Monday, August 16, 2010

Sara Gómez article on rumba: Cuba Vol 3, No. 2 1964

We came across this article by Sara Gómez (1943-1974) in the December 1964 issue of "Cuba," which seems to have been the Cuban equivalent of the USA's "Life" magazine.

Sara Gómez is most known today for her films "...y tenemos sabor" and "De cierta manera." I am not aware of any other articles she has written. The article also contains historic photographs of the old "Clave y Guaguancó" by Mário García Joya, "Mayito," who also had a distinguished career in Cuban cinema and now lives in Los Angeles. Some of them we have seen before in a book by Olavo Alén Rodríguez, but others are new, such as this one of Agustín "el Bongocero" Gutiérrez:

Agustín Gutiérrez, c. 1964
Photo by "Mayito"

Sara Gómez would also include this group in her film "...y tenemos sabor."

The text of the article takes a bit of an unusual form, with narrative information in small text alternating with quotations from Agustín Pina "Flor de Amor" in larger text.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Carlos Embale: Todavía me queda voz. Egrem LD-4297

This was one of the first Carlos Embale recordings I ever owned. I got it right as I was starting to get into rumba, around 1994.

But I never really got into it. The occasional use of son clave contradicted what I was learning about rumba at the time, the songs are all pretty short and go right to the coro, the tres/dos and the tumbadora stay pretty constant throughout, and the energy just overall felt low compared to other things I was listening to at the time, like "Rumba Caliente 88/77" by Los Muñequitos.

Listening to it now though, in the midst of the current "guarapachangueo" craze with percussionists seemingly in free-jazz style overdrive, and overproduced, auto-tuned coros dominating new releases, it's refreshing to hear something laid-back and unassuming like this.

Although I still don't consider it one of his best albums, what my ears once heard as "low energy" now sounds "relaxed" - the quiet confidence of masters at work, secure in the fact that despite their years, they still "got it," or as Embale sings in the opening lines:

"Todavía me queda voz, sentimiento y melodía..."

And masters they are, too. The musicians are not mentioned in the notes, but from Embale's inspirations we can tell that they include:

"Maximino," — most likely Maximino Duquesne "El Moro Quinto," now of "Rumberos de Cuba" and widely considered one of the best quinteros in Havana, — Julio Embale, Carlos' half-brother, on another drum, and Calixto Callava, Marina Sánchez, Rafael Ortíz, and Miguel Manzano in the coro.

Download and enjoy here.

Todavía me queda voz.
Egrem LD-4297
Recorded 1985, released 1988.

Side 1:
1. Todavía me queda voz (Guaguancó - Emilio Cavahilón)
2. Rumba pa' gozar (Rumba - Yánez y Gómez)
3. Bueno y qué? (Yambú - Juan Almeida)
4. Préstame el quinto (Guaguancó - Floréncio Hernández y Mercedes Alvarez)
5. Mi puchunga de amor (Guaguancó - Calixto Callava)
6. Pim, Pam, Pum y Blem, Blem, Blem (Rumba - Chano Pozo)

Side 2:
1. Rumba de los rumberos (Rumba - Ricardo Díaz)
2. Hoy no es ayer (Guaguancó - Tomás R. Valdés)
3. Rumba de Inesita (Rumba - Carlos Embale)
4. La casa de mamita (Guaguancó - Carlos Embale)
5. ¿Por que me guardas rencor? (Rumba - Rafael Ortiz)
6. "1, 2 y 3" (Conga - Rafael Ortiz)

Thanks to Mark Sanders for the digital transfer.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Ibae: Ricardo Gomez Santa Cruz Ribeiro

Ricardo Gómez Santa Cruz
undated photo, collection El Goyo

Sad news from Havana: Ricardo Gómez Santa Cruz died Friday July 30 of prostate cancer.

Born July 26 1932 in Havana, at Santiago 5, between Zanja and Salud, "Santa Cruz" was a member of the comparsas Los Marqueses, La Jardinera y Los Dandys de Belén. He was a founding member of the Conjunto Folklórico Nacional. He was known principally as a singer and dancer, and especially admired as a "columbia" specialist.

His singing can be heard on the 'Homenaje a Jesús Pérez" LP, and on the unreleased album known as "Rapsodia Rumbera 2" here.

