MONGO SANTAMARIA

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MONGO SANTAMARIA

Postby JohnnyConga » Fri Mar 25, 2011 5:23 pm

Here is a very nice article about "the Man".... http://meinlpercussion.com/percussion/m ... k-in-time/
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Re: MONGO SANTAMARIA

Postby jorge » Fri Mar 25, 2011 6:21 pm

Very nice article, thanks JC. Interesting that the Cuban musicologist Olavo Alen Rodriguez says the roots of Mongo's music were in Matanzas, even though Mongo grew up in the Jesus Maria part of La Habana.
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Re: MONGO SANTAMARIA

Postby Thomas Altmann » Fri Mar 25, 2011 7:41 pm

Olavo has his own issues going on, I think. First of all, he is a representant and flag-bearer of Afrocubanism, the declared national culture of the state that feeds him. Secondly, he seems to be convinced that Matanzas is the real real thing, much more than Havana. (When I was looking fo a batá teacher in Havana in 2005, he suggested a connection in Matanzas to me for this reason.) I think that when he points at Matanzas for the roots of Mongo's playing, he means it more in a general way.

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Re: MONGO SANTAMARIA

Postby jorge » Fri Mar 25, 2011 8:58 pm

Thanks for that insight Thomas. I never met Olavo Alen Rodriguez, and it doesn't say in his book "De lo Afrocubano a la Salsa" whether he is from Matanzas or not. It does say that he did his doctorate in ethnomusicology at Humboldt University in Berlin, your neck of the woods!
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Re: MONGO SANTAMARIA

Postby Thomas Altmann » Fri Mar 25, 2011 9:49 pm

Occasionally we talked in German with each other!

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Re: MONGO SANTAMARIA

Postby Omelenko1 » Thu Apr 07, 2011 5:33 pm

Jesus Maria, Mongo's neighborhood in La Habana, was/is very African in its tradition. Mongo's godfather was a slave in Cuba via Negeria. Mongo's grandmother used to take Mongo as a child to Pogolotti, a very deeply rooted Afican neighborhood in La Habana, she was a very good cook and took Mongo to "rituales de Palo" held in Pogolotti, this was in the late 1920's, early 30's. Mongo was witness as a child to these rituals or "bembes" and all these Afican rhytms were assimilated by him at a very early age, As a result his vocabulary on the drum was very rich in African traditions.

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Re: MONGO SANTAMARIA

Postby davidpenalosa » Tue May 24, 2011 9:46 pm

Mongo was first and foremost a quintero and a bonocero. When he wanted to have batá, a bembé or iyesá caja, or an abakuá bonkó on a record, he would hire Francisco Aguabella or Julito Collazo. Francisco and Julito had a wider vocabulary of Afro-Cuban percussion, but they did not achieve anything close to Mongo’s level of musical success.

chekeres.jpg
Julito Collazo, Francisco Aguabella, and Mongo Santamaria playing chekeres (also known as agbes, or guiros), New York City, 1957. The photo was taken at the recording sessions for Tito Puente's masterpiece "Top Percussion."

Thanks to Mark Sander's blog: Fidel's Eyeglasses, for this historic photo.


To my knowledge, there are no recordings of Mongo playing caja (lead) on either bembé or palo. However, we do hear phrases associated with those parts, in Mongo’s solos on 6/8 jazz tunes. While Mongo is my favorite conguero, I prefer Francisco’s solo on the original version of “Afro Blue” (1958) because of the complexity of its bonkó-like phrases.

afro roots.jpg
Afro Roots (1958, 1959) featuring the original version of "Afro Blue," and some classic rumbas with Mongo on quinto.
afro roots.jpg (98.13 KiB) Viewed 3134 times


Since the Cuban Revolution, with the Cuban government’s support of professional and amateur folkloric groups, it is common to hear drummers versed in a wide range of folkloric music. Even many Cuban trap drummers today, have extensive knowledge of the folkloric music. The same can be said of many contemporary professional and amateur percussionists in this country, including myself.

Mongo simply grew up in a different era, the era when the tumbadora (conga drum) was first integrated into popular music groups, and you had to learn by watching. I credit Mongo, more than anyone else, with bringing the quinto vocabulary into stage band drum solos. His timbale solo on “Mon Ti” (1957) remains one of the best recorded solos on that instrument.
-David

top .jpg
Top Percussion (1957) by Tito Puente. "Mon Ti" features Mongo (1st) and Tito (2nd) on timbales.
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Re: MONGO SANTAMARIA

Postby FidelsEyeglasses » Thu May 26, 2011 12:43 am

For me.. Ramon "Mongo" Santamaria was and forever will be "THE MAN".
With all due respect to Tata... ever see or hear him play timbal or bongoes? I never have.
BTW, those drums with the tunable hardware on the cover that David posted.... I'll bet 100 bucks those were 'Requenas'.

