CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: May 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Carnaval SF, Mosswood Park 2012

It was a really fun Carnaval in San Francisco this year, with nearly every troupe including someone I know.. every year it gets more of a personal experience. 


When I first went to the Mission for this spectacular show of folkloric colors on parade, I was so overwhelmed.. I actually felt like I was in some fantasy, or a place and time that actually didn't exist. 

And now, I find myself so comfortable, among my community... so familiar with my surroundings. 

Carnaval is one of the great traditions in the great international city of San Francisco.

The annual procession through the Mission is like a long and colorful necklace of national pride - each group beautifully expressing their ancestral homeland, united in our multi-cultural experience here.

the day was filled with the sound of Samba, the smell of fresh Carnitas, and the sights of dear friends having the time of their lives..

(Fellow Rumbero Mike Scartezina playing with Sambada, here)

It was a big surprise, and such a wonderful sight to see my dear friend, the Grand Maestro himself, Carlos Aldama Perez, being acknowledged by the greater Folkloric community with a seat of honor on a huge white float! How cool is that! We should all carry the Maestro around fanning him with feathers, every day.. but it was very nice to see him recognized on this day, certainly.

As the procession rolled on.. One float after the next rolling by..  busting fat tunes, amazing costumes and great dancing from Bolivia to Botswana... The Sambaistas, in particular were in fine form!

Great to see Mike Spiro on route, who mentioned this is something like his 30th Carnaval in SF, if I'm not mistaken.. Amazing Mike! not just in attendance, but a driving force!

 .. And as proof.. exhibit A..

By the way.. you have to hear his AfroCuban / Brazilian work Bata Ketu !!

Anyway.. the day was special for me, as there were several loved ones performing and hanging out.. it was super fun to see everyone..

And the family vibe on the Mission was truly wonderful, with tens of thousands of people out having a really great time together.

With so many people partying... you dont really see too many people really that intoxicated, or acting the fool.. its very nice to have so many people together just having fun.

I guess in the end, Carnaval is something just about anyone can relate to.. no matter where you are from...and it puts just about everyone in a great mood.

After the parade, there were so many free bands, it was hard to keep track of the lineup, not to mention getting through the crowd to the five official stages. (Five official, I say.. as the Rumbero's had to crash the event and take over a street corner...  ;)

On the way to see the Bayonics, I was captured by my love of Rumba..

The SF Rumba scene is usually a zoo, and it's not really my scene.. but as I was walking by.. I hear the unmistakable Tumba of Maestro Yagbe Oline.. I follow my ear to find him joined by Pili Martinez and experienced Rumbero Troy, from LA. So I joined in for a street side session..

Out of the free bands performing.. Fito Reinoso Y Su Armonia totally ripped it up as the headlining act of the first day.

King Theo and his Samba Funk troupe just may have been best of show, with a huge contingent of sexy dancers in amazing costumes... feathered headdresses you could see coming for blocks down the parade route.

(One of my favorite dancers in the local Samba scene, Meredeth MacFadyen featured here)

..And to top it off.. we all did it again the next day at Mosswood Park in Oakland!

Mosswood was off the charts as well this year, with C.K Ladzekpo leading us in some heavy Ewe,

joined by other West African groups that came to play and dance..

Maracatu group..

 a Funk band..

and our cats.. Trevino Leon, Yagbe Oline, Flaco Walker, Pili Martinez, Troy de LA,  Javier Navarrette and myself laying the Rumba down for the relaxed sun soakers.

As if that wasn't fun enough... the butter on the cinnamon toast:  Theo brought his whole Samba troupe to the park, float and all, for the day long bbq dancefest for the community..

In fact.. after a very long weekend, King Theo marched his crew out the park, and through the streets of Oakland for at least a couple of hours! I couldn't believe it.. what an animal.. and a truly gifted leader.. those poor dancers feet were hating it!.. lord..

.. somehow they kept smiling and dancing like it was nothing.. too fun..

