Bongoceros as bandleaders - in the early days of son

What's the origin... when, where... history and evolution of this instrument.

Postby korman » Fri Jan 05, 2007 7:53 am

I read in the Ned Sublette's book "From first drums to mambo: history of cuban music part1" that in the beginning of the 20st century, the 10's, 20's, 30's - era of son sextetos and septetos, before the son ensembles expanded to include tumbadora, piano and other instruments - bongocero was often the star of the ensemble and the leader of the band, coordinating the rhythm section and signalling breaks and section changes with the bongo.

This sounds very interesting, but the author does not further mention any examples of this. So maybe experienced members of this forum know something more? Is this captured on any recordings?
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Postby zaragenca » Thu Jan 11, 2007 8:49 pm

Well tell him that his wrong,the leaders of the Sextetos in Cuba were the Guitarrists,and Tres/Players,later some of the singers became leaders when forming their own groups,(capitalizing on their names,(as Fernando Collazo,etc.).The exception of that rule was Alfredo Bolona,which is one of the pioneer bongoceros,but Bolona was an multi/instrumentalist,which played Tres/Guitar,etc., and set up his Sexteto Bolona, which was the straight up competition of the Sexteto Habanero,but few people know how 'Bolona', get to prominence and why the Sexteto Habanero got to make it big.Those are the details which you brother, Zaragemca is always talking about
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Postby zaragenca » Tue Jan 16, 2007 8:03 pm

Adding on the subject it is true the incorporation of piano and other instruments in the 20's and 30's,...The musical brakes were followed by,(a mona),musical riffs of the guitars,the incorporation of the Tumbadoras have to fight the'african perception' of the middle/class at that time,(20's and aerly 30's),and the ordinance of Gerardo Machado's prohibiting the use and playing of drums,( in public and private), so it was not untill he was kick out of the goverment/authority that the percussion instruments were openly back in the scenarios.(even when some Orquestras out of Cuba, were using them),...Later in the Conjuntos,the Timbalero would have the responsability of fill in the spaces,reinforcing notes, brakes,etc., and closing musical phrases.Dr. Zaragemca
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Postby korman » Wed Jan 17, 2007 7:01 am

Hmm, well Sublette does not give any reference in the paragraph I was referring to, so maybe that's his claim only. I think, though, that Peraza said in one of his interviews something similar - that bongoceroes were the stars of the ensemble in those old days. Still, being a star is not the same as being the leader:) Could it be, perhaps, that this was different in parts of Cuba? In Oriente bongo seems to have had (and still to have) more prominent role.

So zaragenca, then it is tresero or pianist who gives the musical cues for section changes etc.? When I was reading that paragraph of the book I was thinking about how rhythmical codes are used in west african drumming where leading djembe player can call the ensemble into another rhythm. I've also heard that Iya player can direct the bata group similarly. So I imagined that something like this (signalling the changes with musical codes instead of counting the bars) could done in non-folkloric music as well. Because I hate counting the bars:)
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Postby zaragenca » Wed Jan 17, 2007 9:21 pm

Welcome Korman,I know exactly what Peraza mean when saying that the bongoceros were the stars..The Timbaleros in the Qrquestras Typicas,have to follow and structure,(until the time for their solos),the congeros in the Conjuntos,also were following a percutive pattern when the singer was doing the main lyrics and could open up the articulation in the Montuno, or Guaracha/ part of the sons,but the bongoceros,(since the time of the Sextetos), were free to articulate riffs behind the vocalists so they have more freedom....Again for the Sextetos it was an specific musical/riff,(mona),or a musical phrase which was performed together,(everybody),which would mark the dynamic change, becouse with a few exceptions,there was not sheet of music for the Sextetos...In the Yorubas music it was the same, the singer is the one guiding everything,(but at one point the bataleros by playing the same sequences for long time, would know the changes and dynamic/calls and memorize the lyrics...Now in the ensembles which are playing only drums the leader,(in this case the Iya), is the one which establish the percutive signals and dynamics changes..... In the Araras would be the Djum Djum.Dr. Zaragemca
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Postby JohnnyConga » Fri Jan 19, 2007 3:16 am

Short list of recorded Bongo Band leaders

Jack Costanzo about 15 albums on Liberty label
Roberto Roena Y Su Apollo Sound about 11 albums
CANDIDO on about 10 albums the Decca label
Rigo y su Obra Maestro 2 new CDs
Jose Mangual Sr.-BUYU album and albums by his son Mangual, Jr.
Mongo Santamaria-85 to 95 albums
so chek these out...."JC" Johnny Conga... :D
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Postby zaragenca » Fri Jan 19, 2007 11:10 pm

Welcome JC,I think that he is talking about Cuba,and some of the Bongoceros aren't cubans,neither they belong to the 10's,20's,and 30's as the original posting said,Candido Camero,Mongo Santamaria,and Jose Mangual didn't even have band on their own until after late 60's,and Mongo and Candido in the late 50's and 60's were performing as Congeros..Dr. Zaragemca
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Postby korman » Tue Jan 23, 2007 7:48 am

JC, I've heard most of the players you mention, though not all the albums of course. There's so much music to learn from, and I'm only in the beginning of my way!

Yes, I was asking more about the early century because I don't know much about that, and from what I read in Ned Sublette's book I got the impression that bongocero being a band leader was more common in those days.
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Postby zaragenca » Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:37 pm

There are a lot of misconceptions in relation to several subjects in the cuban music,some of them have been the overlook of cuban/scholars,and some of them started out of Cuba,(I have seen some of them in articles myself).Dr.Zaragemca
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Postby bongosnotbombs » Mon Jan 07, 2008 10:37 pm

JohnnyConga wrote:Short list of recorded Bongo Band leaders

Jack Costanzo about 15 albums on Liberty label
Roberto Roena Y Su Apollo Sound about 11 albums
CANDIDO on about 10 albums the Decca label
Rigo y su Obra Maestro 2 new CDs
Jose Mangual Sr.-BUYU album and albums by his son Mangual, Jr.
Mongo Santamaria-85 to 95 albums
so chek these out...."JC" Johnny Conga... :D

I'd like to add

Armando Peraza- Wild Things

Preston Epps

Rubens Bassini

and Augie Colon.

Peraza, Bassini and Colon all eventually released
recordings under their own names showcasing their talents as bongo players.

Different genres for sure, and I am unsure if they ever actually led these bands in performances, but the recordings are in their name.




Edited By bongosnotbombs on 1199745507
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