular drumming in Havana nightclub bands and for his mastery of the complex styles of Afro-Cuban ceremonial drumming. Aguabella is a legendary figure in the contemporary Afro-Cuban Lucumi tradition, and his mastery of the Batá drums is also well known. Since the 1950s, Aguabella has performed with Eddie Palmieri, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Paul Simon, Poncho Sanchez, Malo, Cal Tjader, Santana, Tito Rodriguez and Peggy Lee. He currently performs with his own Afro-Cuban folkloric group at community festivals in the Los Angeles area.

Israel "Toto" Berriel playing conga

Israel “Toto” Berriel
was born in Matanzas City
, Cuba, and began his career at age 16 as an musician in Los Yumurinos, which had been mentored by members of the groups Afrocuba and Los Munequitos. Tito began performing with Afrocuba in 1988, and in 1991, began singing with Los Munequitos with whom he toured internationally. Residing in Canada since 2001, Tito continues to perform and teach traditional, popular, and folkloric music in Canada and abroad.

Jesus Diaz playing conga

Jesus Diaz is a native of Havana, Cuba. He has taught and performed in the S.F. Bay area since 1980. He also performs and teaches internationally with his all-percussion group Talking Drums. He has made over a dozen recordings and co-founded Bombo Music Productions in 1993, producing four records under the Bombo music label. Jesus has toured with Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby Womack, Tito Puente, Pete Escovedo, Sheila E, Carlos Santana, Conjunto Cespedes, Jose Luis "Changuito" Quintana, Giovanni Hidalgo and Celia Cruz.

Erick Barberia

Erick Barberia was born in Havana Cuba. He began his studies in 1991 at the Escuela Vocacional de Arte Juan Pablo Duarte. He continued his studies in the Escuela Nacional de Arte (ENA), graduating in folkoric dances, and studying under professors such as Lazaro Pedroso, who was his first teacher of Cuban Folkloric song and percussion, and Alfredo Ofarril for dance. After graduating in 1996, Erick taught Cuban Folkloric song and percussion in the Escuela Nacional de Arte and in the Centro Nacional de Escuelas de Arte (CENSEA) for five years. Erick has played with drummers such as Angel Bolaños, Regino Jiménez, Papo Angarica, Nene Carvajal, and Cristóbal Larrinaga, among others. He currently lives in San Francisco and teaches private classes in Afro-Cuban Folkloric and Popular song, dance and percussion. He has also taught Cuban music and dance through the University of California, Santa Cruz.

[Photo of John Santos playing congas]

John Santos, multi-percussionist, is a major exponent of Afro-Latin music through innovative use of traditional forms and instruments with contemporary music, and record/event production. He’s worked with acknowledged masters such as Cachao, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Max Roach, Armando Peraza, Eddie Palmieri, Patato Valdés, Francisco Aguabella, Orestes Vilató, Batacumbele, Steve Turre, McCoy Tyner, and Carlos Santana. Santos is a member of the Latin Jazz Advisory Committee of the Smithsonian Institution, has contributed to several international magazines, and has conducted countless workshops, lectures and clinics in the U.S. and Europe. He is also founder and director (1985) of the internationally renowned Machete Ensemble. Its CD, SF Bay, was a 2003 Grammy nominee, and their current (seventh) CD, Brazos Abiertos, is receiving international critical acclaim.

Michael Spiro with shekere

Michael Spiro is an internationally recognized percussionist, recording artist, and educator known specifically for his work in the Latin music field. He studied for seven years in an apprenticeship with Francisco Aquabella. He has studied in Cuba with musicians such as Jose Luis "Changuito" Quintana, Esteban "Cha-Cha" Vega Bacallao , Daniel Diaz, Juan "Claro" Blanco, Regino Jimenez, and Los Muñequitos de Matanzas.


