“The relationship is more intricate than just a bunch of passive
women who let a man do whatever he wanted,” Aimee Graham Wodobode, a
dancer who plays a wife named Sewaa, said during a recent interview
with five of the wives, called queens, at a Midtown restaurant. “They
believed in his mission and were ready to die for him.”
Wilson, whose character, Najite, met Fela when she 14 and described him
as a combination father, mother and comrade in the fight for African
democracy, said, “These were women who stood for something, who spoke
out with Fela against the corrupt African government.”
Koomson, whose character, Funmi, a former dancer, is pregnant in the
musical and hangs back with the band, said: “Fela could not have done
what he did by himself. Afrobeat music really takes a community. What
it requires is polyrhythm, many different sounds. In many ways that’s a
metaphor for community, for the call and response of African music. The
queens are that sound, that affirmation.”
Rare is the moment when a chance MySpace surfing session leads you to your next favorite musician. I found Miguelito on MySpace and he was kind enough to mail out a cd of his album, Essa Batida, for review.
Miguelito hails from Sweden and is influenced by Brazilian and African rhythms. The whole album has a chill vibe without losing the energy and Miguelito's warm vocals bring it all together ... "Essa Batida" has been in constant rotation on my iTunes and I have to admit that I now have a little crush on Miguelito!
From his bio:
Having the perspective of a drummer and a percussionist, Miguelito's
songs always have a nice swing to them, inspired by living in Brazil
working as a musician, but being influenced by African music as well. Add
to these beats some sweet harmonies that gives a nice atmosphere
music. On top of it all you can always sense the originality of the
melodies coming out of Miguelito. You might even start to wonder where
you're at... In the Caribbeans? In Brasil? No man, you're on planet
Miguelito where everything is possible!
Long before I knew I was interested in dance, all I listened to was 90s industrial metal and goth rock. Nothing wrong with that, besides being angry all the time, and there is a place for that vibe for sure but... One day I walked into the (now closed) Tower Records Classical Annex looking for something dramatic on the listening stations. What I found was unexpected, a tango CD by someone called Astor Piazzolla. While I didn't have the $$ for the CD at the time, I returned to the store for a solid week just to listen to that tango music.
Astor's genius has now been a solid staple of my music collection for nearly 10 years.
Piazzolla (bandoneón) and the musicians he assembled for this quintet
(Fernando Suárez Paz, violin; Pablo Ziegler, piano; Horacio Malvicino,
Sr., guitar; and Héctor Console, bass) gave the performances of their
collective lifetimes when they made this album, recorded in NYC in May
of 1986. It is the zenith of Piazzolla's career - and that's saying a
lot, considering the contributions he made to music in his lifetime.
music is nuevo tango - the traditional soul of tango, full of the
emotion that it has always carried (and with which it carries its
listeners and dancers), charged and reborn with all of the grit and
grime that exists `at street level'. Gosh - if the tangos we're used to
hearing and seeing in the old films made your grandmother blush, this
would most certainly put her on the floor in a dead faint. The music is
intricately composed - but at the same time, it is FELT in the depths
of the soul. There is nothing whatsoever cold and emotionless about it.
The musicians themselves are of the highest caliber - some are
classically trained, some have their roots in jazz, but they are all
under the spell of Piazzolla's vision. The quiet passages purr and
stroke the senses, the more strident ones will pick the listener up and
toss them around. The music will make you want to close your eyes and
drift away one moment, then have you sweating the next.
The music of Astor Piazzolla epitomized our situation in the modern
world with his fusion of folkloric beauty and contemporary tension. He
forged a new music that challenged the
traditionalist and left the
adventurous craving more. He took the music of the great tango masters
like Garde, ripped it away from the velvet-walled concert hall and the
soft-cushion drawing room, and slapped it down on the pavement of
Buenos Aires. Reviled by the critics, shunned even by the conservative
government, his music spoke to the next generation, and popular and
jazz musicians and listeners all over the world eventually fell under
the spell of his "nuevo tango." In recent years, Piazzolla has taken
the new tango back to the concert halls, composing and performing works
for chamber ensembles like Kronos Quartet, larger groups like The
Orchestra of St. Luke's, even an opera company. These works brought his
once radical music back into the mainstream.
