You did what??!?

I've been playing out with my set of Skin on Skin congas pretty frequently lately and I missed the fact that they didn't have any handles. So I called up Jay Bereck and his apprentice Josh in New York and asked them about it. Jay Bereck doesn't actually make handles for his congas, but he has installed them on his Skin on Skin congas before. Jay Bereck is always an amazing man to talk to. He told me how Ray Barretto would bring him handles from whatever congas he had just broke or whatever to have installed on Skin on Skin congas Jay had made for him.

Skin on Skin congas are probably the best congas being made. The design is so clean and advanced. So to say it was a bit daunting to drill some holes into my beautiful perfect congas is a bit of an understatement; I was terrified.

Anyways, I eventually found the right handle: a stainless steel handle from Ace Hardware that matched the stainless steel bands the Skin on Skin congas come with, and after some careful measuring and planning the handles went on straight and strong. I guess all those years of Architecture school were worth it, eh?

I'm really happy with how it turned out. I had inspiration and some advice from Mark Sanders over at Fidel's Eyeglasses . He actually had owned a Skin on Skin requinto that he recently sold with a handle installed by Jay Bereck, the only picture I've seen of a Skin on Skin conga with a handle, which encouraged me with my project. I'm kind of wishing I had bought this little drum when he sold it a while back. So cool!

    So my conga project is done, the handles work great, and I'm really happy to have them. It makes moving the congas around much easier. Jay provided me with some really excellent instructions. and I kind of like how they look a little more now. They have an old school look like the Vergara and Junior Tirado congas you see in pictures.


Skin On Skin Hand Made Congas

(607) 639-2417
1618 State Highway 41
Afton, NY 13730


A moment of doubt...

Well bloggers, let me tell you something very personal. A month or so ago I was seriously considering giving up the tumbadoras. Now why would I ever consider such a thing? Well, a big part of being a musician is practice, and the congas are a loud instrument, and I was finding it very frustrating to not be able to practice any time I like, as some of my other musician friends can.

I am able to go to Golden Gate park and practice there, but I can't bring my charts or my drum machine. Also the park is a "public" zone, so I have to contend with parents showing their babies the drums, people wanting to chat, or take pictures and worse, the occasional djembe player of dubious ability sitting next to me and tapping away. At home, I wrap a towel around the drums with a bungie cord and practice away, but of course you don't get the real sound. My guitar playing friends and flute playing friends don't have that problem.

What I also found frustrating was the necessity of having so many other people to put together Afro-Cuban folkloric music and rhythms. The congas are also not in such large demand as say a trap-drummer or the guitar. So I was starting to feel limited in places, genres and musics I could play.

So I was considering a switch....to the upright bass. Now the upright bass is a beautiful instrument if ever there was one. A very versatile instrument as well, jazz, bluegrass, rockabilly, classical, Cuban son; well it's a long list. Lots of my favorite musicians are bass players; Charles Mingus and Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez. If you play an upright bass, you are in DEMAND! You have to turn people down because you have too many chances to play.

Well it looked like a good choice, beautful, versatile and quiet enough to play in my San Francisco apartment. I went so far as to join an online bass forum, researched basses suitable for beginners, etc.

So what happened? Why am I still here writing about rumba and congas? Well, I was in the park, practicing some 4/4 rhtyhms; songo and pilon, when this beautiful young couple passing by heard the drums and started dancing. This was a young white couple, dressed casually for a day in the park, but something was up. They knew how to dance! I suspect they have been taking salsa lessons and hitting up the salsa clubs around San Francisco. So there we were, playing at the Conservatory of Flowers, with the palm tress and flower beds in bloom the sound of the congas in the air and the two dancers dancing.

Well I kind of forgot about the bass. I have a lot of respect for that instrument, but in my experience, no other instrument reaches out and grabs people somewhere in their bodies and gets them moving and dancing as the congas do. I've seen it happen time and time again, from respectable businessmen to tragically cool hipsters to homeless bums. There is something about the sound of the congas that compels them, drives them, possesses them (for better or worse!). And that's really why I got into the instrument. It makes the frustration, and even what sometimes feels like persecution, worth it.

