Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hard hands

Joe, our conguero and one of the original founding members of 4 de Diciembre left us in pursuit of bigger and better things at the beginning of this year. I know that's a tough piece of information to digest - what could be more cool than playing in a burgeoning salsa band? His very personal brand of exuberance is sorely missed.

So for the past few months, I've been doubling on congas and vocals; developing specifically the aspect of independence i.e. doing both and yet compartmentalising them so that they don't pull each other around. Truth be told, I'm not finding it easy but I've got no grounds to belly-ache about the situation since Jeremy, our pianist, plays clave on a foot pedal and sings backing vocals. I'm astonished his brain doesn't explode. And to rub salt in the wound, our timbalero Nathan (who plays with the additional kickdrum) has started with backing vocals too. Now that's just hateful.

It's tough playing in this band.

And now that I'm more or less there, Nathan's leaving me for dust in the call-and-response timbale versus conga sections. Talk about being victimised by percussion!

Did I mention that it's tough playing in this band?

So in an effort to spruce up my conguero hat, I've been working on increasing speed, and learning some traditional licks to provide some sort of bedrock. This can only help as we'll be recording again soon (more on that later). If you happen to be a developing conguero too, I can very much recommend the Tomas Cruz conga method. I've used many others, and can already play confidently in most salsa bands. But Timba is a totally different kettle of fish, and this course is the only one I've come across so far that I can see getting me there. Right now I'm really getting into the 6/8 and 12/8 groove. Can't wait to see how this'll affect my dancing.

Confused looks from my unsuspecting partners I reckon.

Off to conga,

Monday, August 07, 2006

Brakes and Breaks

Okay, I'm not long back from a stint away in the Far East. I'd like to say it was for pleasure, but although it was good, it certainly wasn't a picinic. Sadly, there was a lot of work to be done prepping for and during the trip, so it put a damper on all things salsa.

But in a peverse way, that did a lot of good.

Being so heavily immersed in salsa writing, dancing, playing and teaching - especially for extended and intense periods of time, tends to over-accentuate some things and de-emphasise others. Taking a breather has always helped me "normalise", for want of a better term, my perspectives of salsa. I just didn't realise how much I needed to do it this time, until now.

Long live the break.

I'm going to do just that, so don't expect a post for a while.

Until a little bit later,