Here is the editor's pick for your celebration. I've been listening to them for years and happy to share my favorite with you. The most amazing electronica is coming out of Mexico and the group on the cutting edge is: Nortec Collective Nortec Collectivedescribe themselves as sampling instrumental parts from dusty tapes of tambora and norteno band rehearsals & combining the use of electronics and dance music aesthetics with the hard, driving sounds and rhythms of traditional Northern Mexican street music.
Nor-Tec = a contradiction of 'Norteno' (of the North) and techno/ tambora: traditional music forms of the Northwest of Mexico.
Why Drum? A good question. Why do
ANYTHING if it doesn’t provide some benefit to you? There are
three primary reasons to tap into the power of rhythm:
1) Rhythm and Drumming helps you
to SLOW DOWN and re-connect with YOU.
Everyone has heard the phrase “Don’t
just sit there, do something!” but I’d like to offer something
different: “Don’t just do something, sit there.” And play
your drum! Let me explain: In our modern world, speed is king.
is considered better. More is superior to less. Action trumps
inaction. We want a lot of things, now.
But this world of hyper-stimulation has
it’s drawbacks: shorter attention spans, heightened desire to
consume, over-valuation of commodities. Ultimately, it places
attention and focus on the outside: what external items do I need to
stimulate me and make me feel whole and complete? This is a real
Drumming and Rhythm help bring us back
inside. The Power of Rhythm is the Power of Repetition. When we
lock into a beat, our mind SLOWS DOWN (and, ultimately, turns off)
and we re-connect with our physical rhythm: heartbeat, breath, muscle
movement. We stop looking outside of ourselves for stimulation and
approval; we begin to listen to the still, calm voice from inside.
Some call this intuition, guidance, Love, even God. I call it my
soul, or my positive lifeforce, or “axe” (“ah-shay”)*
as they say in Brazil. This energy resides in everyone and is
constantly attempting to share it’s wisdom and guidance.
Unfortunately, most of the time we are too busy, too much into “More,
Faster, Now” that we never stop to listen. That’s too bad,
because this message from our spirit is exactly what we NEED and WANT
to hear in order to live our lives in complete accord with our dreams
You’ll start hearing it and feeling
it when you tap into the Power of Rhythm.
(*Axe (“Ah-shay”) is a term
I learned while studying music and dance in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.
It means, roughly, “positive life force”; the energy inside all
of us that drives our dreams and desires.)
2) Drumming and Rhythm Helps Us
Connect with Others.
At the heart of being human is a desire
to connect. Most of the time this desire is to connect with other
people, but not always (it could be a desire to connect with nature,
creative ideas, spiritual matters, etc.) No matter, we want and
deeply need to feel a part of something bigger than
ourselves. The truth of our natural connection with all living
things has been lost through generations of isolation, separation,
loneliness. As we embrace a culture of materialism and consumerism,
and a spirituality that separates us from our highest power, we drift
But there is a practical and joyful (if
not new) way to reconnect: Rhythm! People have gathered for
thousands of years, in virtually every culture on the planet, to DRUM
TOGETHER. Human beings don’t do ANYTHING for a long time unless it
has a benefit, and rhythm provides a tremendous benefit.
Group drumming creates a supported
place where we not only connect with our own spirit (as mentioned
above), we THEN SHARE THIS EXPERIENCE WITH OTHERS. We are no longer
alone or isolated. Rather, we collectively feed our souls, our
higher selves, through the beat. And what a meal! Locking in
complimentary rhythms, and holding those beats tight like a muscle is
incredibly powerful, even thrilling. Many skills are needed to make
1) We must be willing to go to a deeper
place first individually and then collectively,
2) We must listen to each other,
3) We must communicate with each other
in the context of a unifying beat,
4) Most importantly, we must support
each other in maintaining this common beat.