And there you have it. I was saved from years of blistered fingers, charts and scales, keys and intervals, strings and bows, and from lugging some huge beast of a bass around town by a couple practicing their dance steps as I played my drums in Golden Gate park.


RE: Guemilere: Study Guide for Afro-Cuban Percussion - A note from Scott Wardinsky

    Visitors to my blog may have come across an earlier post of mine Guemilere: Study Guide for Afro - Cuban Percussion : (Jimenez / Wardinsky). In that post I write about a recording intended for the study of Afro-Cuban rhythms. Today I just received an email regarding that recording from one of its authors, Scott Wardinsky, who asked me to post the following message:
This is Scott Wardinsky writing. The reason it is so hard to find this recording is because we decided it did not meet the artistic or technical level of what we wanted to put out. However many copies managed to leak out after we gave a few away for criticisms. It went viral.

   I have a new, much better project similar to Guemilere but in DVD format with performances as well as instructional tracks. It is called Mabague which Regino told me means Remember or Don't Forget in Lucumi. It features Lazoro Galarraga, Sandy Perez, Teresita Perez, Michael Spiro, Jose Barroso, Nengue Hernandez, Joey de Leon muself and a bunch of other great artists. There are 18 rhythms. Much more comprehensive than the first. With some killer performances that include the singing, dancing and drumming. It includes a booklet with transrciptions, lyrics and photos. It will be out in 3-6 months ( or when I get the $$$ to pay for mastering and manufacturing). In the meantime if you would like to donate to Reginos' estate in Cuba ( his wife and children) for the download available here you can contact me at odua88@yahoo.com.
                   Thanks, Scott Wardinsky

    Scott Wardinksy, also mentions that he appreciates the recognition and does not mind me making the recording available in the manner that I have approached it.

    So thank you very much for your visit and approval Mr. Wardinsky. I am sure my readers will be eager for the release of the new material. I will continue to make the Guemilere recording available for download and I hope my readers will find the generosity to make a donation to Maestro Regino's estate.


The Gourd, The Bead and The Agbe.

   I just finished another shekere for this agbe set of 3 shekeres. The one I just finished is the caja, or lowest pitched shekere. I used the large round beads that sound great. I have one more shekere to finish before this set is done. Traditionally 3 shekeres are used to play for guiro and sometimes bembe. The shekeres are tuned just like drums; high, medium and low. The size of the gourd determines the pitch of the shekeres open tone, I also try to control the pitches with the size and number of beads on the gourds to try and create a higher pitched shake sound for the small shekere and a lower pitched shake for the larger one.

  Anyways, I'm going to be selling this set, if anyone is interested please contact me. I'd like to try and sell it as a complete set of 3. These three gourds have an almost perfect set of open tones when played together, with the tones almost perfect intervals apart. They sound really cool. Also I'm kind of designing them to go together as a set as well. But if they don't sell as a set, I might break it up; or keep them, we'll see.

  This is the last gourd of the set. I know it looks like I haven't started it, but I've actually started it twice, and getting pretty far along too. However, each time there was something I didn't like, either my bead arrangement, or how the beads and net were actually laying on the gourd. There is something a little challenging about the shape of this gourd, that I have to adapt for in beading the net. That gourd really has a nice sound and feel. I'll be finishing it soon, but I was a little frustrated with it, so I moved onto the caja, which came out really well. It's a nice shekere, and this guiro set is going to come out great.


4 Guaguas, Catas or Palitos just finished

      Call them what you will, these guaguas (catas) are recently finished. They are sanded, wrapped and just waiting for the coat of Danish Oil to dry. Which might take a little while considering how gloomy and cold it is here in San Francisco.

    Sorry rumberos, but these are all spoken for. The first one on the left is off to a little island in England. The second from the left is going to a rumbero in Phoenix, Arizona and the last two are for me.

