CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: May 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

Happy Brithday Cecil Carter! - A pioneer of Cuban Rumba in the SF Bay Area

One of the nicest cats in the local AfroCuban tradition, Cecil Carter, was honered with a birthday Rumba at Kittys this weekend.

It was no less than 35 years ago, that a very young Tony would go to Sproul Plaza and watch the drummers play. Back then, a blond headed, nine year old kid was of little notice to Cicil, Butch and a few other cats I now know as family.

Here is a clip of the Sproul Plaza days, 8mm no sound!! You can see Butch Haynes (1:20) in this clip from 1967 , the year of my birth.

These cats were playing Rumba in Berkeley back in the 60's, and they were instrumental to how developed the scene is today.

The Cuban masters would never have moved here without these pioneers setting the scene for them to feel so at home here.

Pioneers like Cecil Carter, Gene Golden, Yagbe Oline, Marcus Gordon, John Santos, Raul Rivera, Yaya Maldonado, Trevino Leon, Buddah, Butch Haynes, Chris Flaco Walker, Jerry Shilgi (spelling?), Hadley Louden, Bill Summers, Daniel, Bruce.. among others.

So, this weekend I got a call from Maria de Colombia, another elder/pioneer and matron of Rumba in the bay, and she told me about Cecil's Birthday... she was wanting to bring a cake for us to munch in celebration.

I went to Cecil's Facebook page to see if he wanted to put a Rumba together... and was blown away to see no less than 40-50 people wishing him a happy birthday. Cecil, a very spiritual man with a wonderful spirit, has touched many people in this community with his genuine love, and he has this wonderful Karma/Love flowing his direction these days, for sure.

He is a great example of how to build respect with respect itself.

If there is any doubt about how long this cat has been hitting hard..

here is a shot from 1976 - Grupo 'Erekusu'
A rumba group in New Orleans.
Rubén González, Humberto "Pupy" Menez, Cecil Carte, and the owner of the fantastic blog below:

Read more:

Cecil and I, over the years, have developed really nice conversations musically, and we really enjoy playing side by side. It's always a highlight for me, no doubt.

So, we put together a rumba at Kittys on short notice... and a bunch of people came out to celebrate with us. It was too fun, and it was great to see Cecil so happy with his recognition.

(i didn't film it, but here is a clip from '09 at La Pena Cultural Center starting with Butch on quinto, Flaco on Secund, Trevino on Tumba, Bruce on Coro, then Cecil comes in to play Quinto.. Daniel is on Chekere, Yaya on Akpwon.. many a pioneer in this clip... and one very cool addition, Bob Ladu, who is the light-skinned brother on Coro, he is the youngest addition to the scene, and brings his fresh masters in percussion to complement our community... nice passing of the tourch in this clip, looking back...)

Happy Birthday Cec! you da man!

Thanks for all the inspiration over the last 35 years my friend, it's all your fault!! lol


The rich culture of Afro-Cuban Rumba in the SF bay area

It's so very entertaining that every weekend in the summertime, there is a decent Rumba happening somewhere around the bay. Its just a matter of knowing where all the hits are.

We often just make it happen, thanks to Kitty and a few other generous music loving club owners, but rarely do we find ourselves Rumbaless.

It helps to have some of the best Rumberos in the country as dear friends, no doubt.

So, this particular Sunday, Mijail La Brada and Pedro called to see if we could play for a visiting AfroCuban dance teacher who was up from LA. It was a group of people related to Maestro Lazaro Galaraga's following down south.

But we all got stuck on the freeway in unusually bad traffic and missed the hour long class.. We got there just in time to catch the post class reception, wine and snacks, saying hey to some of the dancers. I did get a chance to shake hands with a European cat who is one of Lazaros students up to accompany the class... Ken i believe? He got really nice props from Mijail, and Ruskin called him 'a really knowledgable drummer'.. to bad we didnt get there in time, it would have been nice to play together.

There are so few Rumberos of European decent, I hope we have a chance to play together, exchange war stories at some point.. its not easy to learn and perform another's tradition and it's kind of a brotherhood of people who know just how hard it is to pull off effectively.

..but another Rumba called and we headed out after a glass of wine.

We picked up a player from the class, Lassel Silva, a recent Rumbero transplant from out east.

Lassel, a Cubano who honed his Rumba chops on the streets of NYC, has a good handle of the songs and plays a mean Cata. It's always good to have him around. (pictured below, second from left in group shot)

He is a classic east coast personality, with an in your face, says what he means, grumpy pain in the ass.. but he is instantly family here; a welcome brother and addition to the scene.

So, no class to play for.. no worries, off to Richmond to brother Tito's house where a Rumba was about to happen, just add us.

Mijail La Brada, Lassel Silva, Irish Rick and myself headed over with a car packed with gear.

Upon arrival, I was stoked to see Fito Rienoso, a serious bad ass Rumbero, Salsero and Sonero of the highest order. He is a good friend, and one of my favorite people in the tradition locally. He is always dressed as the actual royalty he is, always has a positive and warm presence, often thanking those around him for 'loving cuban music'.. He is a treasure, for sure. And this man is beyond talented.

Fito is one of the most knowledgeable Rumba singer in the bay, has one of the most gigging projects around, Fito Reinoso y su Ritmo y Armonia, plays a mean tres and is the definition of a true professional. This cat has so much to offer, one could spend a lifetime just studying with him.

Anyway, we show up and the party is slamming, with a huge roast pig and a massive spread of Caribbean fair. Tito is an amazing host, such a kind person, always greeting you with a huge smile (second from right in group shot below.)