Santa Cruz
in the Conjunto Foklórico Nacional Catalog, 1963

Santa Cruz in Atarés,
February 2008

Here is some video of Santa Cruz singing guaguancó in 2008. Tremendo rumbero, que descanse en paz.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Earliest known folkloric rumba recordings, 1948

Our friend Berta Jottar just alerted us to Zeno Okeanos's site, where he has published sound files of the earliest known recordings of folkloric rumba, check it out:

Besides the guaguancó, there is also a columbia, a "santo" and an especially fine Abakuá.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eulogio "El Amaliano"

Eulogio El Amaliano is one of those legendary but elusive old-school rumberos that one often hears about but rarely hears.

I first heard him mentioned in Yoruba Andabo's 2003 version of Calixto Callava's song "Chano en Belén:"

Y los rumberos más nombrados de La Habana, allá en Belén...Rumbeaba Justiniani, Eulogio El Amaliano, Roberto El Carpintero..."

I was finally able to hear Eulogio himself on El Goyo's 2006 CD "La Rumba es Cubana" where he sings the title track, which didn't dissappoint. The song reveals a rumbero with a singular, inimitable voice and an unstoppable décimista:

Vamos a ver
quien pudiera con un llanto, maye
recobrar un bien perdido
o no haberte conocido
para no quererte tanto
Y va girando la tierra
Va dando vueltas la esfera
Mis inspiraciones rumberas
por el aire van vagando
ellas van averiguando
los misterios de la rumba
así van hasta ultratumba
en un sueño delirando
mientras que yo digo así
Sabe Dios a donde irán
que aventuras tendrán
Que lejos están de mi
Se irán mis inspiraciones
nunca serán de eternidad
como la Liga de las Naciones
que nunca fueron vencidas

* * *

Vamos a ver, vamos a ver
Ahora que estamos reunidos
Yo te haré la narración
Como yo pude poner
los astros a revolución
Un día empezé a cantar
Ahora te contaré
hice los astros virar
al espacio estremecer
Estaban los astros soñando
Disfrutando santa calma
Y con mi canto les digaba:
"todos les voy ahora virar"
la luna que estaba muy alto
le decía al sol bajito:
"Oí cantando el chiquito
Él vivirá en mi planeta
En eso tú no te metas"
Y el sol le contestaba:
"Yo lo oí cantar primero
Tu vivirás como rey"
Así me decía el lucero
La rumba es cubana,
la rumba es cubana
Sentimiento me apure',
La rumba es cubana

(You have to really hear it to believe it.) El Goyo has said that it took him years to get Eulogio in the studio, that the man simply didn't like making records. He passed away soon after the recording was released.

I had thought then that that was the end of that, yet another case of a brilliant rumbero leaving a scant recorded legacy for the rest of us who never had a chance to enjoy their artistry in person.

Fortunately for all of us, one October day back in the late 1980's at Amado's old house on Calle Concordia 57 e/ Galeano y Águila, our friend Lali (Raúl González Brito) got together with Amado, Eulogio (at the time in his 50's), Guillermo "El Negro" Triana, Palillo, Amadito and Lázaro Riso, and let the tape recorder roll.

Amado had the cassette stored for many years, forgotten in his collection until recently, and now we're happy to share here.

It's short, just about a half-hour long, with three guaguancó medleys and a columbia. The recording quality is not optimal, the percussion is the traditional two cajón and palito setup, pero "qué sentimiento!" From the first notes, after a brief introduction from Lali, and Eulogio starts in with his diana, you know you are in for something special. The repetoire includes a few well-known classics, as well as some lesser-known tunes, and lots of Eulogio's unique décimas.

El Negro, Amado, Lázaro and Lali can be heard singing at various times too, and the occasional horn from a passing car adds to the general ambiente.

Eulogio's distinctive voice reminds me of the singers from Harry Smith's "Anthology of American Folk Music," collected from performers who developed their art in the relative isolation of the pre-radio era, before mass communication and the demands of the record industry began to influence performers, favoring those with a more homogenous style and broader appeal at the expense of those with regional, or in some cases wholly individual idiosyncratic styles.

Once again our thanks to Laly and Amado for sharing these historic recordings with us.

Download here and enjoy.

Secuencia Guaguancó 1 con Eulogio el Amaliano by guarachon63

Secuencia Guaguancó 2 con Eulogio el Amaliano by guarachon63

Secuencia Guaguancó 3 con Eulogio el Amaliano by guarachon63

Columbia con Eulogio el Amaliano by guarachon63

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ibae: Manuel Martínez Olivera, "El Llanero"

Manuel Martínez Olivera, “El Llanero”
January 1, 1930 - January 29, 2010
Photo courtesy Berta Jottar

"El Llanero," a beloved and revered figure in New York's Central Park rumba scene, passed away on Friday January 29th, around 10pm.