    Why do I need two guaguas? Well these instruments take a lot of abuse getting banged on with sticks; even though I do my best to make them durable, they are a natural material after all.

    Also I've been bringing the instruments to the local rumba lately. Congas, claves, campana, shekere and the guagua. Can you imagine how sad this rumbero would be if I showed up without a guagua?

   Now imagine how sad I would be when this rumbero starts playing palitos on the side of one of my tumbadoras instead of the cata because I didn't have a backup!


Domingo de la Rumba!!!

   I know it's a stretch for some of my more distant readers, rumberos in such far away places as Ireland and India. However my little site meter tells me I have plenty of visitors nearby as well.


Abakua and Rumba

In the study of rumba, the influence of the Abakua on rumba is frequently mentioned. Abakua’s origins are in southeastern Nigeria. It’s modern manifestation in Cuba originates in Havana as a secret society of the blacks living and working there.

I’ve wondered exactly how Abakua has influenced rumba. Abakua has it’s own rich music, complete with a special set of drums and percussive instrumentation, dancing and songs. Abakua rhythms also have a rich improvisation element to be heard in the lead drum known as the Bonko Enchimiya.

It is well documented that several of the most influential early rumberos were Abakua, and incorporated Abakua language lyrics in their compositions. Chano Pozo and Justi Barretto being two well-known Abakua rumba composers.

So where else are the traces of Abakua in rumba? Let’s take a look at the oldest rumbas, Columbia and Yambu:
  1. Columbia: Rumba Columbia’s origins lie in the countryside, in the worker’s barracks for the many different Cuban plantations. Rhythmically, Columbia is played in 6/8 the same as Abakua rhythms are. The same pattern is used for Columbia’s palitos/cata as is used for Abakua’s erikundi shakers. Although Columbia typically uses the common 6/8-bell pattern, it is not uncommon to hear rumba clave played. One of Abakua’s several Ekon (bell) patterns is exactly the same as clave played in 6/8 time.

Another similarity I’ve noticed is in the melodies of the drums. Abakua is typically played with 4 drums; 3 drums playing the melody and an improvising lead drum. Rumba Columbia is played with 3 drums; 2 drums for melody and an improvising quinto. When I compare the Abakua rhythm as I’ve been taught with the Matanzas and Havana Columbia rhythms I’ve also been taught, I recognize a few similarities, if I allow for the absence of 1 drum from the Abakua rhythm. The melody between Abakua’s Eroapa (high drum) and Kuchiyerma (middle drum) resembles the Havana style Columbia’s melody. Mainly you have two higher pitched tones immediately followed by two lower pitched tones as a melodic theme.

In this comparison, I am also reminded of the practice of "doble" in Columbia where each drum plays tones on different sides of the clave once per clave in the beginning of the song, then playing twice per clave in the second, or doubling.

Also the melody between the Eroapa and Obiapa (low drum) resembles the melody for the Matanzas style Columbia I’ve been taught. Here we have a low note, then a short space followed by two higher pitched notes as a common theme between the two.

I'm not saying that this is the definite case. I'm possibly projecting a bit. I do perceive a similarity between the relationship of the melodic tones. I also see the possibility of deriving the Columbia rhythm from previously known Abakua rhythms as the Abakua members were creating a secular popular rhythm from the secret rhythms they were already familiar with.

Finally, there are several motions in the dance for Columbia that appear to have their origins in the dance of the Ireme in Abakua. Frequently in Columbia the dancers use machetes as props in their dance. It was pointed out to me by John Santos in a recent lecture that several of the motions and steps employed by the Columbia machete dancers were exactly the same as those of the Ireme who holds a stick and a whisk in either hand. Also there is a hip shaking motion used by the Ireme to jingle his belt of bells that can also be seen in Columbia dancing, even though a belt of bells is not used. Columbia’s dance is also a male only solo dance where the dancers take turns which is the same as Ireme’s dance as practiced in Abakua tradition.

