Pedro Martínez: Born and raised in Havana, Martínez began performing at age 11, playing the conga drums and singing in comparsa groups in school. He performed with the most important rumba groups of the time: Yoruba Andabo, Obba Ilu, Tata Guines, Changuito, Anga, and many others. In 2000, Martínez won First Place in the Thelonious Monk Institute's Afro/Latin Jazz Hand Drum competition at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Since then, Martínez has performed with top artists including Paquito D'Rivera, Giovanni Hidalgo, Patato, Candido Camero, and Horacio "El Negro" Hernández. He is a founding member of the popular New York City-based group Yerba Buena, and is also performing with the Mark Weinstein ensemble. Pedrito Martinez endorses LP music products.
Román Díaz: Born and raised in Havana, Díaz is a master percussionist from Havana, where he was trained by elders in the fine arts of classic Afro-Cuban musical traditions. In the USA, he organized a performance ensemble called "Omi Odara," a Lukumi phrase meaning "pure water," or "water that blesses," because "there is nothing more pure than water." They perform ritual Santeria, Abakuá, and Palo Monte music, as well as continue the rumba and Son lineages of Arsenio Rodriguez, Chano Pozo, and Ignacio Pineiro's Septeto Nacional, all of whom drew upon Cuba's African heritage in their music. Diaz's ensemble is distinguished for respecting these traditions through artful and passionate performances based on deep ritual knowledge.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
The Routes of Rumba/Rumbos de la Rumba is the result of my collaboration with music virtuosos Pedro Martínez and Román Díaz. It is a conceptual musical journey about Rumba's performance culture understood as a set of socio-historical relations. Each track is located within a different psychic space to evoke a sense of walking in la Havana, or circulating in the African Diaspora, or feeling caught between love and conflict, between the secular and the sacred.
Soon after their arrival to New York, I saw Pedrito and Roman performing at La Esquina Habanera, a well-established Cuban Rumba space in Union City, New Jersey. This project is their first recording in the U.S. as a duo elaborating the entire music in the Rumba warapachanguera style. Most Rumba records are performed by established ensembles, or what is known as a "ven tu," a jam session organized by invitation. This work however traces Pedrito and Román's musical synergy.
This project is also about Pedrito and Román's encounter with the diversity of NYC rumberos. We invited Alfredo Díaz "Pescao" who arrived to the U.S. in 1980 with the Mariel Exodo. Pescao's contribution was not only his voice and original compositions, but his witty sense of humor bringing the street and solar energy into the project, the elements of el ambiente de la Rumba: El Brete (neigborhood gossip), Salud Estomacal (on culinary matters), and El Monumento, a tribute honoring Manuel Martínez Olivera "El Llanero." Pedrito, Román and Pescao performed together these three numbers, creating a sparkling call and response dynamic necessary in a good Rumba. Thus this recording connects two Rumba generations in the Diaspora, Pedrito and Román's, who were entirely raised in Revolutionary Cuba and departed during the Special Period, and Pescao and Manuel's generation who grew up in-between the Batista and Castro regimes and left during the Mariel boatlift. Two migratory generations still connected through Rumba as their common denominator and epistemological framework.
Thus this project is invested in Rumba's multiple trajectories and layers to demonstrate the presence of history and memory, as they conflate momentarily within Rumba's contemporary sound, "lo antaño con lo moderno." (Roman Díaz) While Rumba is a highly intellectual, emotional and spiritual, it is also about street culture, just as one walks alone through the asphalt. Thus where there is rumba, there is controversy, gossip and poetic conspiracies.
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE DRUM: MOYUBBA ILU (Greeting to The Drum or to The People) Performed by Pedro Martínez. Because of its connection to slaves, the knowledge of the batá drums' religious foundation also traveled to the Americas. It initially arrived in Cuba and Brazil but expanded to the rest of Caribbean and Latin America. "Encyclopedia of the Drum" is a greeting done with batá's to three warrior deities of the Yoruba Pantheon: Elegua, who opens and closes the paths, the beginning and the end; Ogun, whom is the orisha of labor; and Ochosi, the hunting god. "Encyclopedia" is a sonorous journey through time and by sea that transports us into one path of rumba's spiritual routes. In the union lies the strength. (Roman Díaz)
PROHIBITION (Guaguancó) Rumba is the celebration of the being, and the result of the coming together of diverse African ethnicities. This guaguancó is a nationalistic anthem that exemplifies Rumba as a space of political and social debate. The author is Abakuá Reynaldo Brito.
