"The Drummer's Diary" - share w. us what happens to you drumming

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Postby yoni » Wed Mar 16, 2005 5:44 pm

Welcome Dantino!

Jamming is most fun for me, too. At home, playing along with a CD or radio can be fun & practice, not like a jam, but better than a metronome. You can experiment continually over grooves; no one in the band minds...
Radio can help flexibility - you never know what's coming next.

all the best,
yoni
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Postby Gemma » Thu Mar 17, 2005 11:49 am

Madird, Sunday, 6th March 2005.

It had been a dark, cloudy, very windy, freezing morning, far too cold for the beginning of March in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula. This year the winter came late, very late, or maybe he just decided to let us feel his presence towards the end of his by nature assigned period. But absolutely unexpected and against the announced weather forecast, around midday almost all the clouds disappeared. The cold Atantic wind took them away, to the east, to the place where the good winds go to, leaving only some little white clouds behind, merely for decorative purposes, to enhance the deep blue sky that, all of a sudden, had been spread above us as a canopy, to shelter and inspire us.

It is Sunday, the end of the first week of my two-week-holiday, and I have not been able to play djembe yet. It has just been too cold to play outdoors. I brought my 12" Remo Djembe with me from Frankfurt as my hand luggage. A pity you can not fly with a conga, I do miss my black Meinl Fibercraft Conga with traditional rim and a rather thick head, the one I use to play outdoors, but then again, it would have been far too heavy to carry around, and I like, no, correction, I need mobility. I always travel light, can go on a four-week-holiday with my hand luggage only, but this time I had to check-in my bag as you can only have one piece of hand luggage and there is no way I am going to separate from my djembe.

But now the afternoon looks promising, I grab my djembe, jump into the next 146-bus and go to El Retiro park, Madrid's green lung and an essential social valve for accumulated city-pressure. It only takes me 15 minutes to get there, most Spaniards sit now at Sunday lunch, the traffic is fluid, I much rather sit at my djembe, uhmmm, delicious! By the time I enter the park, I have to take off my jacket, the sun reminds me of the fact that we are in March and, as he stands higher up in the sky, his rays have to go through less atmosphere, even more delicious! I go to my favorite spot, a sort of small amphitheatre, a monument to two Spanish writers, the very talented and very funny brothers Serafín and Joaquín Alvarez Quintero, with a little fountain in the middle of it. I am alone, there are some people sitting in the sun scattered around in a respectable enough distance so that I do not feel I would be disturbing anybody. I take my djembe out of the bag, tune it up to my favorite pitch, apply some sea butter to my hands, make myself comfortable and get started, slowly, just with soft touches, rlrlrlrl, shoving in some open tones, slaps and bass strokes occasionally, then more, and more, innovating, creating new patterns as I go along warming up. It does not take me long and I am somewhere else. I do have my eyes open, through my powerful climber's sunglasses, which block off most of the undesired rays, I see a peaceful world. And I also hear the mentioned strokes and parallel to them the relaxing and motivating sound of the water pouring out the fountain, but I am not there. They are not my hands making these sounds come out of the drum. My body might be sitting here in the sun, perceiving every sound, every move, all the light around me, but I am not here, my soul, although perfectly aware of the very instant, has been transported somewhere else, to the place where the good vibes, the good sounds go to.

Suddenly I perceive something else, there is another pattern and I jump in, involuntarily, effortlessly. This time the sounds reach me from somewhere else, I follow them but they are definitely not mine. And I open my "open eyes". What I mean is, I feel as if I had opned my eyes, which had been open all the time, and I see again exactly what I had been seeing all the time, but now I sense it in a different way. I have gone from a form of perception into another one, as if I had awakened all of a sudden, and then I realize that I am hearing someone else drumming, not one but several drums. And I know where theses drummers are, at the lake, about four hundred meters away, at the usual gathering point, a big square-like monument to King Alfonso XII, the grand-grand father of our present King Juan Carlos I, shaped as an amphitheatre with steps that go down to the water on which you can sit and enjoy the best sunsets in Madrid. A very cosmopolitan place, quite touristy but still unmistakably original, a place you wil only find in Madrid. There are similar places all around the world, but this one here is somehow quite different. It is difficult to describe it with words. Maybe it is the mixture of cosmopolitan flare, a touch of seediness and a great load of social tolerance in such a beautiful setting what makes this place so unique.