As we develop these skills and insights
through drumming, it’s easy to see the cross-over to other (all?)
aspects of our life. Close personal relationships require a
willingness to be go deep both individually and jointly; all
successful work endeavors require outstanding listening and
communication skills. Keeping focus on the common goal (the unifying
beat) is the function of our socio-political system. Our everyday
life requires immense trust and cooperation (e.g. driving on the
proper side of the street, depositing money in the bank, flying in an
airplane). Being “in rhythm” teaches and nurtures these skills.
Despite our mistaken,
culturally-created belief that we are independent individuals, we
are, in fact, completely INTER-dependent. For example: think of
turning on a light in your home. Do you realize how many thousands
of people made that possible?**
Drumming and rhythm will help you
develop the practical skills needed to establish deeper and more
meaningful relationships in all aspects of your life.
(**The inventors who discovered the
power of electricity and shared their findings, the donors who
supported their research, the business people who invested their
funds to make this new idea financially viable, the workmen who
erected the electricity lines, the customer service representatives
who receive new orders, the technicians who hook up each home in a
safe and reliable manner, the homebuilders who construct the walls in
your home and run the electricity lines to your switch, the employees
who send out your bill, the service-people who fix your line when it
goes out, the technicians, hundreds of them, who continually (every
minute of every day) monitor the electricity grid to ensure that it
works properly, etc....)
3) Drumming and Rhythm is our
Entree into the Wide World of Music.
Music is fantastic! I’ve had a
chance to travel around the world studying music, rhythm, and dance.
The more I learn, the deeper the well becomes. The beauty, the joy,
the exuberance, the soul of music...what a joy! I feel totally
blessed every single time I’m near music; to hear it, to dance to
it, to play it, to teach it.
By learning world rhythms, you will be
learning about the PEOPLE who make the music. Music, like any other
art form, is a creative expression - it reflects the soul of it’s
creator(s). By studying drumming, in particular, we learn about a
culture from the ground up. Rhythm is like a tree, “from the root
to the fruit” (one of my favorite sayings). Drums are hollowed-out
trees with animal skins on top. Rhythm flows through our bodies,
starting from the feet and legs into the hips and lower torso (the
root), up the spine down our arms and to our hands (the fruit). When
we learn rhythms from a particular region, we are connecting with the
culture from a very base-level, grass-roots place. We start to
understand the soul of the people as we learn the rhythms that drive
their music and, to a very real extent, their lives. This is very
I remember the first trip I took to
Trinidad. For a few years prior, I was playing djembe*** for dynamic
dance classes taught by Mr. Wilfred Mark, a world-class teacher and
performer from Trinidad. As we became friends, he invited me to
join him for a cultural trip to his island, and I accepted. Far from
a “sit on the beach and drink a mai-tai” vacation, this was a
musical and cultural odyssey to the back country of Trinidad. The
modest country house we stayed was next to a home with over 100
chickens! We (there was a group of about 8 of us) woke to the
rooster calls at the crack of dawn each morning, just like everyone
else in the village. We learned traditional rhythms like Calypso,
Jab Molassi, Shango from the local drummers in an open-air, tin-roof
“dance studio.” But more importantly, we learned the soul of the
music. We learned the tempo of the island. We learned not only what
Trinidadians listened to, but WHY. My desire to learn the message
behind the music gave me entree into this world. And rhythm was my
It’s been the same everywhere I have
travelled: Brazil, Ghana, Cuba, Togo, Jamaica, Benin, Mexico,
Nigeria... by connecting with the rhythm of the people, I have
gained an exciting and powerful insight into their lives, and, by
extension, have gained invaluable perspective on my own.
Drumming, rhythm, percussion and dance
can do the same for you. The world is waiting, extending it’s
hand. Let’s take the step, explore your world through rhythm.
(*** African hour-glass shaped hand
So, don’t just do something, sit
there. And drum!
Robert Wallace is a musician and teacher living in Northern California. He teaches percussion and fitness to students of all ages and abilities and is releasing a set of instructional DVDs this year. For more information, contact Robert at:
Responsible for the resurgence in Cuban music and culture, the movie and cd brought these musicians to a whole new audience. Recorded in just six days in 1996 with a stellar cast of Cuban musicians, Buena Vista Social Club has become a musical phenomenon. Awarded a Grammy in 1997 it has sold well over 6 million copies to date and introduced the world to Cuban son, as well as launching both Ibrahim Ferrer and Ruben Gonzalez as near household names. The timeless quality of the music and the sheer verve of the performers has ensured that this will go down as one of the landmark recordings of the Nineties.
maybe more of a concept than a specific rhythm, but its infectious and
vibrant sound has captivated audiences around the world. In Colombia,
salsa took hold in the main Atlantic and Pacific coastal cities, where
a distinctive style emerged and had a significant impact on the genre
as a whole. Within Colombia, salsa is danced in clubs, discos and at
carnival – dancing is widespread in a land where the latest salsa hit
is heard everywhere, on your way to work, when you do the shopping, and
when you go out with your friends. Featuring many of the best-known
salsa artists in the country, The Rough Guide To Salsa Colombia is your
introduction to this effervescent dance music.
is the musical pulse that flows through Latin America, the Spanish
speaking Caribbean, and the Latin Diaspora in the USA and across the
world. Short, sharp, sweet and straight to the point, salsa has come to
define Latin life – the music, the dancing, the culture. The Rough Guide To Salsa Dance (Second Edition)
presents some of the freshest and newest salsa bands and songs from
Colombia to New York, Cuba to Puerto Rico – the ideal soundtrack for
the summer and guaranteed to move anyone, from the accomplished dancer
to the double left-footed.
Afro-cuban brilliance! Africando, the Afro-Salsa supergroup is back. Fourteen years after the
historic first meeting of the best singers from Senegal and the best
Latin musicians in New York, "Ketukuba" , their seventh album is ready. "Ketukuba" is a tribute to the late Gnonnas Pedro, Benin's favourite
son, who sang with Africando from 1996 until his death in 2004. The
title song, was his last recording.
In the 1950s, he helped create the descarga
style of music that is a mix between jazz-styled improvisation with
Afro-Cuban rhythms. In the 1960s, he was a key member of Irakere, a
Cuban experimental band that combined pop, classical, Cuban folk,
African and jazz influences. An inspired debut rooted in the spirit of descarga, "Cachaíto" is given a daring twist by producer Nick Gold and an essential rhythm section. The liberated bass leads an awesome, groove-based experimental journey mixing Cuban styles, jazz, funk, hip-hop and reggae.
Brazilian journalist MdC Suingue (Portuguese for "Swing") & Kika Serra bring you Brazilian music without the cliches. Special for Carnaval, the CAS kicks off with part one of a three part series.
The idea is to create an environment open to the appreciation of this
diversity that Brazil has to offer. The Caipirinha Appreciation Society
is an introduction to a different Brazil, in opposition to the clichés
presented in the infamous samba-for-tourists shows. We skip the
feathers, sequins and fixed fake smiles for a more grassroots approach.
The policy of our djs is to play GOOD Brazilian music, from old gems to
the most cutting-edge underground stuff. The dance-floor code is to
move as you feel like with no "samba class" to spoil that freedom.
But our intention is to take Brazilian music out of the ghetto and
place it in a universal context, so even if our output is 90%
Brazilian, we play anything good that we come across, whatever
So let your hair down and try out our musical caipirinha. It can be addictive, we're told.
Editor's Pick - I am already addicted to the Caipirinha Appreciation Society