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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2005 3:11 pm
by Gemma
Ok, Yoni, Untal, everybody, here we go!!!

As mentioned in another thread, I had the idea of creating a new thread with the name "The Drummer's Diary". A place where we all could write down and share with the rest of the world's drumming community whatever happens to us while drumming. The events of last night's gig for instance, or about the guy(s) we play(ed) with, the places we play in, or even something that happened to us on the way there. Anything that we like to share, written in a diary-like way. And to start with, I would like to describe something that happened to me last Saturday afternoon. So.... here we go!!!!

Frankfurt, 19th February 2005.

Due to a sudden change of family-plans for the afternoon I had all of a sudden the entire afternoon free! So I decided to call a guy I have been playing with once a week for the last four weeks. We hardly know each other. I play the congas, sometimes a bit of djembe, and he plays mainly djembe and a bit of bongo. Besides the two of us there is another woman who plays the drums and her husband who plays bongos, cow-bell etc, and a couple of times another djembe player who came along. I only met them about six or seven weeks ago and although we have a great time playing and do talk about this and that during our sessions, there private lives are still pretty unknown to me.

Last saturday, however, as he lives just down the road from me, I will call him "N", I gave him a call to ask him whether he had time and fancied a little short notice two-djembe-session. He agreed and we arranged to meet at 2 pm. When we met at the entrance to the place we practice in, a 2nd world war bunker which has been renovated and colorfully devided in lots of rooms of several sizes for bands to practice in, I noticed at once, that he was not well. He looked knackered, bags under his eyes, unshaved, a wreck. We started playing slowly. I myself wasn't feeling very lively anyway, sort of slow physically and mentaly, so that for the first half hour or so it didn't sound quite right, we just could not get into the rhythms porperly. I slowed the whole thing even more and started to play some very simple 6/8 pattern, very simple, nothing fancy. He got the hang of it and after just a short while we "connected". We started to get faster, our hands gradually got into this magical dance on the drum heads, and we got faster and faster, with me pushing in some solo varaitions inbetween with plenty of slaps, fully within the rhythm, almost in a sort of trance. We did this for at least 15 minutes and then stopped, both at the same time, suddenly. The whole situation had changed, we both felt it immidiatelly. He also looked different, still knackered but somehow more relaxed. And then, out of the blue, he started telling me about all the problems he's been having at home with his girlfriend, who is getting divorce from her husband, about all the trouble the still-husband is causing, about the two kids, 15 and 10 years old, who are having great difficulties assimilating the whole thing etc, etc, etc. I just listend to him, there was nothing I could do, there was nothing else he wanted me to do apart from listening. ´

After that his face changed. He was still sad, perhaps even more tired, but there was something else in his face, there was relief! And I just know, had we not have been drumming, his heart would have remained shut.

The magic of drumming!

Gemma, Frankfurt, 22nd February 2005

Edited By Gemma on 1109148971

PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2005 11:51 pm
by yoni
Hi Gemma!

Good to hear that drumming is working some magic for you and others. I have a strange thing happening to me lately, am having more gigs than ever, yet feel less tired than ever, hardly seem to need sleep at all these days. Like now, it's 1:30 am here, just came to a friend's house from a gig, a very high energy show, yet I can't sleep, so I got onto his computer to check out the forum...

Maybe it's because Spring is coming, maybe because there's a new lady in my life, but I just hardly seem to need sleep now, as if I want to savor every moment...

Well, I WILL go to sleep soon, so as not to burn out totally, but sure am having fun. The show went nice, been playing each Tuesday night at the same place 2 years, and the place is now jam-packed regularly. They have to put tables in the street itself, and still have to turn people away for lack of space; it's become quite an event. I get lots of praise and even adulation there and at other shows, but all I really want is the company of one special lady. Too bad I finished too late to get to her place and spend the night! Can't expect her to come to all my gigs and wouldn't want her to get tired of it anyway. Well, tommorrow's another day.

It is a blast playing with the band I worked with tonight, all super players, all young dudes, keeps me feeling young, too. I'm supposed to be the leader but there's no real heirarchy, everyone gives their all...

I feel like I'm still eighteen... Maybe someday I'll grow up.

Nightie night, all!


PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2005 2:37 am
by untaltumbador
Great! Gemma and Yoni. The ball is rolling!

It is good to hear from you and it is interesting to read your experience with your friend. I would say that he is very fortunate to have you listen to his pressing concerns.
I am inclined to believe that drumming is a good way not only for releasing frustrations and whatever other bugs are hanging around in ones head but, also, to facilitate the souls healing.