David Peñalosa has taught every year at the annual “Explorations in Afro-Cuban” program. A preeminent clave theorist, David is credited with conceptual guidance in several music instruction books, including The Tomas Cruz Conga Method Volumes 1-3 and Conor Guilfoyle’s Odd Meter Clave. David’s book, The Clave Matrix, is scheduled to publish this year.

Mark Lamson, through formal apprenticeships with Regino Jimenez and Esteban Vega Bacallao, obtained “Omo Ana” status, i.e., a fully-initiated folklorist in sacred Batá drumming. Mr. Lamson’s teaching experience includes Palomar College, San Diego State University, U.C. San Diego, U.C.L.A., and CSU San Marcos.

Mark Lamson

Mark Lamson has a thriving career as a drum set player, multi-percussionist and educator in San Diego. His studies with Cuban and Brazilian masters distinguishes this artist's background from others in his field. In the area of Afro-Cuban percussion, Mark has learned first hand from the best: "Cha Cha" (a founder of Los Meñequitos de Matanzas), Regino Jimenez, Mario Jáuregui, Filipe Alfonso and Roberto Vizcaino, to name a few. Through relentless study and practice with these master drummers, Mark has become an accomplished bata drummer. His studies with Brazilian masters include Miguel do Repinique, Zero and Jorge Alabe. Mark's command of Brazilian percussion is renowned. Currently, Mark directs the award winning Escola de Samba So E Mar, performs in Emi Ke Ke with Cuban folkloric master Felipe Garcia and works as a "first call" studio musician in San Diego. He also teaches a variety of drumming styles privately and in schools and is a member of the percussion faculty at California State University, San Diego. In addition, Mark co-directs the Palomar World Drum and Dance Ensemble with Patriceann Mead. He teaches the Brazilian/Cuban Drumming class at Palomar College.

Chris Walker has studied Cuban folklore since 1983. He has performed with a wide variety of groups both in the S.F. Bay Area and abroad, including Rumbafroson, Sandunga, Owo Ache and Alafia. His drumming is featured on several CDs and instructional videos, and he has presented at festivals in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and North Africa. Chris currently plays with ceremonial ensembles based in Oakland and San Jose. (Pictured in center)

Howard Kaufman is the founder and coordinator of the “Explorations in Afro-Cuban…” program. In addition, he is a Lecturer in Percussion at Humboldt State University, an Associate Professor in Percussion at College of the Redwoods, and has developed world percussion programs at local high schools in Humboldt County.

Colin Douglas is the musical director for Olorun, an Afro-Cuban folkloric dance company directed by Susana Arenas. He performs regularly in the San Francisco bay area with the band Parallel 23 and is an active member of the SF folkloric percussion scene. (pictured on right)

Scott Wardinsky has done extensive research and field work in Cuba, recording the masters and helping Cuban artists teach in the U.S. He has managed the U.S. tours for Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, Lazaro Ros, Amalia Pedrosa and Régino Jiménez. He has taught Afro-Cuban folkloric percussion classes for the Dept. of World Arts & Cultures at UCLA.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Maestro Yaya Maldonado - Chekeres for serious players

The master rumba singer Yaya Maldonado also makes some of the sweetest Chekeres, or Shekere's around. These are musician's instruments, very balanced, the right weight, just the right type and size of beads etc. They sound just right for folkloric playing, and will cut through any louder setting as well. Pic is of him and Fito Reinoso with Armando Peraza at Yerba Buena Gardens.

It's hard to find the real deal, here in the States.. ebay is not an option... bunch of armatures, or, a few Cuban jems about once a year show up and go high. I know the Banda brothers, super fat rhythm section for Pancho Sanchez, make some very fine instruments as well. Im not sure if they are still making them, but they were very nice. The ones i saw were more for Salsa, with large plastic beads, but they make folkloric ones as well, im not sure.

Yaya has the folkloric angle covered. He has the ear for that street rumba sound, that produceds an instrument that has you dreaming of the islands.

He is also a priest of Ifa', and can make the traditional sets for playing a Guiro. Serious stuff, fine work.