2. Yambu. The connection and between Yambu and Abakua seemed much less apparent to me. The musics seem so dissimilar. Firstly, Yambu is played in 4/4 time versus the 6/8 of Abakua. The instrumentation of early Yambu’s cajon ensemble is also very different from the drums, bells and shakers of Abakua.

However, it is mentioned in every book I’ve read on the subject that Yambu originated in the docks of Cuba. It is also mentioned that the Abakua societies were the ones in control of those same docks. So the early Yambuceros were almost certainly Abakua as well.

Musically the only the only similarity I can find is again, in the clave. Many scholars mention clave coming from Abakua. Early yambu uses several claves. Havana Yambu frequently uses Son clave, possibly an adaptation of the 6/8 Ekon clave pattern. However Matanzas Yambu frequently uses a different clave. When I examine this clave, I notice that this also has a strong similarity to the Erikundi pattern, perhaps adapted to the 4/4 Yambu timing from the 6/8 Abakua pattern. Of course this is conjecture on my part, but look how closely they resemble each other, if you just move the strike right after the 3 in the Erikundi pattern over a little to make up for the increased space in 4/4 time.

Examining the dance of Abakua and Yambu, again, at first glance there seems to be little similarity. Yambu is danced as a couples dance, and there are no props. The main similarity I can see is the tempo of the dance. Yambu and Abakua are both danced slowly. Whether coincidence or intention is beyond my ability to determine, however it is a similarity between the two. In addition, I sometimes wonder if the handkerchief, or scarf frequently used as a prop by the male Yambu dancer is derived from the Ireme's props as well. It often seems as if they share some common movements.

There is no question that Rumba has had many influences. Almost certainly the Yoruba / Lucumi culture has had it's influence in the music. Flamenco from the Spanish is said to be an influence as well. However I have always heard it mentioned the Abakua were the largest contributors to rumba, and so I've looked for the similarities in the music (maybe too hard!), to see if they remained to be seen. However perhaps the largest Abakua contribution can be seen in the practice of rumba itself. Regarding Abakua I’ve read “La Amistad a un lado y el Abakua separado” (Friendship is one thing, and the Abakua another.) Regarding this, one cannot deny the sense of camaraderie and friendship that frequently sweeps over a rumba as the groove of the rhythm overcomes the rumberos as they collectively create the feeling of rumba. As I have said myself “La Rumba esta una familia” The Rumba is a family.


The Lost Art of Yambu.

(photo Thomas Altmann)

   The other day  I was practicing Yambu in the park on a beautiful fall day and I was reflecting on the style of Yambu and how it is not played in the original way anymore. Yambu is the oldest rhythm in Rumba. The origins of Yambu are the docks of Cuba, Yambu was created by black workers playing the rhythm on the crates and boxes to be found there.

   You can see in the photo a modern interpretation of these original crate instruments as created by Thomas Altmann at Oche music. He has written an excellent article on the subject.

   What was striking me was how in modern times Yambu is often simply approached as a slower form of Guaguanco. However as I was playing the low drum at a nice easy tempo, I was struck by how complete a rhythm that part was all on it's own.

  This is a Matanzas style Yambu. It is a very rich version, a good range of tones, and a lot of space. Also the way it moves across the clave, one side answers the other. I realized as I was practicing that this rhythm did not need another drum like the Tres Dos to complete it. Actually, the earliest forms of Yambu did not have a Tres Dos (conga). The early versions of Yambu were played with just a low drum, a quinto, palitos and claves.

  This was made more apparent to me when I switched and was practicing the Tres Dos, middle drum part to this Matanzas style Yambu.

   You can see here that the open tones for the Tres Dos land exactly in the same spot as the Tumbadora. The addition of the Tres Dos does not really change the melody much at all, and in a way it is not really integral to the rhythm. I will say it does add a lot though, mainly in the muff (M) tones, as they "answer" the muff tones from the Tumba. In actual play those muff tones on the Tres Golpes can be switched with the three slap (S) tones as well, where they would occur before, or "call" the muff tones for the Tumba.

