We wanted to bring your attention to this undeservedly obscure disc some of you may have missed, "Wemilere."
Recorded in 1998 and not released until 2003 on the French Long Distance label, the disc has a loose, experimental feel, yet stays firmly rooted in tradition. Many tracks incorporate a fusion of disparate afro-cuban styles, resulting in such "inventos" as "Abakuá-Batá-Rumba."
Despite who you see pictured on the cover, the personnel on this recording are:
Román Díaz Anaya: Musical director, batá iya,congas, vocals
José Fernandez Hernández: Director, batá itotele, congas
Angel Gonzales Vila: Quinto
Orlando López Alonzo: Vocals, dance
Pedro Martínez Campos: Vocals, batá itotele, congas
Antonio (Tonito) Martínez Campos: batá okonkolo, catá
Jesus Lorenzo Peñalver "Cusito": Vocals, batá iya on "No sé"
On the origins of the group and it's association with Mario Dreke "Chavalonga", Román Diaz writes:
"After Pancho Quinto recorded his "En el Solar la Cueva del Humo, " he started a project called "Los Cinco Solitos" consisting of Pancho Quinto, Ricardo Gomes Santa Cruz, Pedrito Martinez, Toñito Martinez, and myself. We did some shows and made some recordings, and [Canadian saxophonist] Jane Bunnet became interested in the project. At her suggestion, Amado Dedeu and Ernesto "El Gato" Gatell were brought in as well.
However, at this time Pancho started working on his second disc (Rumba Sin Fronteras), with [singer] Octavio [Rodriguez], El Negro Triana and Lázaro Rizo, and the organizers decided to select a touring group for Pancho's commitments in the USA and Canada, so Tonito, Ricardo Santa Cruz and I stayed behind.
It was at this point "Wemilere, Phase One" came into being, with José Fernandez, Pedrito Martínez, Tonito and myself, produced by Alex Romaron and at the engineering console, Ramón Alom.
Then when Pancho came back, we began Phase Two of Wemilere, with recordings by Santa Cruz and Cusito [Jesús Lorenzo Peñalver], Angel Vila and Orlando El Bailarín. Puntilla also was present for this second phase along with the legendary Pluma and the masters of Abuaká songs Rafael and Moran.
Then came the first phase of Ven Tu, which came from an idea suggested by
LA CASA DE CULTURA DE CENTRO HABANA for EL FESTIVAL
DE LA RUMBA, with shows at the Teatro America, and on Radio Progresso, recordings with Lázaro Rizo, El Negro Triana, Orlando, and Celestino Fariñas, who was selected to take Ven Tu Rumbero to the Maestro Chavalonga.
When Chavalonga joined, the group unanimously agreed to call itself Chavalonga y El Ven Tu, as a sign of respect to Mario Dreke, and with the help of Felix Reyes, Director of the Comparsa La Bollera, from the Los Sitios neighborhood.
Recently youtube user jicamocubano has begun posting some excellent historic video of this group. We are posting one of our favorites below. You can go here to see all jicamocubano's videos.
Besides Román on tumba, the video includes Tonito on tres dos, Angel Vila on quinto, Lázaro Rizo (guagua and vocals), Guillerme "El Negro" Triana (clave and vocals) Mario Dreke "Chavalonga," (vocals). Rumba doesn't get much better than this. Enjoy.