Thursday, June 28, 2007

Afrocuba de Matanzas: 50 years of "Folclore Matancero"

Grupo Afrocuba de Matanzas was founded 50 years ago tomorrow, June 29, 1957. Let's celebrate with a video of this classic performance of their Batarumba style, featuring Teresa Polledo, Saldiguera and Virulilla.

(Francisco Dominguez)

Yo soy rumbera
Desde que estaba
En el vientre de mi madre

Me dijo un congo
Me dijo un congo

Palo que nace pa’ violín
Desde que está en el monte suena

Desde niña soy cantora
Voy cantando doquiera
Canto con Saldiguera
Y canto con él que sale
Yo canto con Carlos Embales
Eminente en guaguancó
Y por eso yo le digo
Yo soy rumbera
Desde que estaba
En el vientre de mi madre

Coro: Palo que nace pa’ violín
Desde que está en el monte suena

Coro: Ah, ah, ah, yo soy Palo Yaya

If you haven't already, be sure to get the collection of 12 ACdM rarities we posted here.

More videos can be found on Afrocuba's website.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Los Muñequitos, on the BBC

Reader Rob A. from Brighton sent us this email yesterday:

Hello Guarachon,

Firstly, thankyou so much for your great work in posting so many rare vids and recordings etc. your blog and youtube account are an invaluable resource.

I was wondering if you knew about a BBC radio3 programme aired last Saturday called World Routes? The presenter, Lucy Duran, was looking at the musical history of Cuba, and visited Matanzas to do pieces on Rumba and Danzon.

She visited Los Munequitos de Matanzas and specially recorded 2 Rumbas with the group and an interview with Diosdado Ramos Cruz and Juan Jacomino.
You can listen to the whole programme as a stream online, but only until Saturday (about 24 hours away)

I have, however, ripped the whole 1hr show as an mp3. I would be willing to send you the whole show, but it is 78.5MB, and I don't know where i can post this for free (any suggestion appreciated).

I have separated out the 2 tracks and the interview and am sending them to you now. (There's not a huge deal more on rumba as it moves on to danzon pretty quick).

Actually we didn't know about that Rob, thanks a lot for letting us know and sending these in.

The recordings are very nicely done, we especially like the "a capella" ending they put on "Congo Yambumba" and I am curious to find out who the new singer is on the columbia.

Click below to listen to the columbia:

We've posted the mp3's (15.5MB) of the interview, Congo Yambumba, and the columbia excerpt for download from rapidshare, here.

Rob also adds:

This was the third episode of 3 covering the music of Cuba. I only found out about it after the third, so didn't get a chance to hear or record the other 2. maybe you could mention this in the blog and ask if anyone else recorded them, as i'd really like to hear the congas they recorded.

How about it? Anybody happen to grab those other episodes? Let us know.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Chavalonga: Palo Quimbombó

More Chavalonga, doing "Palo Quimbombó" at Parque Tio Tom in Atarés. Also some nice footage of Chava jamming with the neighborhood kids afterwards. Many thanks to Lisa Knauer for sharing this with us.

Compositor: Mario Dreke
Estilo: Guanguancó
Grabación: Mario Dreke, "Rapsodia Rumbera"

¡Dio' Mambe!


¡Dio' Mambe!


¡Nsala malekun!

¡Malekun Sala!

¡Nsala malekun!

¡Malekun Sala!

¡Yo engaño ko jura’ mi nganga kuna chila!
¡Yo son bacheche arriba n’toto!
¡Yo son bacheche arriba n’ganga!

¿Qué te pasa a ti?
¿Qué te pasa a ti?
Que es como el quimbombó
Que resbala
Pero ponte en tu lugar
Luego ponte a analizar
Que palo quimbombó
No sirve pa' candela

Amayo e, amayo e, arawe arawe
Amayo e, amayo e, arawe arawe

Coro: Palo quimbombó no sirve pa' candela

Coro: Quimbombó

Friday, June 08, 2007

More Chavalonga Videos

Here are a couple more videos of Chavalonga, from documentaries aired on Greek TV. Thanks to Patricio and Carole for these.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Chavalonga: Cuando se pierde un amigo

Mario Dreke Alfonso

25 April 1925 - 02 June 2007
(Photo Credit: Lisa Maya Knauer)

Sadly it seems the reports are true, Chavalonga has passed away. We are grateful to our friend Roman Diaz for sharing this recording of Chavalonga singing "Cuando se pierde un amigo," ("When one loses a friend") with the group "Chavalonga y El Ventu Rumbero."