Friday, May 25, 2012

Carnaval San Francisco 2012 - preview and informaiton

Sometimes, in the winter months..  I wonder if I am living in the right place.. people are so focused on money career around here. I wonder if I should live in a place where Art and Community is more appreciated...

..then Carnaval rolls around. And everything seems to be just right.

The super fat and Free Entertainment lineup for both Saturday 5/26, and Sunday 5/27 can be found HERE
A simply huge lineup of latin acts this year.. well worth seeing both days, although the parade is Sunday morning.

This year in particular, I'm so looking forward to meeting some new people!

I need to expand my network of Folkloric troupes, and this event has nearly half of all the folklorists in the bay performing in various projects.

I have a dream of an international folkloric music festival for the bay area.. may take me years to pull off.. but the talent is here, without question.

I am dreaming of a scenario.. I get some low level funding.. say a few thousand.. to put on a fundraising event for the festival.. we do a private event for a room full of wealthy peeps.. bring in the Brazilians, the AfroCubans in full regalia, West African troupe and Belly Dancers.. wow them with the amazing talent.. give them a taste of what the festival can be all about.. and see if we can fund this big ass project.

It may run in the tens of thousands of dollars to make happen. 

So far, I have no less than 10 folkloric troupes that I have worked with in the past, have personal contacts for and can book at the a drop of a hat. We are talking 9 high level Folkloric troupes..

AfroCuban, two Central African, two Brazilian, Puerto Rican, Middle Eastern, Spanish Flamencos, and two Indian troupes. Deep folkloric projects, each and every one, worthy of high respect in their respective countries.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rumba with Piri Lopez and Juan de Dios Ramon Morejon

I suppose I should expect these kinds of things to go down these days, but it was such a surprise and honor to have Raices Profundas in town, and then to actually play Rumba with them into the night.. all week long.. was a dream come true.

I didn't expect my favorite young Rumbero on the planet would be the principal percussionist for the tour - I was so surprised to see Piri Lopez, superstar in the Los Chinitos clan - an incredible player with the funkiest of rumbas. I should have known he would be here, as he is the Iyacero on the legendary Abbilona series of folkloric recordings as a teenager and has been the troupe's main player for some time now..

Piri, the lead player in Los Chinitos, is the new superstar in the folkloric scene in Cuba, and is know as one of the best of the new generation of folklorists. He is fearless and plays without reservation, to say the least.

After all, Piri grew up among his father, Pedro Lopez and his uncles, Bartolo, Irian and Raynaldo.. the legendary cats who invented Guarapachangueo in his youth.

John Santos was telling me about how this  family is all street (a huge compliment). To my ear, they have the fattest Rumba.. I totally love it.

The Lopez family was also closely connected with the great and legendary Juan De Dios Rámos "El Colo", Maximino Duquesne Francis, Mario "Aspirina" Jáuregui, and Pancho Quinto Mora. .. amazing family friends to have, no??

His family and immediate friends, cats that would be hanging out around the house, were founding members of Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba (like the great Carlos Aldama pictured  above), Raices Profundas and Yoruba Andabo. They are also a significant influence of the new generation of Rumba be created today.. most prominently in the style of one of my favorite projects, Clave Y Guaguanco.

Piri ate the other side of clave for breakfast.. washed it down with Coro lines and a Quinto lick.. totally immersed in the fattest of settings.

Piri's dad Pedro worked with wood for a living, and is said to have developed and popularized the pyramid shaped cajons used in the tradition today. (Id site the source for this and other info in this post, but Piri asked me not to)

The Pancho Quinto influence in the sound of Guarapachangueo is strong, if not primary to the form, and you can easily hear Pancho's style in Piri's playing.

So, it was quite a pleasure to have Raices Profundas, to say the least.

Their stage show was an amazing site, with full costumed dancers and wild choreography.

They totally ripped it up.. played and danced beautifully, with Piri playing Iya like a wild man..