M.
http://fidelseyeglasses.blogspot.com/2010/05/mongo-santamaria-smc-tico-lp-covers.html
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Re: MONGO SANTAMARIA

Postby davidpenalosa » Thu May 26, 2011 5:45 am

I agree, Mongo is the Man. He's the first conguero I copied. He more than anyone else, spread the conga drum across the planet. However, since he left Cuba in 1950, he does not have the same stature among Cuban congueros. Somebody like Tata Guines fills that bill.

mongo.jpg
records of Mongo Santamaria


From what I've read, Mongo was an instant sensation when he joined Tito Puente's band in 1950. Mongo stands out as exceptional on those early Puente records.

Figura6.jpg
Tito Puente: vibes, Mongo Santamaria: congas.


manny.jpg
Members of Tito Puente's band—Manny Oquendo: timbales, Charlie Palmieri: piano, Mongo: congas.
manny.jpg (86.76 KiB) Viewed 3033 times


Mongo was a street drummer—an authentic rumbero, who while not formally trained, possessed a musical genius which enabled him to blend his conga with all types of African American musics. He could play tastefully in the background on jazz tunes like Freddie Hubbard's "Sky Dive" and Hubert Laws' "Yoruba," but he could also play in-your-face as he did on the Temptation's Motown hit "Cloud Nine."

more Mongo records.jpg
Sky Dive (Freddie Hubbard); Wild Flowers (Hubert Laws); Cloud Nine (The Temptations).


Mongo's blending of Cuban rhythms with jazz, R&B, and funk was the conduit through which the conga drum entered the mainstream music scene. Mongo created this Cuban/American niche, seemingly by accident. During a brief period when Herbie Hancock played piano in his band, Mongo overheard Herbie working out the vamp for "Watermelon Man" during a break. Mongo heard a tumbao over it and starting playing to Herbie's tune.

watermelon man.jpg
Watermelon Man (Mongo Santamaria)


Mongo's cover of "Watermelon Man" became a hit. After that, the formula of R&B superimposed over Cuban rhythms became Mongo's trademark.
-David
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Re: MONGO SANTAMARIA

Postby JohnnyConga » Thu May 26, 2011 6:53 pm

Did u ever notice that until Mongo had a hit his face want shown on the cover of his albums especially the early ones on Columbia...the original El Pussy Cat album had a white woman dancing on it...when the tune hit--they reissued it with his face on the cover...the same thing happened at Motown until the groups had hits, there faces were never shown...they were selling music, not race....
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Re: MONGO SANTAMARIA

Postby davidpenalosa » Thu May 26, 2011 7:26 pm

Interesting observation Johnny.
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Re: MONGO SANTAMARIA

Postby davidpenalosa » Fri May 27, 2011 6:34 am

Here's Mongo playing with the Temptations:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBxFTzxc0Bo

Mongo Santamaria plays congas on the hit "Cloud Nine" by the Temptations. This is an example of Afro-Cuban rhythm seamlessly blended with funk. Mongo is playing a conga de comparsa, or mozambique-type tumbao here.
-David
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Re: MONGO SANTAMARIA

Postby burke » Fri May 27, 2011 1:06 pm

Interesting article but this jumped out right away:

" In those years, Cuba discovered Mexico and its rich musical heritage. Subsequently, the Rhumba, Mambo and Cha Cha Cha were all imported..."

Never heard that before.

Is that correct?
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Re: MONGO SANTAMARIA

Postby Joseph » Fri May 27, 2011 4:37 pm

burke wrote:" In those years, Cuba discovered Mexico and its rich musical heritage. Subsequently, the Rhumba, Mambo and Cha Cha Cha were all imported..."

Perhaps a dyslexic moment on the part of the writer, somehow got past the editor.

Makes more sense in context of article when you reverse the two:

" In those years, Mexico discovered Cuba and its rich musical heritage. Subsequently, the Rhumba, Mambo and Cha Cha Cha were all imported..."
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Re: MONGO SANTAMARIA

Postby davidpenalosa » Fri May 27, 2011 5:13 pm

By rhumba, the author of course means the son. You don't encounter the term's misuse that much anymore.
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