Monday, June 29, 2009

Saludando: Raúl González Brito "Lali"

"Lali" in Madrid, June 2009
(photo: Barry Cox)

On a recent trip to Spain we had the great fortune to meet Raúl de la Caridad González Brito, known as "Lali" to his friends and legions of students around the world.

We hung out for a bit and had a great time, listening and talking about rumba over some jamón, queso, olives, and a couple of cold "Mahou" beers. He patiently helped us resolve quite a few long-standing doubts we had about some rumba lyrics, for which we are extremely grateful!

Here's a bit of his background.

Lali was born on January 14, 1949 on Calle San Gabriel between Magnolia and Florence in the Cerro barrio of Havana. Later he moved to the Calzada de Buenos Aires # 419 between Paz and San Julio, where he has lived (and held rumbas) for years:
Verdaderamente es una peña de la rumba en el Cerro de hace muchos años inclusive de ensayos de comparsas, rumbas con Los Papines, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, Yoruba Andabo, Los Chinitos de Jacomino, Chucho Valdes, Chavalonga, Los Aspirina, Juan de Dios, El Goyo, Pancho Quinto, Rumberos de Cuba y por supuesto Clave y Guaguancó y muchos más que no tendriamos tiempo para enumerarlos. Mi casa es la casa donde se ha hecho mas rumba en toda Cuba! 
Lali currently lives in Madrid with his wife who is there working for a Cuban company.

Lali's main inspiration in Cuban percussion was his cousin Alejandro Brito Publes, with whom he began playing tumbadora at 14, and then batá drums, becoming Omo-Añá during a tambor fundamento at which Alejandro played.

In 1970 he founded a group of white rumberos in El Cerro, called the Estrellas de Guaguancó. They played the Cabaret Parisien at the Hotel Nacional, along with several groups like Pello El Afrokán, Los Papines and Changuito.

Lali was a co-founder of Juan de Dios' "Raices Profundas," and was with them for three years.

After that he entered the group of "Tato de Atarés" with Puntilla, and then the group Wemilere Jonas Bombarlé, and Luis Chacón Mendivel's group Alafia. He also was director of the group Ero Ayé.

Since 1970 he's had his own group to play religious events (batá and cajón espiritual, guiro and even violín a los Orichas) and rumba, called: la Fundación Babalú Ayé.

He traveled to Italy with the group of Omo de Akokán.

He worked with one group Aché where the director was the poet Olga Navarro, and in another group Aché directed by "Sarita" Reyes.

He worked with the Orquesta América under the direction of bassist Jorge Machado, the saxophonist "El Chino" Lang's group, in several cabarets, and in the group Caracol directed by "Nacho."

Laly graduated in Cuban Percussion (medium level) and in 1980 was evaluated in the Conjunto Folklórico Nacional, then with Danza Nacional and in Música Popular with Orquesta América.
For three years he taught technical classes at the ENA.

He joined Conjunto de Clave y Guaguancó in 1988 (along with Alejandro Publes) where he remained as percussionist, singer and administrator until 1992. There he recorded the group's first album, "Cantaremos y Bailaremos," released in the states as "Songs and Dances." The disc is a true classic containing the first "official" recording of the style known as "guarapachangueo."


While in Clave y Guaguancó, Lali was involved in a quick side project called "Rhythm and Smoke" that resulted in three killer and never-released tracks that we are happy to share with you here. About those sessions Lali tells us:
"Eso fue en el año 1990 , con un proyecto que se llamó "Ritmo y Humo" financiado por unos japoneses y Chuck Silverman "Palito" que vive en California, profesor de percusión y muy amigo mio estaba a cargo de este proyecto, se grabó música en formato de "charanga", son, changüí, música campesina, batá y por supuesto rumba. Palito se me presentó en la casa un jueves y me dijo, "El sábado estas en los estudios de "Sono Caribe" para que grabes lo que tú quieras." [Laly cuenta un poco de su vida a Palito aquí. — Ed.]