Anyway, I respond to the drummers' call, gather my stuff and go there to join them. On my way there the sound of the drums keeps getting louder, clearer, and I realize that there must be already at least a dozen drummers "at it". This place, as mentioned earlier, has an amphitheatre-like shape with the open side of the "U" directed towards the west, to a lake, on which people can paddle around on rented boats and watch the spectacle from the water. I enter the place, as usually, through the north side and as I look to my left I realize that there are already around twenty drummers gathered. Short hellos are exchanged, I get my drum out of the bag again and sit down to play.

These spontaneous drum circles have no leading drummer or concrete rhythmical order. Rhythms just happen. The drummers are a multicultural mixture from countries like Nigeria, Senegal, Congo, Ivory Coast, Morocco, USA, Canada, Spain and other European countries. The atmosphere is peaceful yet electrifying. In the air there is an entire smell-cocktail of the respective season, be it spring, summer, autumn or winter, mixed up with permanent clouds of forbidden but by low tolerated consciousness changing substances. And these gatherings go on for hours! In the summer, when the park is the only place in the citiy without air condition where you can survive the heat, be it day or night, the later in the night, the more people are gathered. And there are not only the drummers. For every twenty drummers there are at least fifty people watching and dancing. I am talking here about people of all ages, including children with their parents and grand parents.

But the most amazing thing is, in my view, how, despite of the absolute rhythmical anarchy, somehow incredible patterns arise and are kept for sometimes 15, 20 minutes or even longer. And you sit there, being part of it, and look around you and see a sort of happiness in your fellow drummers' faces difficult to find anywhere else. A sort of visual communication takes place thanks to the acoustical connection, and all language and social barriers vanish.

Once again, the magic of drumming!

Shalom, Paz, Peace to you all!

Gemma


PS: Neither immediately before nor during these events took place were any, neither legal nor illegal, consciousness changing substances consumed. :cool:




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QUE SIGA LA MARCHA, SIEMPRE!
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Postby yoni » Thu Mar 17, 2005 3:16 pm

Wow, beautiful, Gemma!

I'll have to visit Madrid and El Retiro Park one day!
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Postby Gemma » Fri Mar 18, 2005 12:07 pm

Shalom Yoni!

Thank you. Yes, Madrid is indeed a great place to visit, ideal for a long weekend. You can be on the road 24hrs a day with culture, shopping, eating, drinking, dancing and/or just contemplating and relaxing on a bench or in a café. If you do go, let me know and I can give you a few tips on where to go etc.

Great to see this thread working so well too. After my family, my congas, a couple of friends and a little garden we've got, this site is one of the nicest things of being back in Frankfurt after my holiday.

Paz y saludos a todos!

Gemma




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Postby untaltumbador » Sat Mar 19, 2005 1:13 am

Saludos
Gemma your thread is going great. Good to hear from you and your visit to Madrid’s El Retiro Park I wish I could have been there with the group. This rhythmical anarchy, you described, is quite interesting, I‘ve been part of it in different occasions, it is what keeps the energy alive, in my opinion. I always walk away feeling goooooooooooood!

I went to the Calle Ocho festival last Sunday, 13 Mar 05, here in Miami FL. As in every year past it was packed with Hispanics and none alike. There was music coming out from everywhere under the beautiful weather. I watched and listened to Lacho Rivero and his Rumberos this was, for me, the treat of the day. Lacho had in his ensemble the works, three women, one singing and playing the claves also doing the chorus with the other two, Also up front, one Tumba, Lacho on the Segundo and a mean tuned Quinto, all wooden congas with real hides, talking to each other, humming, laughing, and yelling as hand moved up and down on them. In the back row five Chekeres players, another on Cow bells and one more on the Guagua. The age range among these Rumberos must have been from 10 to 75. I would, in jest, say that two of them were out of Elementary school because it was Sunday the older member and his Chekere gave me the impression that they know each other a long time. They played Guaguancos, Columbias, Yambus you named it and they played it. These Cubans ‘Niches’ (a homey word for Afro-Cubans) had everyone dancing the real thing, I mean, there were peoples moving their body in some really interesting and fun ways. It is amazing how three drums and few other percussion instruments can move so many people. It was great!

Untal

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Postby JohnnyConga » Sat Mar 19, 2005 3:46 am

Untal....I know Lacho we used to rehearse in a studio he has in Miami. He is really not one of the better players in Miami, trust me. I am even surprised they had a group like his perform. They don't cater to "live Rumba" in Miami. Please remember that the Cubans in Miami are not like in Cuba today. Rumba is for "black" people-not for "white" Cubans, and it came out of the "solar's" of Havana.that is how they feel in Miami. But the festival is only a shell of what it used to be. When I got to Miami in 1986, the festival had 65 stages of "live" bands. In 10 years it was down to like 30 stages with half live music and the rest all "tracK" groups. Which is what I call "mediocre" entertanment. By the time I had left Miami in 2002 they were down to about maybe 15 stages of some kind of what they like to call entertainment. I hope you had some Lechon at least, I so miss that....um um um "JC" Johnny Conga-Miami ex-patriot :;):
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Postby untaltumbador » Sat Mar 19, 2005 4:03 pm

JC

I believe you are correct in regard to Lacho, he may not be one of the best, however, at the moment he seems to be the only one in Miami doing his Rumba in public events. As far as the calle Ocho festival is concerned, I have to agree with you. The number of bands seems to have decreased as the years go by and must of them as you said are tracks. The crowds remain as big as ever and one expends most of the time walking from one place to another. I usually try to find the Rumberos which are staged around 15th avenue and that’s as far as I go. Going back to Lacho again, he is quite an enterprising musician. I saw a musical show he put together a few years ago called “La boda de la Tumba y el Bongo” perhaps you were still in town then. He is the one who mentioned the so called “Niche social Club” which I have yet to find. I have also seen his performance several times at the calle Ocho’s Cultural Friday which is held on the last Friday of every month between 16th and 13th avenue.

Untal
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Postby JohnnyConga » Tue Mar 22, 2005 5:48 pm

Untal...haven't u gone to the Adalbertos' Rumba in the Design district ?? He was literally forced out of Pequena Habana for his "storefront" club/lounge, where myself Daniel Ponce, Miguel Cruz and other Rumberos would go on a friday or saturday night, so he moved his operation to the Design district . I think he is on 46th and 2nd ave. I belive the NIche Social Club is on 18th and Calle Ocho. Lacho is a "business man" more than a musician, and is one of the "only Black" Cuban musicians that has kinda been accepted in the Miami scene. Most Black Cuban musicians goto New York or L.A. whre they are more readily accepted. En Miami, La Rumba no Vive!"........ :( Fomer Miami Beach resident ..."JC" Johnny Conga.... :;):
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Postby ABAKUA » Wed Mar 23, 2005 3:19 am

Ive heard this from many a percussionist Ive met from the U.S and Cuba.


I hate politics and racial intolerance. :angry:
Pisses me right off.
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Postby windhorse » Thu Mar 24, 2005 5:21 pm

Dear diary, ???
After two days of working with the new Gajate bracket/foot pedal set-up, I finally yesterday managed to get a Guaguanco to fit in the correct spots! Jeeze! I didn't think it'd be that difficult!!!
Had to start right over at the beginning and analyze each note, starting with the sheet music to double check how the clave fits.. How embarrassing!

Oh well, I knew it wouldn't be easy.
Guess I'll work on that for a few days and then try to get a son clave to fit around all the mambo, songo stuff I've been working on..

I've monkeyed quite a bit with the position of the block on the bracket, the length of the beater for the swing, changed the type of beater to one with a wooden disc, the distance of the swing, and the push rate of the pedal.
But, it doesn't yet feel perfect. And again,, I'm aware that you can't expect everything right away, ,, but it's difficult to squelch the excitement of learning something new!

All the best.
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Postby Héctor » Tue Mar 29, 2005 1:23 pm

Monday 28th March 2005

It's Easter-Monday, a bankholiday in this wherabouts, and a deep feeling of lethargy hangs in the air. It is not only the waether, which no doubt, contributes to it, it is as if we were all enormously fat and heavy, everything seems to happen in slowmotion. It cannot be the usual easter-feast, we did skip it this year, the christmas one had been bad enough. Is it our budies adjusting to the summer-time we have been having since saturday night? The only person with his normal speed is my two-and-a-half year old son, who keeps running away in the park, not caring a bit about what/who he leaves behind or what/who might be ahead of him. He just runs off, as fast as a Thomson gazelle, without stopping once to even have a look and see whether his elephant-father is running after him, completly out of breath, with his tounge hanging miles long out of his mouth. That's it!!! I've had enough!!! When I finally get hold of him I drag him home, don't care about him crying and all the other "shocked" parents looking at me as if I was a member of the Spanish inquisition. Once home I "hand him over" to my wife who has been enjoying a short siesta, grab the car keys and escape to the studio. On days like these there is only one thing that can possibly help: my congas! But, will I "wake up"? How are my arms going to shake off this lethargy and be fast and strong enough to get some clear sounds out of those animal skins? Oh yeah! Those skins! They never let me down till now. They have taken all my frustrations, aggressions, disillusions, and given me so often fluidity, joy and oneness in return.