  When approached this way, Yambu actually sounds and feels much different that Guaguanco. In the older recordings you can also hear different claves being used. Son clave, Rumba clave and "Yambu" clave are all present. The "Yambu" clave is what I learned to use with this version of Yambu. It is basically rumba clave with the addition of a strike on the beat right after both the second and third strokes of rumba clave. I have even learned a palitos pattern that goes with the Yambu and not guaguanco. It is similar to the standard guaguanco, but with a few strokes left out. I suspect there are less strokes in the Yambu palitos because there are more strokes in the Yambu clave.

  Anyways, nowadays at rumba, when Yambu is played, it is played on the modern congas instead of cajons, the rhythm is almost always Guaguanco, and the main thing that differentiates Yambu from Guaguanco is that the rumberos are just playing it more slowly. Which brings me to the last observation I have. The art of playing slowly. It is very difficult to do and maintain a nice feel, more often than not it tends to drag or speed up.
  The older Carlos Embale records are such great examples of Yambu. It seems the authentic Yambu played gives Carlos Embale the chance to really stretch out and sing these beautiful melodies. Sometimes I think it might be nice to add a little more variety to the Guaguancos and Rumba Columbias and bring back the low, slow and sweet sounds of Yambu.


Improvisation in Rumba

Rumba is an improvisational music, much like Jazz and Blues. Just like Jazz and Blues, Rumba has it’s own structure regarding how the instruments and vocals improvise, when the improvisation occurs and which instruments improvise.

Instruments that do not improvise in Rumba.
  1. Claves.
  2. Palitos.
  3. Shekere.
  4. Chorus (Coro).
  5. Bell (La Campana).

Instruments that improvise in rumba
  1. Lead singer (Gallo).
  2. Quinto.
  3. Tres Dos.
  4. Tumba.

Instruments that do not improvise in Rumba.

Claves, palitos, la campana and the shekere are the timekeepers in a rumba. They repeat a non-changing pattern throughout the length of the song or rhythm, or at least they should. Which pattern depends on the rhythm. The exception is the shekere. The shekere can begin playing on just the first beat of the song including the pickup just before the beat, then add the third beat, playing on the one and the three. Finally the shekere can progress to playing all four beats and their pick up strokes in the montuno or upbeat portion of the song. A further exception to this occurs sometimes in Rumba Columbia, which is a 6/8 rhythm. Sometimes an adept shekere player may adapt a 6/8 shekere pattern used for guiro or bembe.

            The chorus or coro, is typically set by the gallo (lead singer). I’m not a gallo myself, but I’ve been told the gallo chooses the coro based upon a few things. One is the coro goes with the song he is singing, another is the amount of time he wants or needs to make up improvisational verses between repetitions of the coro and lastly is to determine the overall energy or groove of the song.

Instruments that improvise in Rumba.

            The gallo not only sings a composed song, but they also improvise lyrics and sounds.  I know of two areas where the gallo improvises lyrics. The first is the gallo singing by himself with the percussion, either an improvised extension of a composed song, or possibly be the whole song itself being improvised. Secondly, the gallo begins a section of call and response improvisations with the coro. The gallo calls an improvised refrain of a determined length, followed by a set coro response of a determined length.

            The quinto is probably the most apparent improviser. On rhythm charts you often see the quinto part described as free. However, the quinto is not really free to improvise like a jazz soloists, it has guidelines. I think a better description for the quinto would be responding instead of improvising. The quinto responds. The quinto will play differently depending on what is happening in the song. When the singer is singing the quinto plays so as not to play over the singer. When it is just percussion playing the quinto player should leave room for the other drums to to be heard. When there is a dancer or dancers the quinto is meant to mark their steps and interact with them. Finally, when the gallo cries out “Quinto!”, it is time for the quinto to play a solo with passion and afinique.