Funeral Services will be held Monday, February 1st from 3 to 10pm at Funeraria San Francisco, at 1st Ave & 115th Street in El Barrio.

Berta Jottar writes:

“El Llanero” was born in Havana, Cuba on January 1st 1930, and grew up in Cocosolo, Marianao.
He was raised in a traditional rumba family in Los Pocitos, Marianao; his sister had a virtuoso rumba voice, his cousin Patato Valdés was an internationally known rumbero already living in NYC since the 1940s; and his cousins Los Chinitos from the Korea neighborhood in San Miguel del Padrón remember him as the one who coined the name "guarapanchanguero" for the rumba style they invented which eventually became the distinctive sound of contemporary rumba in Havana.
El Llanero was a rumbero completo — the highest rank of rumbero, one who knows every facet of rumba singing, dance and percussion. He traveled to Matanzas to study rumba with the elders, and was particularly known for the cadence of his guaguancó, his privileged melodic voice, and his improvisational skills.
Upon his arrival to New York City with the 1980 Mariel Boatlift, a community of young, mostly Newyorican musicians quickly embraced him. Felix Sanabria, Abe Rodriguez, Eliot "Yeyito" Flores, and the Jewish-American folklorist Paula Ballan would collaborate with him for the rest of his life.
Later the same year after arriving in New York, El Llanero co-founded the rumba ensemble Chevere Makun Chevere with Juan "Bambu," and a pair of brothers with eminent rumbero pedigrees: recent marielito arrival Enrique “Kike” Dreke, and Juan "Curva" Dreke, who had been living in New York for some time already and had already worked on the legendary rumba LP "Patato y Totico" (1968). (Both were brothers of the famous rumbero Mario "Chavalonga" Dreke.)

Chévere Macun Chévere at Soundscape, Winter, 1981

(Left to right: Juan Vega "Bambu", Yeyito Flores, Felix D. Sanabria,
Manuel Martinez, Yah Yah Maldonado, Abraham Rodriguez)

Photo courtesy Felix Sanabria

El Llanero also performed several times as a guest artist with the prestigious folklore ensemble of Orlando "Puntilla" Rios y su Nueva Generación.
However, El Llanero was a major player in Los Afortunados, a folkloric group specializing in Afro-Cuban and Afro-Puertorican traditions founded in 1985 by his dear friend Paula Ballan, along with Felix Sanabria and Abraham Rodriguez.
Together they performed in the Natural History Museum, Philadelphia Folk Festival, at Nassau Community College with the sponsorship of the NEA, NYFA, the Arts Connection, Community Works, and the Brooklyn Arts Council.
Los Afortunados performed often at important grass roots cultural venues such as Galeria Blanco y Negro in the Bronx, founded by Renny Molenaar and famous for its effervescent Cuban cultural nights.

Los Afortunados at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, August 1986

(Manuel 5th from left)

Photo courtesy Felix Sanabria

Los Afortunados recorded two collectable cassettes, “Los Afortunados" (January 1985) and a second edition (September 1989). Manuel toured with them natioanlly until 1989, when his health worsened.
Although El Llanero was illiterate, he composed songs based on his everyday experiences. For Alfredo Díaz “Pescao,” he was a jilguero (songbird) who combined different phrases to compose a theme, and his voice had the classic tonality of Afrocuban folklore. El Llanero would ask Abe Rodriguez and Felix Sanabria—both of whom were his rumba disciples—to write down his songs.
Abe Rodriguez, (El Llanero’s singing partner par excellence) remembers in particular El Llanero’s gift of improvising a response to any given situation on the spot. For example, "caminando por la calle yo la vi" was a response to "Ay, nena."
Abe also admired El Llanero’s way of combining stories to create a song. “He would sing santo and would merge one canto to another, and it would be always in tune. El tenia íbiono mendo, (he had feeling).”
El Llanero would link each song; for instance, the beginning of one song with the end of the last song, and to do that, Abe asserts, one must have an innate sense of tonality and range. Abe’s ability to sing songs “back to back” is rooted in El Llanero’s practice.
Another secret that El Llanero passed along to Abe was that the singer must be able to sing with the guagua, because the clave is in the guagua. If you cannot do it that means that you don’t have clave. Abe said, “El Llanero was like Tío Tom (Gonzalo Ascencio), él cogia cosas y creaba, así, simple y en tiempo de rumba.” ("He was like Tío Tom, he took things and created, simple and with rumba feeling.")
Perhaps one of El Llanero’s biggest contributions to the New York City rumba community was his teaching to several generations of musicians who frequented the internationally acclaimed rumba scene of Central Park. Every summer since 1981, El Llanero would arrive and organize the rumba musically; indeed, he would lock the rumba circle.
As soon as he approached the rumba circle, people quickly congregated, knowing that ya la rumba se formó! —that now the rumba was really going to start!
The amplitude of his tranquil voice would extend to the upper side of the rumba area, allowing everybody to hear him. Since the late 1960s, Central Park has been a laboratory and workshop for rumba practitioners, and it was there where El Llanero, with the joy of his voice made our lives possible in this harsh city.