Pués sólo tuve tiempo de buscar la gente y pensar ¿qué? iba a grabar ya que quería hacer algo fuera de lo que siempre se hace y recopilé fragmentos de algunas rumbas callejeras de autores anónimos; aunque algunos pedacitos son conocidos, y sin ensayar fuimos para el estudio ya que no podía perder la oportunidad de grabar algo ideado por mí.

La muchacha que canta se llama Inés Carbonell, ella cantaba en Danza Nacional de Cuba y después Carlos Embale la buscaba para que le hiciera la voz tercera en sus grabaciones. "Cotó" está tocando el trés, a pura improvisación, "El Chispa" en el bajo, improvisando igualmente,"El Chino" en la percusión y Regino el que canta rumba conmigo y yo tocando y reforzando las voces."

"That was in 1990 with a project called "Rhythm and Smoke" funded by some Japanese and Chuck Silverman "Palito" who lives in California, a professor of percussion and a good friend of mine, was in charge of this project. They recorded music like charanga, changüí, música campesina, batá and of course rumba. Palito came by my house on Thursday and told me, "Saturday you are booked in the "Sono Caribe" studios to record whatever you want!" [Laly tells Palito a bit more about his life here. —Ed.]

So I only had a short time to get some people together and think about what I was going to record. I wanted to do something different than what is normally done and so I collected fragments of some "rumbas callejeras" by anonymous authors, although some pieces are known, and with no rehearsal we went into the studio, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to record my ideas.

The woman who sings is Inés Carbonell, she sang in "Danza Nacional de Cuba" and then Carlos Embale sought her out to do the "voz tercera" (high harmony) on his recordings. "Cotó" is playing the tres, pure improvisation, "El Chispa" is on bass, improvising too,"El Chino" on percussion and Regino is singing and I am playing and singing to reinforce the voices."

These really are some great examples of rumba mixed with tres and bass, among the finest I have heard. So here for your enjoyment, with special thanks to Lali and Chuck Silverman, are the three tracks from Lali's All-Stars:

Se vende un corazón


El Trovador y su musa


La rumba es cubana

Download them all here.
If you'd like to get in touch with Lali his contact is: nereraul2004 (at) yahoo (dot) es


Lali's Groups:

-Estrellas de Guaguancó
-Raices Profundas
-Wemilere de Jonas Bombarlé
-Alafia de Luis Chacón Mendivel
-Ero Ayé
-Fundación Babalú Ayé
-Omo de Akokán
-grupo Aché de Olga Navarro
-grupo Aché de "Sarita" Reyes
-Orquesta América
-grupo del Chino Lang
-grupo Caracol
-Conjunto de Clave y Guaguancó
-Alejo y sus muchachos
-Tripulación Salsera
-Cuarteto Adagio


Lali's Compositions:
1-LA RUMBA NO ES COMO AYER
2-EL TIEMPO SERA TESTIGO
3-ELEGIA PARA ALFREDO
4-EL DINERO NO TIENE AMIGOS
5- EL LALI RUMBA BATA CA CHE
6-DEJA LA GUARA
7-PUBLICO OYENTE
8-TUMBAITO
9-EL REFRANERO
10-RASCATE SI TE PICA
11-PONME A GOZAR
12-REFRANEANDO
13-ME COGISTE PA ESO
14-EL DICHO QUE NO HE DICHO
15-PARA SER UN BUEN SONERO
16-LA SERPIENTE Y LA LIMA
17-PELOTICA DE PING PON
18-MI CANCION PREFERIDA
19-DIME YA QUE SI
20-LA ENVIDIA Y EL ENVIDIOSO
21-LAS COSAS DE LA VIDA
22-EL SAPITO CANTOR