My turn: 21 Feb 05.

I woke up around 9 AM as usual (work night shift) and headed for a cold shower, my girl friend thinks am crazy. I sit on a folding chair next to the bed and place my near by Patato Valdez quinto in front of me and just start gently with the slaps while saying to myself “man I got to get this down”. I can tell that my girl friend gets a little nervous so I keep it down for about 20 minutes and then stop. I want to keep going but I am inhibited by hers in and out of the room. My girlfriend is a native of Guatemala, I mean a native, mostly, Indian, she is somewhat alien to Afro-whatever rhythms, sometimes I think that she is afraid of the sound (noise), however she never complains and I like that.
During days like this, weekends and holidays, when we are in the house I find myself sneaking 5 or 10 minutes of practice through out the day. I call them practice but I just can’t resist hitting the drum.
I have not had the pleasure to play with any one lately or hardly ever to put it bluntly.
It is ironic that in Miami, Florida, there is such a perceive lack of interest for a good old Rumba at the park or any other place else that I know of. Growing up in New York I could count on a Rumba circle just about every weekend in Central Park during summer. Here it seems that most tumbadores play in conjuntos or at Santeria celebrations.
But not all is bleak. I have ways to keep my drumming interest alive and kicking.

Hasta luego


:) :) :)

PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2005 12:34 pm
by CongaTick
It's after dinner -- and I'am ready to start my nightly practice from 7P-9P. I pull my papa tumba, mama conga, hijo quinto and my bongo stand into place and begin my rituals: tightening and tuning each head precidely...loosening fingers, wrists, isometrically exercising each, taping any splits, moving the throne into place...the skins welcome me. I begin with pressed rolls--quietly at first, gently. I work a basic tumbao on mama conga, spreading it out across quinto and tumba, working variations across each drum and combinations, re-tuning as I go. Then slaps...each hand on each drum...I turn on the stereo in front of me, loaded with 5 albums, punch up the volume, hit play, and I'm carried away playing variations, fills and solos on the tracks, always coming back to the clave...I'm pushing too hard. I back off, take a break, stretch again, and this time my family welcomes me with open arms.

PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2005 3:14 pm
by Gemma
Yoni * Untal * CongaTick!

Greate, greate and once again greate! It's working! And with some beautiful stuff as well!

Yoni, glad to hear things are working out for you. Enjoy every minute of it, I mean the drumming and THE LOVE! The only thing more beautiful than drumming, naturally from a drummer's point of view. (just kidding)

Untal, it's amazing, what you describe is exactly what happens to me. I also "sneack" to my congas everytime I can for short "practice" periods, which have really very little to do with practicing. It's more like responding to their permanent call, it's so difficult to see them, to go by and not to stop for a short while, which could acctually go on for ever and ever, as immediately I forget everything else around me. It's like being drawn by a magnet, a deep, permanent temptation.

What you mention about playing with other people is also something I share with you. I'm so glad I finally met these three other drummers to play with a few weeks ago. Until then it had always been me practicing, practicing, practicing on my own, apart from a couple of drumcircles, which, to be honest, I don't like very much. Too many people (30 to 40), you cannot hear yourself playing, feel pushed to hit your drum far too hard and end up having sore hands and zooming ears. Amazing that being in Florida it is so difficult to find people to play with. Then, imagine here in Germany, and playing outdoors... forget it! Maybe in June, July and August. At this very moment it's snowing, or rather raining something between snow and rain, it's uggly, windy, and cold and although 3:34pm it's so dark that the cars need to have their lights on. Yoni, as much to "spring coming". Lucky you being in Israel. One more thing for you to enjoy every minute!

CongaTick, beautiful stuff! I love the way you describe this ever repeating and also ever magnificent ritual before we get going. I very much like, no, I "need" rituals in my life and this one certainly is one of my favorites. When I play with other people I get there at least 30 to 45 minutes earlier to be able to do this ritual very slowly, aware of every turn of the tuning screws, placing the congas in front of me exactly the way I like etc. A necessary process to clean myself, to leave this world and enter the other one, the magical world of strokes, rests, intervals, pulse and rhythms. What a beautiful and healthy addiction!

The world is, among many other things, a drummers' village. Right now someone, somewhere is tuning his/her conga, entering that other world. I hope she/he lets us know about his/her experiences there. I'm already looking forward to it.

Be all greeted!


PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2005 8:00 pm
by yoni
Hola, everybody!

