I get asked frequently why I started to play rumba and Afro-Cuban music and rhythms. I realize everyone has his or her own path. For some people it is part of their culture, for others it is a form of de-colonization. Others are looking for a spiritual path and for some it is all about the music.
For me I am a lover of jazz music, and also enjoy what some people call exotica and lounge music. I began to notice that the bongos feature heavily in the later two genres and I would also hear them in jazz music every now and then. So I bought a set of bongos and began to practice.
Well, the conga drums are the brother to the bongo, and after a while I became attracted to the sound of the conga. I bought a conga and started to practice. Well a funny thing happened. Once I started taking lessons with Carlos Aldama, his other students, who are rumberos, well they just pulled me in, dragged me into the world of rumba, as we know it in San Francisco.
There was a lot to appreciate about rumba. A big one for me is I very much enjoy the physical activity of playing drums. I like moving my arms, striking the drums with my hand, and of course there is the energy that enters your body, mind and heart when the rhythm and the feeling is right.
The history and culture of rumba and Afro-Cuban music is also a very fascinating subject. The perseverance and creativity of the early rumberos is admirable and remarkable. Learning about this music’s history both in Cuba and Africa is a very deep and interesting study for me.
A wonderful thing about rumba is it’s social nature. It’s a participatory musical form. By learning and playing this music I have become acquainted with several very interesting people I would probably never have met in my white-collar career and background. This aspect of the music is incredibly rewarding for me.
I have also fallen in love with the instruments that this blog is dedicated to. I love to tinker, as my friend puts it. Coming from working on bicycles and surfboards, the ability to craft and customize my instruments is a lot of fun. Playing an instrument that you made yourself is incredible. If I were a pianist, I would have missed out on that experience.
And of course, I love the sound of the music.