El Llanero, exhuberant in Central Park

Photo courtesy Berta Jottar

May Manuel Martínez Olivera, El Llanero, rest in peace. His voice and musical candor will always resonate in our hearts.

His friend Paula Ballan, who played a crucial if underacknowledged role in the early years of the Central Park rumba, posted this to her Facebook Profile:
Manuel Martinez, el Llanero Solitatio (the Lone Ranger) died last night. He was 80 years old. He came to New York via an internment camp in Wisconsin, where he had had been sent after getting off the boat that brought him from Havana’s Mariel harbor.
He was, as his Lone Ranger title would suggest, one of a kind. He left home at age 9 to pursue the rumba and he traveled throughout Cuba surviving as a street musician by his talents, charm and guile.
He studied with elder musicians, both urban and rural; and became a master of the rumba and its traditions. He was not easily manageable in the scope and demands of Fidel’s Revolution. He could sign his name and read and write numbers, but was otherwise non-literate.
His life style and personality made him a nuisance to the new order. When the boat lift began, he, like many others, was rounded up and dropped off at the harbor. He was recognized by other musicians at the internment camp and received a sponsorship from some Cuban musicians who had already made their way to New York.
He joined them here, and became the King of the Central Park Rumba: an anarchistic gathering on warm, sunny Sundays at the southwest corner of the rowboat lake. Manuel’s voice did not need amplification. His songs and choruses transformed dozens of participants into a wall of syncopated, harmonized music.
His energy and charisma was astonishing and his songs were infectious, humorous, political, heartbreaking and unforgettable. For more than 20 years he brought joy and music to musicians hungry for the authenticity of the roots he so generously shared.
We were fortunate to have shared his music and unique personality and will sing his songs and tell stories of the times we shared. Many American folk musicians, in deference to Woody Guthrie’s influence, are referred to as Woody’s Children.
Those of us who learned the rumba from Manuel, gladly embrace the title el Llanero’s Children.
* * *

We are happy to share with you today the 1985 recordings by Los Afortunados, courtesy of Félix Sanabria.

Produced by Paula Ballan
Recorded by Gene Heimlich, New York City, January 1985.


Manuel Martínez
Abe Rodríguez
Felix Sanabria
Rocky Causcut
Ricky Soler
Mirta Masonet
Susan Sanabria
Paula Ballan
Junito Martínez

Track list:

Los Afortunados (Tema)
La Habana
Illabó ("Leguleya no")
El amor es siempre joven (by Manuel?)
Pero ya no hay sol
Ay, nena (by Manuel)
A la loma de Belén
Beny Moré
A mi manera
Columbia 1
Alma Libre (a capella)
Columbia 2

Download here.

Gene Golden and others have put up some video of Los Afortunados on youtube, here is one good example, click on the video to see more.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Recent academic research on rumba

Happy New Year! Now that the holiday festivities are over you may be ready to dig in to some recent research on rumba, especially as it relates to the diaspora and New York's Central Park.

Berta Jottar

"Zero Tolerance and Central Park Rumba Cabildo Politics." Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies Vol. 5, No. 4, November 2009.

The Acoustic Body: Rumba Guarapachanguera and Abakuá Sociality in Central Park" in Latin American Music Review, Volume 30, Number 1, Spring/Summer 2009. (Also available here.)

Lisa Maya Knauer

"Audiovisual Remittances and Transnational Subjectivities" in Cuba in the Special Period edited by Ariana-Hernandez Reguant (Palgrave, 2009).

"Racialized Culture and Translocal Counterpublics: Rumba and Social Disorder in New York and Havana." In Caribbean Migrations to Western Europe and the United States edited by Margarita Cervantes Rodriguez, Ramon Grosfoguel and Eric Mielants, Temple University Press.

"The Politics of Afrocuban Cultural Expression in New York City." Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Volume 34, Issue 8.

If you know of any more articles, let us know.