Untal, I didn't know you are also a native New Yorker! The Rumba jams in Central Park in the 60's and early 70's were my main inspiration at first, so was jamming along endlessly with Santana albums. I know what you mean about feeling a bit funny about practicing when someone else is around... I hate to feel as if I'm bothering anyone, luckily I have several places, including outdoors, where I can play alone if I want to. Yes, Gemma, I feel lucky to be in a place where it's Spring and Summer most of the year, one of the main reasons I left NY. Weather there just doesn't agree with me, nor does the general rat-race feeling and all those buildings...

Today I had a full day of rehearsals, in the early afternoon with an ethnic percussion group where we play African, Latin, Caribbean and Middle Eastern styles on a variety of instruments. A very nice group of friends, always fun to jam with. Later had another practice with a woman who I work with sometimes in a duo, we play at a wedding in the North this weekend. Also various ethnic styles.

Congatick, I also like changing the tuning of the congas, especially to get within the tonality of other instruments that might be joining. And I'll adjust tuning if others change keys between tunes. Conga tones can be so pure that if they're out of tune with accompanying instruments it can sound really off to me.

Between the gigs and my part time maintainence job I'm managing okay; no savings, no car, but able to keep my head above water and enjoy lots of music, nature and more. I like these days full of music. Every day should be like this.

Greetings to all,

PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2005 1:05 pm
by CongaTick

You're dead-on right about re-tuning to match accompanying tonalities. Melodic percussion fuels the groove even more deeply. I'll adjust tuning and play across the 3 congas and bongos simultaneously to find the fit, and when it clicks the texture and drive synch solidly with band members and listeners alike.

PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2005 6:34 pm
by JohnnyConga
Hey Yonni maybe u and I sat on the same bench in front of the lake jamming together, back in the late 60's early 70s. Given my 3 years in the military from 68 to 71,(I'm 56 now) I played in Central park every sunday in 68 and returned in 72 to the same spot, and my old friend "Marty" , the handle bar mustachioed, eleke wearing, Cuban cigar smokin, chekere playing, brother. We hung out all the time with Marty. His sons play Bata. Marty was also an Architect, and Master craftsman, he hand made all the Bata drums his sons have today. Oh I can tell you guys story that would fill up many pages here, this has been just a very short one......."JC" Johnny Conga......... :;):

PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2005 6:44 pm
by JohnnyConga
Hi Gemma ...I used to live in Feudenheim, Lampertheim and Mannheim, back in 69-71. I was at the time the ONLY working conga player in "West Germany" at the time. I worked with 7 different bands in that time and was with one for over a year-"The Afro-Directions", they were African brothers that primarily played mostly James Brown music, and they were great to work with, I had a ball with them touring all over Germany and playing a lot of "E-M", (enlisted mens clubs), and Discoteques. Another band was the Avantgards that played a lot of Blood Sweat & Tears type music. Then the one I loved the most was "Tommy Harris & the Fabulous Upsetters". Tommy was ex Air Force and played the drums. The unique thing about him was that he would call out the number of the tune rather than the title of the tune, and he had over 125 tunes in the book, mostly R&B. so he would look at me and go ok number 62, and I would ask him anyway which tune was it. I never had them all memorized by the number. But that was his way. He was very cool with me and took very good care of me on the road. In the military I got 30 days a year off, so when I took my month off I would tour with the variety of bands I performed with, even played on the Cruise ship out of Heidelburg going up the Rhine river, we also used to jam under the bridge in Heidelburg, of course during the summer.......I got more for ya......"JC" Johnny Conga........ :;):

PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 2:49 am
by untaltumbador
Gemma, yoni, CongaTick and JC it’s great to see this thread taking off.
JC, which branch of the service were you in? I also joined in 68 until Dec of 73. I served with the Army and saw a year in Viet Nam. In 78 I enlisted again in the Army and got stationed in Hanau, West Germany until 82. I am now in the Air Force Reserve and have less than a year to retire. I lived on Riverside Dr and 136 St in Manhattan NY and Graduated from G.Washington HS. There were, from time to time, some good local rumbas on the Riverside Park, no big names, just a bunch of guys, it was great.
Hey, how is that video project coming alone? I purchased the Tomas Cruz congas method from Isaac and the material seems pretty comprehensible on volume one.
I don’t think you remember me but I had a chance to talk to you one Friday night at Adalberto’s Rumba on Six. here in Miami. After he closed his place Daniel Ponce opened his own little local on 16 Av and 8 St. It was going great at the beginning but later on the locals were complaining and he had to close it down. When you were here did you ever heard of a place called “the Niche social club”. I think it is somewhere in the NW, part of town, anyway from what I hear there is a lot of drumming going on every Sunday.