DIALOGUE (Guaguancó) And when they took their drums away from them, they used their body as a resonating body. They turned it into an acoustic body.
STOMACH HEALTH (Guaguancó) Rumba narrates the quotidian. In marginal neighborhoods, the culinary arts are always a topic, the gossip of the spoon. This number integrates the Cuban diet into the absurd.
CONFLICT (Columbia) Always, where there is exploitation there is war and illness. This columbia begins with a prayer to Babalú Aye, King of Arará land, and saint of diseases and epidemics. The piece introduces masculinity, puya, competition, provocation, all reaffirmations of one's being.
ABAKUA: GREETINGS TO THE POWERS The Carabalí and Brikamo people from West Africa, known as Abakuá, created one of the strongest socio-cultural and religious organizations in colonial Cuba. Their lodges have made a presence in the various emancipation and union movements during the pre- and post-colonial Cuba. This number occupies an in-between space, a sound between ceremonial and secular performance.
THE MONUMENT (Guaguancó) This is a double tribute performed via the conversation between two voices, that of the quinto's improvisational drum and the singer's. Manuel Martínez Olivera "El Llanero" composed this guaguancó in tribute to Benny Moré, one of the most prolific interpreters of Cuban popular music. In this context, the song operates as an homage to "El Llanero" himself who was also known as the Beny Moré of Central Park Rumba. "El Llanero" was a central figure in NYC for having taught the relationship between Rumba's clave and singing to many first generation Nuyorican rumberos.
SEDUCTION (Guaguancó) Where there is Rumba there is flirtation, friendship. He tells her nice things, and the people tells her to leave him. He tells her that it is a love story, that people have given up their life for it...
EL BRETE (Guaguancó) Rumba integrates and convokes the people's voice, the unfolding of words, the riddle. This piece connects Havana and New York City by greeting Central Park rumba's picturesque characters.
EXODUS (Guaguancó) Rumba itself is exodus, migration, crossing borders, seas and also nations. It is not being able to return, as well as the encounter with other cultures. Rumba is the embodiment of the conditions of crossing, and the meeting between subjectivities in transit. For instance, this rumba was composed in the U.S. Guantanamo Base by one of the 35,000 balseros (rafters) who left Cuba during the 1994 Special Period. Indeed, the mass movement of temporary field-workers has historicaly produced the so-called Rumberos invasions. In 1926, when migrant laborers travelled from Matanzas to Havana escaping the hurricane and the resulting lack of employment, it is said that these rumberos formed dance competitions in their free time.
FRAGMENTATION by Román Díaz. "This number is a history also, a history inside memory. Migrations, forced or not, always create a sense of personal or group fragmentation. But when these individuals find each other, they form a great Rumba. "Fragmentation" follows rumba's musical routes, in this trajectory "the clave and the cata are two guys that are just crazy, walking around as they find one thing and later another." (Román Díaz) Thus, the Congo tradition is founded on dance and the strong stepping on the ground; the Yoruba Lucumi traditions are manifested in the guaguancó's flirtatious nature, Oshun's feminine gestures, Oya's fortitude, the queen of the wind and the cemetery. As Román says, "like Andrea Baró, not all women want to be possessed." The Abakuá manifests itself in the guaguancós eloquent rhythms and masculine energy. The Rumba is the synthesis of all: it is a conversation between all the rhythms with the joy and festivity of the carnival, the public form where ethnic groups have manifested themselves since the 19th century. The Carnival is the union of all the fragments. For Román "the beginning in the end, because the black people were understanding everything, that there was a way to unite all: Carnival, holiday of the people." "Fragmentation" shows the musical kaleidoscope rumba encloses.
The CD also includes:
*VIDEO: "Dialogue" (Quick time file)
*INTERACTIVE RUMBA: "Exodus" (flash file)