Maria del Carmen Mestas quotes Chavalonga on the inspiration for "Cuando se pierde un amigo":

"Se podrá pensar que sólo me dediqué al fiesteo, mas no fue así; me dolían las injusticias, por eso me fui a aquello de Cayo Confite a tumbar al déspota Trujillo. Yo era capitán de un barco que llevaba armas; me atraparon en Puerto Príncipe. En ese viaje tuve una experiencia muy dura: la muerte en una pelea de Jesús Alfaro, Mejoral. La emoción me llevó a inspirarme: "Cuando se pierde un amigo..."

"One could think that I spent my life partying, but it isn't so: Injustices affected me, that's why I went to Cayo Confite to topple the dictator Trujillo. I was captain of a ship which carried arms: they caught me in Puerto Príncipe. On this trip I have a very bad experience: the death in a fight of Jesús Alfaro, "Mejoral." The emotion inspired me to compose, "Cuando se pierde un amigo..."

Roman sends along this message:

— Roman Diaz

(Guillermo "El Negro" Triana starts out the song, then Chava comes in.)


Pero cuánto te quiero
Cuánto te adoro
Mi amigo del alma
Nueva idea
Que Dios te bendiga

Yo quiero que mis cantares
Nacido del corazón
Los acepte como una prueba
De mi amor hacia ti
Y que nunca me olvides

A na na na...

Cuando se pierde un amigo
Que tristeza
Que dolor se queda
En el alma
Si hoy te canto a tí
Te diré porque
Yo tuve un amigo fiel, "Mejoral"
Y lo perdi

Que me confiava sus penas
Y yo las mias
Era mi amigo

Por la señal
De la Santa Cruz
De nuestros enemigos
Líbranos Señor
Amen, Jesús

Coro: Y era mi amigo, y yo lo llevaba

Recorded by Ramon Alon
at Danny Puga's studio
Reparto Mañana, Guanabacoa
La Havana 1999


MATEO "EL SUIZO" (Mathieu Zehnder)
CUSITO (Jesús Lorenzo Peñalver)
JOSEITO (José Fernández Hernández)
TONITO (Antonio Martínez Cámpos)

Download Chavalonga singing "Cuando se pierde un amigo" here.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Homenaje: Mario Dreke Alfonso, "Chavalonga"

Photo Credit: Maria del Carmen Mestas, "Pasión de Rumbero"

We heard from El Goyo today (June 02, 2007) this sad news:

"Hoy a 4a.m falleció Mario Dreke Alfonso ( Chavalonga )."

("Today at 4 am Mario Dreke Alfonso "Chavalonga" passed away.")

We will be writing more about Chavalonga once we can confirm the news, in the meantime we'll take a moment to reflect on the work of this great rumbero.

Most readers will be familiar with him from his classic performances on "Rapsodia Rumbera," especially "Palo Quimbombó." He also released his own album on the Envidia label, "El rey de la Tahona."

He also led the groups "Ven Tu, Rumbero" (also known in another incarnation - without Chavalonga - as "Wemilere") and "Agüiri Yo."

Helio Orovio, in "Cuban Music A to Z," writes:

"Dreke, Mario ("Chavalonga"): Author, singer, dancer, musician. Born 25 April 1925, Havana. Since the 1940s Chavalonga has been considered one of the most outstanding performers of African rhythms and rumba. Among his most popular guaguancós are "Palo quimbombó," "Los barrios unidos," "Muñequita," and "Oye lo que te voy a decir." He was a founder of the National Folkloric Ensemble [Conjunto Folklorico Nacional] and is currently the director of a company carrying his name."