:) :) :)

PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 1:10 pm
by windhorse
I think that I came out of the womb a percussionist,, but it wasn't until about 10 years ago that I actually acted upon the natural gift. At least it wasn't fully wasted in this lifetime. ???

As a kid I was drawn to the drums from a TV show called the Banana Splits,, then the drummer with the Monkeys, and Grand Funk Railroad. I would immitate them by banging on garbage can lids,, so my parents bought me a drum and had me take drum lessons. I promptly quit because I just didn't want to spend the time anywhere other than playing outside. My grandparents would often laugh and giggle as I danced to modern music in front of the stereo. They would make racial jokes about me, as they and my parents often said, "that Dave,, he dances to the beat of a different drummer!" They had no idea how profetic that comment would prove to be.
Then, I discovered sports, girls,, and eventually just forgot about the possibility that if you want something, and have an inner gift, it might be a good thing to spend time figuring it out..

Anyway, I eventually became a school teacher. During my first experience in the classroom years ago, I sort of mentored a really tough behavior problem child. He was a devil for my cooporating teacher, but I spent extra time with him and decided he was a really cool guy,, just misunderstood and mischievous. Then, 9 years later I saw the guy selling didjeridus, bought one, and found a way to play rhythm which came naturally.
Suddenly, the problem I'd always had with getting my inner rhythm through the clutter of the loose body/mind connections I felt with trying to play through the hands, was side-stepped. So, I played didjeridu for about 8 years -- all the time getting those rhythmic connections to travel through the body - albeit through the mouth!
I even made a best selling didjeridu CD!
Animal Dreams
But, my real dream of playing drums was yet to be realized.
One of the guys I had been jamming with, Eric, who played mostly dumbek at the time, began studying Haitian drumming. I gradually started trying some of the drum parts as he needed someone to play simple parts while he worked on lead rides..
I began to realize that the rhythm which was developing with the didjeridu had helped to establish the necessary body-mind connections to get the drums to do what I wanted them to do!
Imagine that!! I could play a drum!! whoohooo!
But, that wasn't enough! Like a drug it has infected me and I can't stop learning! I began to go with Eric to the mountains to take lessons with the Colorado guru - Dave - who is an amazing source of hand drum knowledge. Actually, he's a bass player who went musically crazy years ago and studied many different drumming techniques from many different masters.
So, now, three years later, I have a full set of 4 Mahogany Sol congas, a set of three cajons, two twinchin, about 8 old brass cowbells, two set of clave, a dozen palitos, a set of 3 shekere on the way, daily web visits to various percussion sites, and two or three Afro-Cuban drums sessions with Eric, Dusty, and several others a week!
We just practiced last night at Margie's house with the novice group,, and they're getting better!!
I'm beginning to get a real affinity to the quinto in Yambu! The guys somehow almost always let me do the lead on that rhythm, and I admit I sure love it!
The hands have toughened up to very little or almost no noticeable strain after a night of playing, which I thought would never happen.
Neighbors tell us how much they enjoy our music... :;):
Amazing eh??

Anyway,, thanks so much to all of you, to the makers of drums, to the many different ethnic groups, lost and present civilizations who carried on the traditions of drum oriented songs, and to the world for being such a great place to make sound!!


Edited By windhorse on 1109337802

PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 2:40 pm
by Gemma

JC, great to see you joining in this thread. My goodness, you all seem to have quite a curriculum vitae. Have you been to Germany lately? If not, I reckon you would not recognize it again. I came here from Madrid the first time, aged 16, in November 1979 to study German. Initially for six months but ended up staying till the summer of 1983. Already then this country would have been quite a different one to the one you and Untal saw during your stay 69-71/82. I came back again in Feb. 1995 and found a different country in many ways, but that would be a matter for a different forum.

I can imagine what those spontaneous drumm sessions in the park must have been like. On a certainly lower level a similar thing happens in El Retiro park in Madrid almost everyday, specially at the weekends. In this case the instrument generally played is djembé but occasionally there are one or two congueros supplying the warmer tones inbetween.

Hola Untal! I also have the Tomas "Tomasito" Cruz Conga Method, but Volume II. Before I bought it I always used the rhythm-patterns from this web-page (thank you a 1000 times for this great site by the way), but since then his is almost the only method I use. I use the book in the practice room,(you know the mentioned bunker), and check before and after the speed, movements etc with the included DVD. I think it is a great method, worth every cent. Only a shame you only see his hands in the DVD. I mean, that is really what is all about but, it would be just a bit more personal if he had been introduced or somehting at the beguinnig of the DVD. The book is also great, with loads of info about the different rhythms, CDs to buy etc. But again, stuff for the other thread in this page. However, how is Volume I? I'v been thinking about getting it as well for the basics, which I am afraid I somehow skipped and find myself going back to ever and ever again. It is like when building a house, the steadier the fundament, the higher you can get.