These two have just been completed and are up for sale. He can also make you one to spec, with wood beads, shells, whatever. They are not cheap, but few people in the states can make the real deal.

If you would like to contact Yaya about his instruments, send me an email at and I'll be happy to put you in touch.

cuban shekere, cuban chekere,


Mambiza percussion, a fond fairwell

Looks like a SF tradition has ended. From what i understand, Mambiza percussion is going out of business.

The well traveled Reinhardt Simon is one of the most interesting and kind people you will meet. He is quite an amazing brother, with quite a story to tell. He is a master at the restoration of antique Pianos of the highest order. He also tunes pianos in the SF area.

He is selling his stock of percussion gear. He has some nice solid shell Hatian drums, sweet sounding clave, and other fun things, like cuban cajons, etc.

If this link expires, and you want to get in touch with Reinhardt, send me an email at


on ebay now - Matt Smith, Ritmo conga, Jay Bereck skin on skin quinto

Hey all,

There are a few very nice drums on ebay at the moment.

I talked to Matthew Smith of Ritmo percussion, about the conga listed recently... the one with the 5 bands. He was telling me about how nice a drum it is, and how, at the price listed, its less than the current price for Matt to make one for you, and you dont have to wait (even though these drums are worth as long a wait as it takes, there are few maker in the world that touch Matt's workmanship)

Also, there is a skin on skin conga, a quinto actually, made by Jay Bereck. Its a cherry model, and i can tell you, I think this is the nicest material Jay worked with. These drums sound like heaven. Its the ideal size, at 10.5" and looks in very nice shape - almost new.

I bet if you send the guy a question (ie me and lets work out a price) he would be all ears.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Yosvany Terry and Sandy Perez a big weekend of shows!

Sr. Terry and his band of heavies is rolling through the bay this weekend, and he has picked up Sandy Perez for this leg of the journey.

First up, La Pena this Friday, the 18th.

La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley. 510-849-2568

La Peña presents outstanding Cuban musician Yosvany Terry and his group, the Afro-Caribbean Legacy
Friday July 18, 2008. $12 adv. $15 dr. 8pm.
Descarga with Yosvany Terry & the Afro-Caribbean Legacy. An inspiring and energetic evening of Afro-Cuban Jazz. They will be joined in this jam session by Bay Area favorites: Jesus Diaz, John Santos and Michael Spiro.

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.

Tuesday July 22, 2008. $10 adv./$12 dr. 7pm.
Yosvany Terry will present Ye-dé-gbé & the Afro-Caribbean Legacy, a Lecture-Demonstration about the Afro-Cuban folkloric rhythms and their integration to Jazz music. 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.
Both events at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley. 510-849-2568 Presented in association with Yerba Buena Gardens Festival and Stanford Jazz Workshop

And at the Yerba Buena Gardens... a free show in the sun on Saturday...

Yosvany Terry: Ye-dé-gbé – The Afro Caribbean Legacy

Date: July 19, 2008

Time: 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm


Yerba Buena Gardens Festival

produced by Yerba Buena Arts & Events

760 Howard Street
San Francisco CA 94103
Phone: 415 543 1718
Fax: 415 543 1755


Ye-dé-bgé in the West African language Fon, means “with the approval of the spirits.” Composer/musician Yosvany Terry consciously communicates his African and Cuban lineage through sounds that originated in Africa and inspired new music in the Caribbean, Brazil, and the American South. Terry traces the roots of the Arará musical tradition, originally brought to Cuba by slaves taken from West Africa. While in Matanzas, famous for its dedication to folkloric music and dance traditions, Terry commissioned a set of rare and massive Arará drums, crafted specifically for Ye-dé-bgé. Line-up includes:

Osmany Paredes - piano
Yunior Terry - bass
Pedro Martinez - lead vocal & percussion
Roman Diaz - percussion
Justin Brown - drums
Felix "Pupi" Insua - dancer
Yosvany Terry - saxes and Chekeré
plus Sandy Perez, drums

Yosvany Terry presented in collaboration with


Please visit Yosvany Terry's website for more information. (Narrated program.)