Maria del Carmen Mestas, a cuban writer who has done more than anyone lately to document the biographies of rumberos, published piece about him recently here. (The piece was adapted from the chapter on Chavalonga in her (highly recommended) book "Pasión de Rumbero."

Below is my translation of her article:

Memories of a rumbero


If you walk through the Havana district of Atarés it's possible you will see Chavalonga, a "street encyclopedia" of rumba. Chava, as his friends like to call him, has seen many moons pass in his tired heart, but if drum is heard he is the first one in dancing.

The night traveled in the light of thousands of stars. The scent of the leafy lemon tree competed with one of jasmins. Skinny, with a brilliant glance, the youngster entered the circle. The drums exerted their ancestral spell so that Chavalonga gave a skillful dissertation when dancing to a well-known guaguancó. It had not finished and even still many were applauding. "Avemaría! Yeah! He's fenomenal!" said the queen of jolgorio, Andrea Baró, with astonished eyes, while Carburo predicted, "Boy, you will be great!"

"Yes, back then in Jovellanos, Matanzas, I was consecrated", exclaims Mario "Chavalonga" Dreke proudly, one of our great rumberos, when remembering that happy beginning in a genre to which he has brought his creativity to dance, song and percussion.


Rumba has always accompanied Chavalonga, and together they've lived moments of great joys and others of secret pain. This mythical figure has worked the genre from its deepest root, giving it an expression uniquely his; that is to say, creating a style that identifies him.

It's certain that his first rumba was savored "very small, because as soon as I opened my eyes I heard the drum, and if to others they sang it to sleep with lullabies, mine was with that sound that can be as sweet as honey.

My family is from Limonar province in Matanzas, and when Christmas Eve arrived, everyone who could came to my house, to "the judgement," as the rumberos called it; the same
he appeared one of Carlos Rojas, who was from Jovellanos or Jagüey, and from different municipalities. So it was that I got started in this music, drinking from that which the stars made: Carburo, Sagua, El Dinde, Celestine Domec, Jimagua and others.

"That was my world since I was very small, and I love it because it's a part of my life that, by the way, was very risky. I couldn't exist without music because it is as if I lacked eyes to see or my voice to sing.

"I worked with Chano Pozo in a cabaret that was called... something like
Spotwind, and also in comparsas, that was our diversion. All year we were waiting for the carnavales to arrive and prepared ourselves by rehearsing.

With Chano I learned to play the drum; now I dance and sing with seven. He was a very guarachero type, happy, but the atmosphere dominated him and he took the wrong path.

"I participated in the film "Sucedió en La Habana," and I went to Mexico, where I acted in films with the comic actress Vitola [Famie Kaufman], but I became ill because the hot spices hurt me (I do not know if it was really that, or because I carried the weight of nostalgia in my heart). I came back on the boat "Lucero del Alba."

If someone has been in Chavalonga's memory it is Benny Moré, with whom I worked in the Molino Rojo and other places in the federal district. "Benny is always in my thoughts: a man who gave it all. His thing was to sing, to throw his wonderful voice to the wind... "

Creator of the Tahona rhythm and inspired composer of boleros in the guaguancó style, Chavalonga also appears in other films as "La última cena," "Rapsodia abakuá," the documentary about Tío Tom, "La rumbera" and "La historia del negro rumbero Mario Chavalonga."

Chavalonga is a founder of the Conjunto Folclórico Nacional, where he not only contributed his knowledge, he also extended his own to master other genres like the songs of the Yoruba, Lucumí, Arará, Carabalí...

With that famous group he traveled to many countries; the greatest successes of the rumbero were in Brazil, where he sang the prayer to Shangó and was highly applauded, and in Algeria, when we was inspired to compose the number "Los Gorritos."

Brother of another famous rumbero, Enrique Dreke, El Príncipe Bailarín, my friend Chavalonga doesn't stop playing the drum, dancing the best steps, and remembering his youth full of great rumbas.

We'll leave with this clip of an interview, from a documentary called "Para Bailar La Habana" which aired on Greek television: