donderdag 22 november 2012

Merengue lesson

Last week I had invited 2 of my good friends to make a nice lesson about merengue. I've played some merengue in my live but I am not a great specialist in this rhythm from Santo Domingo. My 2 friends, Wigbert and Alfredo have much more experience on this subject. So they came to my place to help me out!
I had prepared my living room (my wife is always very glad when I occupy the room.....) with lamps, microphones and instruments etc. It takes me 1,5 hours to prepare the room.
When my friends arrived, we have to talk a lot because we don't see each other that much. Of course we start talking about the old days and have a laugh about the things we did back in that time. But finally we start recording and for me it is a busy day. I take care of the audio and video and I have to take care that it will be a good lesson.
During the recordings I found out that Alfredo and Wigbert are still very good players, but explaining the rhythms and techniques is a different story. Wigbert has some problems with the english language and Alfredo is having difficulties with the camera.... He is looking away a lot and he is talking to Wigbert instead of the camera.
It is surprising how much effect a camera and microphone can have on people. It can take a while before you get used to recordings and get comfortable with lamps and everything around it. Of course I am a musician and not a film producer or director. So I can make people comfortable in making music, but not with video recordings......
Anyway, when we played merengue together the 3 of us were enjoying it! Now I'm editing the movie and I'm very curieus about the responce. I think a lot of my subscribers will notice what I described, but I hope that everybody will enjoy the percussion lesson. The information that we gave is still very interesting and you can surely see the joy that we have playing together!
The next time I'll invite friends for making a lesson with me, I have prepare it better. And I got a new idea for youtube!! Perhaps I'll start a new channel in which I'll just play the beautiful rhythms with friends. There are so many nice drum rhythms I would like to share with you all. No lessons, just good percussion arrangements!

vrijdag 2 november 2012

Percussion cultures

I think, it was about 30 years ago that I started to play percussion. I was playing drums in our family band and my father said to me: Michael we are playing latin music, why don't you try to play these congas? This is how it all started for me.
I went to Rotterdam to study at the Conservatory and in my first year a great Cuban master (Justo Pelladito) came to give 2 weeks lessons to us. He left us with a lot of patterns for bata, congas and other instruments. Of course me and the other students practiced all the patterns in the years after he had left.
In 1989 I went to Cuba to study with Pelladito and other masters. Pelladito told me a lot about the different rumbas. Which way did they play in Matanzas, what is the difference with Havanna, how did the rumba get in Santiago de Cuba and so on! So I thought, those tumbadores are very, very important in rumba and you have to know how every pattern is in each rumba. My focus was still on the patterns, did I have the right timing, was my sound good ect.
The funny thing was, when I attended rumba parties in the street or when I went to the Sabado de rumba, I was told that rumba was not about the patterns for the tumbadores....... It is about the songs and about the dance!! The lyrics about social or political issues and the way of dancing are the main thing in rumba! This put my conga drumming in a complete different perspective.

This experience made me wanted to travel more and more to the countries with a strong percussion culture. I still wanted to learn the patterns from all kind of rhythms, but I was also more interested in backgrounds of the rhythms.
So I travelled to Africa (Senegal, Gambia) to study sabar and boucarabou. I just wanted to find out about patterns (still) and the context. The same with Brasil, I went to Recife for maracatú and frevo, to Salvadar da Bahia to see the bloco afro's and candomblé and to Rio de Janeiro for the escolas de samba.
Traveling to those countries gave me so much more information about the historical context, social aspects, ect. of the rhythms.
Do I use all this information when I teach or when I play in bands? No, in the end I'm still teaching and playing patterns, but it gives me a good feeling to carry this extra information with me. So if people all over the world ask me questions about rhythms I teach on Youtube, I'm glad to have information about the backgrounds. Of course, I do not know everything and I am always open for more knowledge about the percussion world!