(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
-Estrellas de Guaguancó
-Wemilere de Jonas Bombarlé
-Alafia de Luis Chacón Mendivel
-Fundación Babalú Ayé
-Omo de Akokán
-grupo Aché de Olga Navarro
-grupo Aché de "Sarita" Reyes
-grupo del Chino Lang
-Conjunto de Clave y Guaguancó
-Alejo y sus muchachos
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
10-RASCATE SI TE PICA
11-PONME A GOZAR
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
-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)
-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)
1-DOCUMENTARY "LOS ULTIMOS GAITEROS DE LA HABANA".
2-DOCUMENTARY: "A TRAVES DE LOS AÑOS" CON EL "GRUPO LAYE" Y "CLAVE Y GUAGUANCO".
3-DOCUMENTARY "MUSICA IRAKERE" DE MELCHOR CASALS