            The tres dos (middle drum) and the tumba (low drum) also improvise. However they also maintain the melody of the song and the groove. The extent of improvisation versus playing straight depends on the musicians and their talent and creativity. Playing the whole rhythm totally straight can feel a little stiff, however too much improvisation can lead to overplaying; playing over the singer and losing the groove and melody.  When and how much to improvise is an art. Typically in a rumba the improvisations between these two drums takes the form of call and response: one drum initiates with an improvisation and the other one responds. However a drum is free to not respond or improvise alone as well.

            So improvisation in Rumba is different than it is for other great improvisational musics, like Jazz for example. In rumba some instruments improvise and others do not. Furthermore, in Rumba all the improvising instruments improvise at the same time, they don’t take turns doing improvised solos. However there are guidelines and limits to the extent and nature of each instruments improvisation. It is this tension of the instruments shifting between improvised and set rhythms in Rumba that makes it such a dynamic and emotionally charged music.


Current Practice

   Don't worry bloggers I'm not trading in the tumbadoras for the drum kit!  Mainly this is just practice to sharpen my counting and music reading skills. I remember many years ago when I was in Junior High School and I played orchestral percussion I could read music very quickly; dotted eight notes, flams, eighth note rests, all that stuff was just what you did in a music score. Well, things nowadays are much more sluggish.

   So here we are. I picked this method book for its emphasis on syncopation:
Syncopation occurs when a temporary displacement of the regular metrical accent occurs, causing the emphasis to shift from a strong accent to a weak accent.
   Obviously syncopation is very important in Afro-Cuban music and rumba. Clave, pallitos, quinto are all very syncopated.

   I'm not going to be a snare drummer anytime soon, so I stayed away from the snare rudiments with all their 5 and seven stroke rolls and all that. Also a friend of mine who is a great quinto player rcommended this book. He adapted the excercises for congas. Actually, he is the one who bought it for me as a way to repay a favor I did for him, changing the skin on one of his drums.

  So the practice pad is there for the obvious reasons; it's quiet and portable. I can tap away on this thing anywhere at anytime, almost. Well I just got the whole kit put together yesterday, so I guess I'll be seeing how I get on with it soon.


This drum is fixed.

   Well I tried to work quickly and get the Valje conga fixed and repaired for the rumba today, but it turns out today's rumba is cancelled. Oh well.

   I had several pictures taken of this conga during the repair process, but somehow my pictures folder got dumped into the trashed and deleted, so I'm scrambling to find some sort of deleted file recovery program. I want to recover about 1,000 photos of mine, so if any of you out there in the blogosphere could hellp me out it would be appreciated.

   Anyways, onto the repair. Conga repair really isn't all that difficult:
  1. You probably want to remove all the hardware from your drum. So take it off and mark where each lug plate goes, so it will fit back into the same spot. It is also a good idea to mark the crown and skin, so that can be placed in the same spot as before as well.
  2. Now that the hardware is off you need to glue the crack. First prep the crack by lightly sanding it to remove the old glue. If the crack is not on a seam, you don't need this step. Try not to remove any wood, just remove the old glue.
  3. You may need to spread the crack open a little wider to get the glue inside all the way. I use a thin putty knife and also a syringe to shoot the glue into the crack.
  4. The glue you use is up to you. All wood glues work. I've used Titebond and Gorilla glue. They both have advantages. For this last fix I used Titebond glue.
  5. The hardest part to fixing a crack is applying enough pressure to keep it closed. The best method I know of is getting some lengths of rope and tying loops into each end. Place this length of rope around the drum and then put a drumstick into the loops. Twist the drumstick around so the rope tightens around the drum. Tighten it until the crack is closed and glue is oozing out. 3 of these rope clamps are good, one for each end of the crack and one for the middle. Smaller cracks might need just 2.
  6. The one problem with using the rope is that it wants to slide down the drum because of the drum's shape. I overcome this problem with string. Loop some string through the holes for the lugplates and tie the ends together at the length you want to place the rope. The string will hold the rope in place and keep it from sliding down the drum.
  7. The drum sticks will also want to unwind so you need to prevent that. You can tie these off with string as well in a similar matter to the rope. Or you can lean them against something like a table top.
  8. When the glue dries. The repair is done. Your going to have some glue to remove. The Gorilla glue usually comes right off with a razor blade, Titebond usually needs sanding.
  9. Refinishing depends on the drum. My drums are all natural wood. This Valje got a coat of Watco Danish Oil in Natural finish. The Watco is very easy to apply, looks great and dries fast. It is easily repaired as well.
  10. When it comes to placing everything back onto the drum, you may want to soften your skin a little to get a nice tight seal again. Just flip the skin upside down and put about 1/2 inch of water in it. After 30 minutes or so the underside will be a little soft and ready to put back on the drum.
  11. When the hardware is off is a good time to put a little lube on the threads of your lugs. I use bicycle chain lube, because I'm a cyclist. Sewing machine oil, WD40, lug lube oil from LP all work as well.
    So that is it. It really is not a difficult thing to fix your conga drum. I think it's a lot of fun. Now I'm going to be busy trying to get my deleted photos back. Wish me luck.