Lali's Discography:
-Conjunto de Clave y Guaguancó "Cantaremos y Bailaremos" (Xenophile GLCD 4023, 1990)
-Orquesta América (números del autor colombiano Hernando Vasquez), re-editado en "Las Leyendas de la Música Cubana - Orquesta América with Cuban All-Stars" (Tumi Gold)
-Lalí All-Stars
-Ensalada Musical
-Ritmo y Humo
-un disco de Conga premiada (dir. Pello el Afrokán)
-Popurrit Picaresco (Homenaje al Pícaro Evaristo Aparicio)
-Quiero ser yo (con Marlin Ramazzini)


Lali's Filmography:

2-DOCUMENTARY: "A TRAVES DE LOS AÑOS" CON EL "GRUPO LAYE" Y "CLAVE Y GUAGUANCO".
3-DOCUMENTARY "MUSICA IRAKERE" DE MELCHOR CASALS

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Viva Amalia, viva Italia

Amalia e,
Yo soy de Amalia
Amalia, Amalia e

I've often wondered about the words Amalia, and Amaliano, and why they come up so often in rumba lyrics.

Amalia, este su nombre
Qué lindo nombre de mujer...

As the song tells us, Amalia is a feminine given name. It seems it was never extremely popular but not uncommon either, especially among the Dutch, Germans, Finns, Spanish and Italians. It seems to have been most popular in the 1800's, declining rapidly after that.

A report from the Netherlands gives us some background:

The name Amalia goes back to Amalia van Solms (1602-1675), the wife of Frederik Hendrik and mother of King Willem II. According to historians, she was a strong woman who did not shun political influence. Amalia in ancient Germanic cultures stood for exertion, particularly in battle.

It is said to derive "from the Germanic 'amal' meaning 'work, labor, effort, strain', and also "may be taken as a variant of the Hebrew Amalya, meaning "work of the Lord"."

So how does an ancient Germanic or Hebrew name become so common in rumba?

Dicen que en Jesús María
Hay una comparsa
Que tocan tambores
Cantamos, tocamos tambores
Para que la gente baile
¿Bueno y qué?
¿Bueno y qué?
¿Qué les hacemos a esos?

Nosotros los Amalianos señores
Sabemos divertirnos
Por eso los invitamos
Para que vengan a gozar
A mi Amalia

So it seems Amalia is linked to the barrio of Jesús María. But why?

It's probably impossible to know for certain, but Yamira Rodríguez Marcano tells us one version of the story here:
Poblado hacia la segunda década del siglo XVIII, con el nombre de San José del Astillero, debido al establecimiento de este último, el barrio de Jesús María, en La Habana antigua de extramuros, continua siendo hoy uno de sus términos más populares.

En 1753 en la Calle Real de Jesús María, hoy Revillagigedo, fue levantada una ermita a Jesús María y José que le dio nuevo nombre a la barriada.


Con esta calle se asocia una de las leyendas más vivas de Jesús María.

Cuentan que en ella vivió una negra llamada Amalia, protectora de revolucionarios y esclavos perseguidos por las autoridades coloniales, los escondía y les facilitaba la salida como polizontes hacia Haití u otras tierras, era además la Madrina de los centros ñáñigos del barrio, lo que hizo que los humildes habitantes ayudados por ella, se autonombraran, hijos de Amalia.

Así se conocían en el siglo XIX y de ahí que se derive que a los de Jesús María, se les llame amalianos.


In the second decade of the 18th century, a barrio known as San José del Astillero began to grow up around the extramural shipyards of Havana. In 1753, an hermitage called Jesús María y José was built on the Calle Real de Jesús María (today Revillagigedo), thus giving the neighborhood a new name, "Jesús María."

This street is linked to one of the barrio's most vivid legends.

They say that a black woman named Amalia lived there, who protected revolucionaries and fugitive slaves, hiding them and helping them escape as cops (?) to Haiti or other countries. She was also the madrina of the Ñañigo centers in the barrio. The humble inhabitants whom she had helped began calling themselves "hijos de Amalia" (children of Amalia).

That's how they were known in the 19th century and that's why those from Jesús María are called amalianos.

