CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: La Pena Rumba 5/09

Monday, May 4, 2009

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La Pena Rumba 5/09

What a great time we had yesterday, playing and singing at the best open Rumba in the country.

The singing was off the hook, and the whole rumba ripped in response.

Leading fat Coro, Carlos Aldama, Yaya Maldonado, Mejail La Brada, Hector Lugo, Orlando Diaz and a serious heavy from Caracas Venezuela (to be named later) sang beautifully. This Venezuelan has obviously been hanging with heavy Afro-Cubanos.. he sounded just like Puntilla's son. A nasally, out of the side of your mouth, heavy on the open vowels, more African sounding, choppy and percussive.. sounded more like the Yoruban spoken by the African decedents of relatively recent immigrants, as opposed to the sometimes slurred spanish sounding pronunciations from some. It has heavy G's, B's, open O's.. somewhat sounds like the Phillipean language Tagalog to me.... anyway...

I was having too much fun singing coro with Maria de Columbia, backing Yaya and Hector.

Chris Flaco Walker, Javier Navarette, Trevino Leon, Carlito from Havana, Buddha, Cecil, Christina... and we were blessed to have Damian 'the chosen one' De Jesus there as well, looking hep and hitting hard.

Chris's good friend (Arturo?) from Seattle came to hang and play. He had the coolest studio 54 hat.. diggin it! He played a mean Chekere and sang coro like he knows whats up. It was cool to see Chris with an old friend.. hamming it up.

Ive been a bad blogger, and didnt get these cats names dialed, but I will try to update. I have to bring a note book, or something.. like a reporter!

We are so dang lucky to have so many talented singers, dancers and players in the area. What an amazing place the bay area is. For me, after seeing 38 other countries, I still love the US of A, and the best place to be - the SF bay area.

Irish Rick brought his Cedar Bauers (lucky dog, they used to be mine!) and they sounded so very nice. One great set for rumba, no doubt.

This group of people enjoy each others company more than any I know. It's a serious brotherhood, and the love is palpable.

After the rumba, we all were hanging outside, and the most amazing session came ringing out of the crowd.

Carlos Aldama, Mejail La Brada and this serious heavy from Caracas were singing one rumba after another, a cappella with clave and a clap on the pulse... for a nice long time..

I do believe that was the coolest thing i have ever seen at La Pena.. or way up there, anyway.

Carlos jumping in with old and familiar tunes received with boisterous cheers of recognition.... like, I havent heard that song in ages... and I'm lovin it!

Carlos was on fire, looking and sounding healthy and strong.... we are so blessed to have him here.

Earlier, we were talking about life... I told him that on my last day on earth, I will hear his voice singing me to sleep. He thought that was very flattering.. he is such a humble Master.

He said, on his last day, he would dream or his life in Cuba and California, which he said he loves equally... he started to reminisce... and it dawned on me... This incredible human has had, and continues to have the most incredible life, we can only begin to imagine what his mind holds... ... Abakua ceremonies, trotting the world performing huge gigs, all the historical figures as brothers, friends, and family, the sights and sounds of his homeland. I got a glimpse of a humid and earthy little thatched outbuilding, the salty air and the smell or the sea, mixed with frying fish.... as he spoke.. odd...

I believe Carlos may be the most interesting person I have ever met. Such and incredible story to hear... unfathomable for us, what it must be like to live. His story is seemingly endlessly fascinating and so packed with experiences, its overwhelming to comprehend.

It must be very hard not to live in the past, with such incredible experiences. It seems to me, he is clearly living in the present. The Orishas have provided a strong mind, and he honors them with his strength.

He then took out his phone to dial up photos of his kids to show me. I snapped a picture of him with the technology... evidence of his modernism.

I need to spend more time with the Maestro. I need to make it a priority in my life.

Afterward, Yaya and I went to his place for tea, played some of his newest Chekeres. He has some really nice gourds he is stringing up.. one cachimbo i have my eye on...

He said one of the players at the gig we did together last week, broke beads of of his chekere by using it like one of those small beaded African instruments held by the neck and hit on the leg. Yaya repaired it by taking the same wooded beads, splitting them in half and gluing them around the strings.. cool fix... for some reason, i didnt think of replacing the beads.. I have a few i need to replace on my set.

He is a good friend, and we enjoy talking about life... music, the tradition, girls, fishing, cats (as in the furry purring kind)... we can talk for hours. He has the best stories about the music scene here and back east, before I hit the scene.

He played me some really fat sessions he did in early 2002 with a serious collection of talent: a heavy pianist and vibe player, heavy hitters lead and rhythm. The project had Yaya's nephew David Florez on traps and a ripping saxophonist. Yaya was crooning like a mix of Tony Bennet and Mel Torme... too fun.

I was like, Yaya, this @#$t rocks, man... you have to do more of this, and gig with these cats. He said they would be happy to perform, but Jazz gigs are hard to get. me: I'd be happy to book gigs for him, should he reconvene the group. The live recordings were so smooth, with completely ripping solos. A studio recording would be all that, for sure.

I was impressed with Yaya's prowess, as a jazz singer, hitting all the changes on some really challenging tunes. Coming from a Jazz family, I was surprised to hear that Yaya has such fat Jazz chops.

Speaking of studio recordings... Yaya is planning a studio recording of Rumba from the cats of La Pena to commemorate the 10th year anniversary of this legendary open public rumba, the absolute best in the states. I sure hope I make the cut.. id absolutely love to cut tracks with these cats, for posterity. We'll see.


  1. Very cool, I'd like to hear Yaya's jazz stuff. Yoshi's (esp SF) is expanding their net these days. I saw Javier play a fill-in gig there a few weeks ago.

    Thanks again for posting, I always check you out for cool Bay action!

  2. Thanks brother,

    Glad someone is reading.. sometimes it seems like it goes out into space, to entertain some rumba loving martian or something...

    Yea, i was really surprised how talented Yaya is as a Jazz singer.. Coming from a Jazz family, Im way critical. He wants me to book them, and I will try, simply to see the show!

    Take care Jonathan, see you at the next show!




  3. I am reading from Rio.
    It is hard as hell to get some rumba going here! despite lots of talent around.
    Gonne have to move to frisco one day...


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