Gotta love the Cuban method of communion... forget the cheap wine and bland crackers.. give me Roast pig, christians and moors (Cuban black beans and (dirty) white rice), yuka and a Mojito!!

The DJ was pumping and the tunes were slamming.. kids running around, every one enjoying one of the first nice weekend days of the year.

So, after a bit of relaxation, we busted out the Cajones and tried to figure out how to get a decent rumba going, with all the wannabes around.

Funny thing is, the more Cubans at your party, the bigger the chance some rookie wants to jump in a Rumba with sense of entitlement, and play all over the place like animal on the muppets.

Thankfully, we had the two masters Mijail and Fito, to get it rolling.

We did well, limiting the first couple songs to Fito, Mijail, Rick, Lassel and myself.. laying out some nice Rumba. To be frank, I wasnt on my game for some reason, and Mijail keept on me to keep things ripping. But I had a nice stint playing quinto cajon with Fito singing a Yambu.. always the highest of pleasurable honors....

When you play quinto with a cat like Fito, he starts and ends all his phrases in exactly the right spot, making it so easy to play in and around his singing... an experience i am often in search of, to say the least.

When we started playing, a tall and beautiful Cubana came out of the party to dance really well.. enjoy this clip. try to ignore the rookie quintero...

All in all, yet another great weekend of Rumba. Poco a poco.. or little by little, as they say.


Monday, May 9, 2011

New York Times article about Los Muñequitos de Matanzas and Rumba

Well I guess Rumba is main stream!! lol

It must be if the New York Times is writing about it.. love to see Rumba live and well in 2011.

The article was written before the show in NYC, so there was not much to say.. but here is a bit of the article by Larry Blumenfeld:

'To see the powerfully symbolic and sexually suggestive movements of the group's dancers, and to feel beats pinging and pounding in patterns beyond comprehension ... is to get the visceral sensation of becoming part of something big, precise and mysterious.'

'Ned Sublette, author of the book "Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo" (Chicago Review Press) and founder of the Qbadisc label, recalled his first exposure to the group during a 1990 trip to Matanzas, Cuba. "I was involved in Latin music in New York, but I had not experienced anything remotely like Los Muñequitos," he said. Mr. Sublette's book traced the appearance of the guaguancó, the rhythmic form by which rumba is best known, to Matanzas in about 1880. "It was a place and a period of great cultural compression," he said, "and Los Muñequitos captures that most clearly. But they also represent the fact that rumba is alive today. It's not museum music—it's a living thing that answers the needs of contemporary people."'


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rumba at Cafe Valpariso with Jose Camara and Denmis Bain Savigne from Las Vegas

We are so blessed, here in the bay. Not only who lives here, but all the incredible talent that rolls through from time to time.

This heavy named Denmis Bain Savigne was in town visiting from Las Vegas.. What an incredible dancer this cat is.. how cool to have him in town for a bit, as this was the second time I had the honor to play when he danced..

Hope he returns with bags packed as this cat is all Rumba!

He's on chekere in this first chip, singing with with Irish Rick on Cajon and segund, Mejail La Brada on quinto and later on Cajon and Segund as well, Lee Harlson on quinto, Trevino Leon on guataca, Lazel on cata, Jose Camara playing clave.

We were also blessed to have Jose Camara on loan from Puerto Rico for a few months. This cat is a wonderful quintero, dancer and singer.. and truly is one of the nicest people I've ever met. Such a great spirit and huge smile that totally encompasses his entire head. Until next time Rumbero, thanks for your time, and see you soon!

So, we were playing at the Cafe balcony due to La Pena double booking the time.. funny, its been on the schedule for about 10 years now... but it was a beautiful day, and the Rumba smoked, thanks Lee for the initiative to get it rolling..
Later Mejail on quinto, Trevino Leon and Lazel playing Columbia inside to Camara and Denmi dancing.. nice flip Denmi!! lol

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My new project: RUMBEROS DE LA BAHIA !! SF Bay area Rumba!

Well well well.. Rumba is alive and well in the bay area!

My first project in this tradition has materialized... Rumberos de la Bahia, one of the first Rumba troupes in the bay area's rich history, had its inaugural gig.

With all the Cuban talent here in the bay, its a wonder more groups have yet to develop.

There are a couple groups that gig once in a great while, but don't regularly perform, and often play a mix of Cuban folklorico.

Sandy Perez and Jesus Diaz put together an incredibly talented Rumba troupe with Erick Barbaria, Mejail La Brada and Rosita Perez, but it's not a working troupe, per say, as they play very few gigs together.

With that said, we couldn't touch these masters with a ten foot gig and an eternity to rehearse, but we are paying respect with some quality Rumba. Who knows how good it can get. As for now, we are just getting our feet wet.

So, we played the Cinco de Mayo celebration in Windsor Ca, sharing our tradition to the folks up north of the bay area. This is farm country, so many have little experience with this amazing tradition. I feel so proud to have this project up and running, and am honored to carry the flame of Rumba into the future, here in my beloved California.

The gig went well, with the crowd of around 600 applauding and cheering... with a few actually dancing.. not the most typical reaction in farm country, so that was very nice to see.

The lineup: Juan 'Pescao' Stable, Mejail La Brada, 'Pili' Martinez, Jose Camara, Sukare, Papito, 'Irish' Rick and myself.

It was great fun and better experience, as we figured out a few ways to streamline the project, producing a more refigned project by the minute.

I'm putting together a press kit as we speak, and will be booking the act on a regular basis here shortly. Stay tuned for details!!