R.I.P. Aguabella


From the New York Times obit:

Francisco Aguabella, a Cuban-born master percussionist whose impeccable rhythmic sense and drive enriched the recordings and live performances of jazz, salsa and pop artists for five decades, died on May 7at his home in Los Angeles. He was 84.

The cause was cancer, said his daughter Menina Givens.

Mr. Aguabella’s main instrument was the conga drum, on which he showed remarkable versatility. Of the scores of recordings on which he played, Paul Simon’s 1990 album “The Rhythm of the Saints” is probably the most celebrated. But he proved to be equally comfortable playing with Frank Sinatra at Caesars Palace or with the Dizzy Gillespie and Machito band at jazz festivals.

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The 90 Mile Danzón

Music from my favorite Cubiche band, The Cuban Cowboys:

Directed by Tomás Hernández

Jorge Navarro – The Cuban Cowboys – sings this haunting tune. The United States and Cuba are separated by ninety miles of water. El Danzón de Noventa Millas speaks to the politics dividing Cuban Nationals and Cuban Americans, by casting bitterness and betrayal as a stylized, nuanced ninety mile dance.

Similar to other dances in the Caribbean and Latin America, the danzón was initially regarded as scandalous, especially when it began to be danced by all classes of the society. The slower rhythm of the danzón led to couples dancing closer, with sinuous movements of the hips and a lower center of gravity.

Eat your heart out ELVIS.

Musical Diplomacy


Why not? We’ve tried everything else and it’s still not working.

When one of Cuba’s best-known musicians landed in the United States, his first appearance was not onstage, but on Capitol Hill.

Carlos Varela, often referred to as Cuba’s Bob Dylan, had come to remix an album with his good friend Jackson Browne. But he also hoped to help reshape relations between the United States and his homeland.

So before going to Hollywood to work on the album, he stopped in Washington early this month for meetings with legislators and a lunch with a senior White House official. Later he held a jam session in the House Budget Committee meeting room.

Almost everywhere Mr. Varela, 46, went during his weeks here, including at universities and policy institutes, small talk about music gave way to pressing, albeit polite, questions on policy.

“I don’t represent any government or political party,” he said. “But perhaps that’s why governments and politicians might be willing to listen to what I have to say.”

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