So phrases like "yo soy de Amalia," "yo soy amaliano" are just the rumberos' way of saying they are from the barrio of Jesús María, and paying tribute to their own "strong woman" who in her own way was doing "the Lord's work," helping the oppressed find their way to freedom.

About another frequent and curious occurrence of Amalia in rumba, El Goyo adds:
La frontera entre Jesús Maria y Los Sitios La avenida Italia, que actualmente se llama Monte. Los rumberos de Los Sitios dijeron: si los rumberos de Jesus María dicen que son de Amalia, entonces nosotros somos de Italia. Es por eso que cuando un rumbero dice "Viva Amalia, viva ITALIA", esta diciendo: "Viva Jesús Maria, viva Los Sitios".

The border between Jesús María and Los Sitios was Avenida Italia (today known as Monte). The rumberos of Los Sitios said: If the rumberos of Jesús María say they are from Amalia, then we are from Italia. That's why, when a rumbero says "Viva Amalia, viva ITALIA, he's saying, "Viva Jesús María, viva Los Sitios."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Conjunto Folklórico Nacional: Début Program on Scribd.com

Just wanted to let you know that the Conjunto Folklórico Nacional début program we posted in July of 2007 is now available for viewing and downloading through scribd.com:

cfncatalog cfncatalog guarachon63 Catalog for Conjunto Folklorico Nacional debut performance.



We hope to be uploading more rare documents relating to rumba at this site in the future.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Ibbae: Jesus Alfonso Miró

I guess by now everyone has heard the sad news, so I will just post this here for the record, along with a video showing the man and his art at its best.


Comunicado:

A las 6 y 45 minutos del día de hoy, 3 de junio de 2009, a los 60 años de edad, falleció en su ciudad natal, Jesús Alfonso Miró, director musical de Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, compositor y percusionista excepcional.

Hijo de padres matanceros, único varón de la familia Alfonso Miró y padre de 8 hijos, todos dedicados a la rumba como músicos o bailarines. Dos de ellos han sido parte de esta agrupación y en la actualidad Freddy Jesús Alfonso Borges, dotado también de la destreza de su padre, es el quinto del grupo y ya comienza a seguir también su camino como autor de sentidas rumbas.

Como músico de Los Muñequitos Jesús conoció casi todos los continentes; donde quiera que estuvo sembró amigos, discípulos, brilló en cada escenario, pero nunca olvidó su raíz y vivió toda una vida orgulloso de su estirpe rumbera, saboreando cada esquina de su barrio: la Marina.

Desde los siete años hasta la fecha, participó como músico y bailarín en la Comparsa La
Imaliana, fundada por su padre y por Félix Vinagera. Por un tiempo fue integrante de la Orquesta de Música Moderna de su ciudad y el grupo de Papa Goza. Desde 1967 es Director Musical y quinto del grupo Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, agrupación a la que amó profundamente y dedicó la mayor parte de su vida.

Como compositor fue imprescindible en el repertorio de esa agrupación, siendo conocidas sus obras en el mundo entero, como autor de Congo Yambumba, la Llave, Chino Guaguao, Lengua de Obbara, Saludo a Nueva York, y muchas otras que ya son clásicos de la rumba cubana. Muchos intérpretes prestigiosos como Eddy Palmieri dan cuenta de la sabrosura y popularidad de sus obras, incluyéndolas en sus discos y mencionándolo como un imprescindible en la música de nuestro continente.

Siendo aún muy pequeño de edad, junto a otro de los grandes de Los Muñequitos: Ricardo Cané, Jesús Alfonso partió a las montañas de Cuba para alfabetizar a los campesinos, graduándose más tarde como joven maestro revolucionario. Por sus grandes aportes a la música y a su pueblo, le fue conferida la condición de Hijo Ilustre de la Ciudad de Matanzas.