Oh, No! My drum broke!

       No sooner than a reader emails me about advice fixing his Gon Bops that I notice my 40 year old Valje has gotten two new cracks. Well TG, looks like it's your lucky day. Guess what readers? The next few posts are going to be on my Valje repair.

      These are some chunky cracks, so it's going to take a bit of work. I'll also be working against the clock as the rumba is coming up this Sunday, and this is one of the drums I bring there.

     Repairs are a fact of life for old wood instruments. I recently had an 80 year old Martin guitar fixed for my father. Double basses, violins, guitars and especially congas eventually need some sort of repair. I'm pretty sure this drum cracked just yesterday when the bag strap slipped in my hand and I accidentally dropped it on it's end onto the concrete about a foot and a half, and then I continued to play it for about two hours. One crack is along a seam that has already been repaired twice, and the other one is new. Well we'll see if third time is the charm.


Bongos Not Bombs!

    This is a little piece of artwork I made up a few years back. It was inspired by an anti-war drumming demonstration here in San Francisco a while ago and also by the Food not Bombs charity organization.

   It was a fun little graphic to make, I ended up making stickers of the graphic. The words Bongos not Bombs eventually became my handle for some internet forums and stuff. I got the conga hardware from the Isla Percussions drums, the hands are from the Incredible Bongo Band album cover.

¡La Rumba Es Todo Del Mundo!

     3,000 visits already!!!

         A big thank you to all my visitors. I am very grateful for all the visits. Rumba is truly an international music. I want to express my appreciation to my visitors from such far away places as beautiful Japan, Indonesia, South Africa, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Morocco, Finland, Germany, Kenya, Nigeria, Poland, Singapore, China, Bulgaria,  Hungary, Switzerland, Ecuador, Mexico, France, Canada, Ireland, England, Scotland, Holland, Denmark, Brazil, France, Australia, the Phillipines, Malaysia, Greece, Cypress,  India,  Turkey, Hong Kong, Trinidad and Tobago, Italy, and of course my many visitors from the USA, and the rest of the rumberos visiting my site from all over the world.

   Being able to reach out to so many people worldwide makes it all worthwhile. Muchas Gracias.


Samba Quinto!

    Well not really, I'm just making a little joke about my current rumba quinto practice material. When I first started learning to play the congas my first teacher gave us 3 sheets of rhythm transcriptions which were patterns for the Brazilian Timbau drum for Samba Bahia and Samba Ijexa. It was practice material; homework for working our timing, sticking, slaps and open tones. Lately I've been using these patterns for rumba quinto practice.