Yoni, also in this thread, thank you very much for your "Short Story". I have taken the liberty of printing it, I hope you don't mind. I won't be using it for anything, I just want to be able to read it again whenever I feel like it without having to start the computer. Which leads me to the next point:

I have two weeks off!!! I will probably be flying to good old España on Sunday. I will take my 12" Remo Djembe with me. I hope that the wheather in Madrid will be warmer than here in Germany so that I can join in in El Retiro park. I want to go to the mountains to do some trecking too. I know places there where I cannot wait to drum at!

Windhorse, great lines! Thank you for sharing them with us. I must also have been born a percussionist. All through my life I have been drumming on desktops, chairs, my lap, the steering wheel of my car, whatever, but I always neglected it or didn't appreciate "the call". First at the age of 40 I got my first set of congas. It took my just a few hours to get addicted, despite of the obvious initial frustration due to lack of thechnique and stamina in my hands and wrists. Now I could spend several hours a day, everyday, drumming. At work my colleauges complain all the time because my hands are always doing "heel-toe" either on my lap or on the top of my desk.

Anyway, I wish you all a great time. I'll be back at work on 14th March and I do not intend to see a computer until then, since I spend at least 70% to 80% of the time in front of one at work.

Jolly good drumming, be good, and if you cannot (don't want to) be good, be careful!


Edited By Gemma on 1109342563

PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 3:49 pm
by yoni
Hi Gemma and everybody!

What fun to see this thread! Johnny Conga, I am just about sure we sighted up at one time or another in Central Park. Your friend Marty sounds familiar, too. I was barely starting then and mostly I would just stare at you guys in wonder. Those days there were jams under every tree. What a scene.

Hey CongaTick, I am sure you are keeping the bands and listeners ticking along happily. They should be happy you're tuning up with them. I'm sure you are, too.

Tonight I'm supposed to play at a very small nice pub here where someone makes his own beer. Will be joining an Argentinian singer and a guitarist for Mercedes Sosa style music, tangos and so on. I'll play bongos and cajon. Slowly getting them to increase their Rumba repertoire and spice things up a little more. Should be fun.

All the best to all,

PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 8:46 pm
by untaltumbador
Amigos tamboreros

It is interesting to read how and when hand drumming became a part of us.Windhorse, a few years ago, while switching TV channels; I saw this flash documentary on a 5 year old child playing a pretty good Tumbao in Puerto Rico. His dad was recalling how he practiced with the Claves around his wife, then pregnant. One day the dad heard the claves coming from his son room and he could not believe his ears, his little son was playing them without, actually, any prior instructions. He realized his son musical potential and began teaching him conga drumming. Amazing! This little child already playing! I lost track of the story, if anyone has kept up with it, please share the progress.

There is definitely a strong magnetic field between my tumbadoras and I. It defines logic itself, it’s way beyond any desire to be or to become, it is like soldiers going to war knowing that they may die, it is like Nietzsche’s Will to Power, without the will or the power. When I sit before my drums to play them it’s like doing something that I need to do regardless of the outcome. A friend of mine from time to time asks me when was I going to play in a band, I tell him that I am not ready yet that I still have a long way to go, he answers, dude, you are 56 and not getting any younger, if it‘s not now then whenever you are ready it may be too late! I laugh, but I am thinking, hum, maybe he is right. Reality kicks in; do I want to be a musician? Do I need to be one to enjoy what I am enjoying now? I think not! I think, rather than playing in a band, I would like to dance to what the band is playing. Oh well!!!

My regards to all y’all

:) :) :)

PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2005 1:48 am
by JohnnyConga
UNTAL ...I went Army...communications center specialist...3 years . Nam in 68 then Germany-Mannheim-Coleman Barracks, until 71, then Honorable Discharged. Yea we used to jam in Riverside park and try to pick up the girls at "G-Dub", we played hooky to pick them up and go to hooky parties...I will be shooting my Video/DVD in about a 3 weeks. What is your real name? I remember jammin at Adalbertos place in pequena Habana with Miguel Cruz which u can still visit at Adalbertos site. El Niche Club I think is Adalberto's new place up on NW 43rd and second the Design center.....if you need to hook up wioth some rumberos in Miami lwt me know and I'll turn you on to who I know lives's just getting there asses out in the sun to play..... :D ...peace..."JC" Johnny Conga....