Jesús Alfonso, perteneciente a la sociedad matancera Efí Irondó Itá Ibekó, respetuoso portador de la regla de Osha, será recordado por todo su pueblo y muy especialmente por los rumberos de todo el mundo. Su nombre nunca será olvidado, su recia voz indicando cómo tenía que vibrar la música y el sonido de sus manos en el cuero, perdurarán en la memoria de todos los que le
conocimos y le reconocemos como uno de los más insignes músicos de todos los tiempos, porque Jesús fue a la rumba como Cuní o Chapottín al son. Jesús le dio a la rumba su vida toda. Su nombre está sin lugar a dudas, junto a Chano, Tata, Papín y todos los grandes de la música cubana.

Su cuerpo se encuentra expuesto en el lugar donde cada día ensayan Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, en la calle del mismo nombre de la ciudad, número 7906, entre Contrera y Milanés. Se le honrará como merece hasta que sea sepultado en horas tempranas del día de mañana.

A su esposa Dulce María Galup, a sus hijos y demás familiares, a Diosdado Ramos y todos sus compañeros de rumba que tanto le han admirado y hoy están sintiendo profundamente su pérdida, les expresamos nuestras más sentidas condolencias.

CARY DIEZ

* * *

For immediate release:

At 6:45 a.m. today, June 3 2009, at 60 years of age, Jesús Alfonso Miró, musical director of Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, exceptional composer and percussionist, died in his home town of Matanzas, Cuba. The only son of the Alfonso Miró family, he was the father of 8 children, all dedicated to the rumba as musicians or dancers. Two of them have been members of the
Muñequitos and at present, Freddy Jesús Alfonso Borges, a practitioner of his father’s art, plays the quinto of the group and has begun to follow as well in his path as the composer of heartfelt rumbas.

As a musician of Los Muñequitos Jesús traveled to almost all the continents. Wherever he went he left friends and disciples. He shone on every stage he played on, but he never forgot his roots and lived a full life, proud of his lineage as a rumbero, enjoying the flavor of every corner of his barrio, la Marina. Beginning at the age of seven, he participated as a musician and dancer in the Comparsa La Imaliana, founded by his father and by Félix Vinagera. For a time he was a member of the Orquesta de Música Moderna of his city and of the Papa Goza group. From 1967 he was musical director and quinto of Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, a group which he profoundly loved and to which he dedicated the greatest part of his life.

As a composer he was indispensable to the repertoire of the group, with his works known worldwide. He was the author of “Congo Yambumba,” “La Llave,” “Chino Guaguao,” “Lengua de Obbara,” “Saludo a Nueva York,” and many others that are now classics of Cuban rumba.

Prestigious interpreters including Eddie Palmieri took note of his sabrosura and the popularity of his works, including them on their records and mentioning him as indispensable to the
music of our continent.

When Jesús Alfonso was still very young, together with another of the great figures of Los Muñequitos, Ricardo Cané, he went to the mountains of Cuba to teach literacy to the people of the countryside, graduating later as a young revolutionary teacher. For his great contributions to music and to his community, he received the title of Hijo Ilustre (Illustrious Son) of Matanzas.

Jesús Alfonso, member of the Matanzas society Efí Irondó Itá Ibekó and respectful observer of the regla de Osha, will be remembered by all his community and especially by rumberos around the world. His name will never be forgotten. His strong voice and the sound of his hands on the skins will remain in the memory of those who knew him and recognize him as one of the most celebrated musicians of all time, because Jesús was to the rumba as was Cuní or Chapottín to the son. Jesús gave his entire life to the rumba. His name is next to Chano, Tata, Papín, and all the greats of Cuban music.

Viewing will be in the place where Los Muñequitos de Matanzas rehearse every day, at 7906 Matanzas Street, between Contrera and Milanés. After respects are paid, he will be buried in the early hours tomorrow.

To his wife Dulce María Galup, to his children and other family members, to Diosdado Ramos and all his compañeros in the rumba who have so much admired him and are today feeling his loss, we send our heartfelt condolences.


CARY DIEZ