      I will be the first to say, that even though I love samba, and maracatu and batucada, I'm not as well educated on the Brazilian percussion styles as I am on the Cuban. I can't really explain what the role of the timbau is or what the differences are between Samba Bahia and Samba Ijexa. My first guess is that Samba Ijexa is related somehow to the Cuban Iyesa and the Samba Bahia comes from the state of Bahia in Brazil. But these are just guesses.

   The Brazilian percussion importer Espirito Drums has this to say about the timbau drum.
Timbal (Timbau)
A drum reportedly designed by Carlinhos Brown when he formed Timbalada, the band that bears the drum's name, the timbal is a similar concept to the West African djembe. However, the timbal is much lighter in weight and has a plastic head that keeps consistent tension in even the dampest weather. These drums are incredibly loud and can be heard even in a full bateria.

     Anyways, you guys want to know about rumba quinto. So here are a few of the Samba timbau patterns I practice for rumba quinto. They make pretty good quinto licks. One thing I like about them is they usually have different sides like clave does, or they travel from one side of clave into the other. They also have that samba flavor, I like that.

   Attached are a few examples of the timbau patterns I use for quinto practice. I mix it up. I repeat one pattern several times or one pattern followed by another; creating improvised phrases from the memorized patterns. I've got three pages of these, but I'm only posting a few here. I've got to save some for myself, you know!


Behind the Beat

    A little graphic I came up with to illustrate some points about timing. I thought my readers might enjoy it, and I wanted to get a post up to keep the blog updated. It's actually a pretty informative little graphic if you meditate on it a little.

    Rumba and music related posts soon to follow, once I get some distractions out of the way.



     Just finished this shekere. I like how the gourds color matches the wood beads. Very natural looking. This gourd ended up having a nice brisk action. It has a very large and wide bottom that is easy to strike with the hand for a booming tone. The crisp sound of the beads contrasts with the deep open tone very well. All in all a great sounding and easy playing instrument. As I said it's going to my friend Oliver, n excellent jazz flautists and all around nice guy.

    I've got plenty more shekeres to make, but I'll try and focus on some differnt sorts of posts in the near future.


One more shekere

    Well I seem to be turning out these instruments at a pretty good rate. This one is close to finished as you can see. This shekere uses wood beads. It is my second wood bead shekere. This one is going to a friend and fellow musician, a saxophone and flute player I play jazz with. He liked the natural look of the wood beads.

   Wood beads have a different sound. I prefer them over the typical plastic pony barrel beads, but I think I prefer the larger round plastic beads I used on my last shekere, in the post just before this.

   Anyways this is turning out to be a nice instrument. Should be completed in the nex day or two. I'm really trying to turn out these shekeres as I kind of want to get all these gourds out of my apartment. 12 big gourds do not really make for the best home decor, if you know what I mean.


Latest Shekere.

   Well here it is. Believe it or not I got this instrument done on time for the rumba. It performed very well, and sounded great. I got a lot of compliments on it. I really like its old school look and sound. It has a looser more "gravely" tone than most of the modern shekeres you hear. There are some tracks on Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Roots" CD and the Grupo Afrocuba De Matanzas CD Raices Africanas that have shekeres whose sound I was trying to emulate with this latest instrument of mine.
   This shekere turned out to have a nice response, very good action and was fairly light. I was a little concerned because the gourd was so large and I used some larger size beads that this instrument would be heavy and unwieldy, but such was not the case at all.

  I spent a lot of timing browsing images of shekeres I liked to use as models. First and foremost are the creations of Morty Sanders that you can see at the Fidel's Eyeglasses Blog by his son Mark. There are others from various resources as well. I'm going to post some up here so you can see where I got some of my ideas from.
   Anyways, this one is done, and this particular shekere is for me, I'm keeping it. I'm going to be using it at the rumbas and sessions that I go to. But I have plenty more to make, I'm still working on the agbe set, that is going to be available for sale, and I have a shekere to make for one of my jazz musician friends that I play congas with. I might have one or two single shekeres that I might sell as well. Still plenty of work to do. Eventually I'm going to have to make one like this guys SUPER funky gourd. Love it!