Sandy Perez

Many thanks to

Monday, July 7, 2008

La Pena rumba 7.08 - Serious fun

How blessed we all are to have such a scene.... and once again, la Pena's rumbero's delivered on the promise to kick down some serious Rumba.

Sandy Perez, Pili, Javier, Enrique, Flaco, Hector, Yaya, Trevino, Orlando, Alain, Jeff, Bruce, Butch, Daniel, Eddie, Vladi and John Santos played their asses off for a good three hours straight. A very nice day at La Pena, to say the least.

Yaya is in his eighth year of hosting this Rumba, and there is no sign of it slowing down.

Quite a line up this session, and they put on a real show. Francisco Barroso and Alain Aguilera danced really well, highlighted by a pumping Rumba Columbia with Flaco, Trevino and Sandy on the tubs, Pili on the bell, Orlando on the mic.

Sandy, at one point, sounded like he was an automatic weapon stuck on fire! Man, this cat is all that.

There was such nice energy, we had to keep it going. So, thanks to Maria, we continued the fray over at her house, with some really amazing rumba 'till late. Anna brought some BBQ and we ate, drank, and ripped for hours.

Sandy, Pili, Ruskin, Hector, Holly, Daniel, Yaya and myself. I was in heaven, playing with my mentor and really ripping.. for an extended period of time. These private little sessions, with such heavy hitters is what my rumba loving mind craves. ... so thankful, i am... It was more fun than anything i can think of doing.... I mean anything.

In fact, I was thinking, at the time - in all the bay area, there cant be a more fun situation. I was in a state of bliss.

We got the nod on the Sweetie Pie rumbas, so they will get going here soon. All the heavies are in. It was something Flaco said that had me thinking... It's like another Rumba Anonymous meeting!!

aaa... my name is Tony, and Im addicted to Rumba... I have congas on the brain, and Im not really sure how to stop it... public meeting of RA will be - Saturday July 12th, 53rd and MLK 3-6.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Sweetie Pie Rumba today, July 4th 12:00 - 5:00

Hey all,

There will be a rumba at Sweetie Pie and Popies at 53rd and MLK in Oakland today, hope you all cam make it out for some BBQ!

July 4th 12 - 5


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Raul congas - Brazilian Cedar 9.5, 10.5"

I was lucky to pick up this set of Brazilian congas yesterday.

They are Raul congas, the company that turned into Bauer percussion. They are some very nice sounding production drums - Brazilian Cedar and very well made.

The Shape of these Rauls are different than the modern Cedar Bauers, with a slightly more gon bops like shape.

The sound is dry, Mahogany like, but with interesting, subtle and distinct overtones. I love this wood. - very folkloric sounding.

They have an alma on the inside to prevent it from going out of round. The hardware is super beefy with very thick lugs that take a 16mm or a 5/8ths box wrench. The side plates, later with the rubber 'gasket', are very strong and disperse the load nice and evenly. All in all, these are some very nice drums.

The 'ears' on the crown are riveted on, most everyone else welds them, as i think should be done. ..odd, as all rest of the hardware is ideal. You can see the rivets starting to pull out, if just ever so slightly.

The 10.5 came with a very nice skin, but the requinto is getting a new hat.... which went on as easily as any skin in the past, due to the expanded part of the lug nuts (see pic). this feature is very clean, and works great. I wonder why more people dont use these nuts. They are 16mm, which is very nice. They are stronger, and i can take the drum out to play without all the wrench happy rumberos cranking the life out of it - not many people carry around a 16mm.

The alma was bondo'ed to the bearing edge.. unusual, but works well. Also, the alma was fixed to the shell without an outside band, just holes in the middle of each stave where the alma was pinned in with half of a rivet. Not the best of solutions, and kind of awkward, yet functional.

Im so lucky to have found these tubs. Im on the lookout for a conga and tumba to match, fyi.