I was fortunate enough to get comps for all five shows, so I was there every night except Sunday... missed the last show scouting out rumbas in the east bay... Raices Profundas had to head out of town right after the show Sunday.. not sure what I was thinking, actually.. should have seen them one last time...

But that was one incredible week!

We played Rumba with the troupe every night after the shows, well into the next mornings..

It was an incredible pleasure to play and sing with these cats..

At several points in the week, the Rumbas involved Juan de Dios and his son, Carlos Aldama, Piri Lopez, Jesus Diaz, John Santos, Erick Barbaria, Yagbe Oline, Pili Martinez and myself... with the whole troupe singing and dancing.. it was unbelievable.

.. several highlights -

- Playing Quinto for Juan de Dios while he danced Rumba for a good long time!

- Playing Cata for Piri Lopez on quinto, and Carlos Aldama singing.

- Playing Segund next to Piri on Quinto

- Playing Tumba while Carlos and Juan de Dios traded songs.

- Covering the whole rumba with just Segund at one point, no clave or cata, with the whole place singing and dancing...

- Playing quinto and having Piri poke his head up over the crowd to see who was playing.. gave me thumbs up! - Jesus Diaz smiling in surprise.. probably harder to make happen than the rumba.. ;)

- Being called for across the room by "" to come play rumba for Juan de Dios at one of his workshops.

- Juan de Dios playing my El Chino congas like a young man.

- Hanging out with Piri Lopez and Mikey Skartezina getting a kick ass private lesson, then chilling in Yerba Buena Gardens, having lunch and watching Omar Sosa. (just about the only chill time Piri had while in the bay area).

The festival also included a Flamenco performance, and at one of the afterpartys across the street where most of the Rumbas that week wend down.. Flamenca Kina Mendez, an amazing singer and folklorist wowed the crowd.. how I love the bay area.. 

Flamenco after party

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

SFIAF 2012 brings Raices Profundas direct from Cuba! 5/1-5/6

There are times, here in the bay, that we feel like the center of the universe.. This is certainly
one of those times, as the sheer gravity of the demand for Cuban culture has brought one of the finest folkloric troupes from the streets, and professional schools of Havana.

Raices Profundas has made there way across the gulf to debut in front of hundreds of adoring Afro-Cuban fans here in the bay area.

From their website..

"Raices Profundas was founded in 1975 and today is widely regarded as one of the world’s most authentic performing ensembles in the Yoruba traditions. The dancers and musicians have intense dedication to their company, their art and their traditions.

Their performance takes the audience on a journey through time in the rich Cuban culture, from the deepest Afro-Cuban roots, through the beloved Latin dances of generations
past, right up to the hottest salsa of today.

The director, Juan de Dios Ramon Morejon, is one of the last greats of an era. He is highly revered as a teacher and historian, and has been a major influence in conserving, documenting and maintaining Cuban cultural traditions.

 (Juan de Dios is third from the right)

He began performing Afro-Cuban dance and music as a child, and participated in many ensembles. In 1962 he became one of the founding members of the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba where he was a principal dancer, percussionist, singer, choreographer and professor until 1987."

The great Maestro Carlos Aldama was also a founding member of Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba, if I remember correctly, although not a member of this project. I bet he is thrilled to see them in town.

Check this out! - Tony's Conga Adventure readers get $5 off!! cool! 

You can find links to purchase tickets, and sign up for the highly recommended workshops here (use code "Cuba12" for the discount) -

The first workshop is Tonight, may 1st at Malonga Casquelouard center for the arts in Oakland, on Alice st. 7:30pm, featuring Yoruban Bata (Ana), and Dajomean Arara.

The workshop on May 5th at the world dance center in Berkeley is covering Rumba, and the May 6th class at the Dance Mission Theater on 24th in San Francisco, is going over the Congolese tradition of Palo.. oh yes...

I will be at several of the shows, and all of the workshops, for sure.. this will be a legendary series of performances we will talk about for years.

How lucky are we, here in the bay..