It dosen't take me long to get there, about 10 minutes by car. The room is cold, I put the heating on and slowly take my LP Classic quinto out of his bag. I have three more congas and one tumba but today it's a quinto day. Just the quinto to start with. I slowly turn the tuning screws, one by one, turn by turn, testing the pitch in between until I get that particular sound I like so much, impossible to describe it with words. I place two LP rubber conga feet underneath, put an elastic bicycle cord around my waist to hold the drum in place so that I can relax my legs, and start with my favorite warming up ride:

bbttbbttbbttbbttbbttbtbtbtbtbbttbbttbbttbbttbtbtbtbt...
l r lr lr lr l r lr lr lr lr l r ll l l l l ll rl r lr l rl rl rl rl rl rr rr rr rr

Slowly I fall into the usual trance-like state of mind and my arms and wrists, although still less efficient than usual, manage to shake off some of the lethargy and surprise me with some decent fluidity and strokes. I take out the tumba, tune it up and try a basic songo pattern:

b t s b b s O O and so on...
l l r l r l r r

and than my favorite variation:

b t s b b s OO / b o b t o s O o
l l r l r l r r l r l l r l r l

and it works! ok, less fluid than usualy, I need more concetration and get this or that stroke wrong occasionally, but my frustration is gone! I'm clean! And I love my son and my wife! What a great world all of a sudden this one is!

Héctor




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Postby yoni » Wed Apr 06, 2005 5:20 pm

Hi everybody,

Hope you all are fine. I'm okay but in 2 years a kind of rut job that kind of ties me down 7 days, with few chances to spend nights away. I have a fair amount of gigs and one steady, but am thinking of returning to Tel Aviv for chance of more, and leaving the janitor job. Of course the problem of continuing rent and child support only on music is real, but I'm tired of being a slave to this dumb job - I feel my drumming has progressed much lately - just got to get some business and promotional skills happening, I guess. I now live in a tiny pad but in a beautiful rural area - and not enough music work.
Oh well, just thinking out loud. Should I stay or should I go? Any advice appreciated.
:)
all the best,
yoni
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Postby pini » Wed Apr 06, 2005 6:57 pm

U should bring all your BRONX experience and start a salsa band in tel aviv :).
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Postby JohnnyConga » Thu Apr 07, 2005 12:09 am

Hey Guys ..just joined a 13 piece soul and funk band, check them out at http://www.typeaband.com . There all very good players, 5 horns, and their kickin. I feel like I'm back in my concert days with my full setup again of congas bongos timbales and toys, and getting to play a variety of music I grew up with. Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Tower of Power, Malo, they play it all and they are booked solid thru the summer. Up here(Seattle), they are called a "Corporate" band, private parties for Major companies and Casinos. We're gonna play at the Tulalip Casino, on the 15th and 16th of this month, my first 2 gigs with them. We had a 3 hour rehearsal, and they were very particular in what they expected of me. Basically they loved the way I played and what I did, but they went deaper with me, the whole rhythm section and I listening to the live music of the bands tunes and telling me what they heard in the tune, as to what toys are being used or whether the wanted me to come up with a conga or bongo part. So it was very challenging, cause it's been a long time since I've been kinda told what to play and how, which I accomodated them with whatever they wanted me to do. It turned out great!....I am also not the first that they tried out. What I realized later was that they "scouted" me out first at a club with another band and the guy before me, was let go, who only lasted one gig with them, and I got the call. Little did I know it was an "audition' ..hahahahahah I died. Been a long time since I "auditioned". So check out TypeABand.com.......tell me what u think? Peace and Soul...."JC Johnny Conga.... :D
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Postby windhorse » Thu Apr 07, 2005 12:32 pm

Wow! Johnny I just checked out the video they have on the website. The horns are friggen tight and really sweet! Great sound! And they sure look they're having a fun time!

Some good percussion will do wonders for them, as it's noticeably lacking in the vid.

Note,, couldn't get the mp3s to play.. Not sure if that's a problem on this end or there..

Have fun!

Dave
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