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A Chat with Latin Percussionist and Writer Les Moncada

Les Moncada
Les Moncada

 

Interview by Marco Moncada

The person behind the Latin music interviews for World Music Central and one of the co-creators of 10 Facebook Latin percussion & instrument education sites is Les Moncada. Let’s have a chat with him.

Les, can you tell us about your musical background and what directed you to music?

My mother was of Spanish descent, always playing records of Tito Rodriguez Sr. when I was a kid and also my grandmother would put on records of Perez Prado and the Latin Orchestra really influenced me at a young age.

I played the guitar at 10 years, tried the trumpet but stuck with the timbales at age 15, and bongo & later congas, still playing today. I was also an FM DJ at Sacramento State University and did interviews while being a young timbalero, meeting Cal Tjader, Tito Puente, Pete and Coke Escovedo, and promoter Bill Graham. They had me backstage. I was also friends and interviewed many many more artists.

Cal had Fantasy Records. Gretchen Horton send me DJ copies of records and so did Tito. At that time it was Tico Records prior to Fania Records in New York City. Cal and Tito showed me the respect and confidence and quality that they had as musicians. Being near the San Francisco Bay Area, I was fortunate to meet all the great congueros of our time.

 

Les Moncada
Les Moncada

 

Who can you say your musical influences are?

There are too many to mention. Pete Escovedo kind of took me under his wing. I was born in Oakland and when I was a youngster he guided me regarding timbales questions. There were no lessons at that time. The Masters, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria and Francisco Aguabella had the knowledge and you would have to sit in front of the stage and just watch.

 

Les Moncada, with band leader Suzanne Cortez
Les Moncada, with band leader Suzanne Cortez

 

Can you tell us a little about your musical background?

Yes I was in a guitar trio at age 13 in the San Francisco Bay Area, and have been asked how I had the knowledge to direct a Latin Orchestra. Well, getting the knowledge of chords from the guitar helped. I would say most of it came naturally. I have been fortunate to play with a lot of musicians, great friends. I also had the opportunity to study batá under conga and batá master Francisco Aguabella and he would perform with me with my Latin Jazz band and Afro-Cuban folkloric sessions and, at times, gigging 2-3 a day.

I was in one of three folkloric groups Francisco Aguabella had at the time, he had one in Los Angeles, one in San Francisco and one in Sacramento, California. I also formed a couple of Afro-Cuban folkloric groups myself.

Francisco was very knowledgeable. He showed me more than batá, He showed me how to be a great musician, bandleader and also the secrets of musicianship that you cannot learn in books to this day. I think Aguabella made me a greater musician and person. I am very grateful to him (Aguabella). He only had a handful of personal batá students.

I also give the late timbalero Benny Verade a lot of thanks for his guidance, patience and assistance with me as a Latin bandleader.

How was it that you got involved with the Facebook Latin music educational sites?

Marco Moncada, my son and co-administrator to the sites, made a suggestion to create a different caliber of site, due to frustration with facts from other Facebook sites. There are 10 sites for now. I can think of plenty more to make and the public would love, but to monitor them it is something else. We do it between the 2 of us, Marco and I.

 

Les Moncada and Marco Moncada
Les Moncada and Marco Moncada

 

The main site is Timbales and Congas Bongo Bata and bells

The other sites are:
Congueros, Professional Congueros & their Instrument
Bongoseros, Professional Bongoseros & their Instrument
Timbaleros, Repique, Baqueteo & bells
El Tumbao Del Bajo, Y Sus Creyentes
Las Blancas y Las Negras, Flauta y Violin del Monte
Alambres Dulces, Tres, Cuatro & Laud
Rumbero y Rumbera
Trompeta Latina, Guajeo del Sax y el Trombon Criollo
Percussion Classifieds by Moncada, for personal instruments sales

They are educational sites, and I do appreciate the support from the musicians around the world, some masters in their own right and as well as students. It has been a great success and goes hand in and with the interviews that I write for World Music Central, which is the greatest world music site. World Music Central is always ahead of the game and I like that!

 

Les Moncada giving lessons to grandson Andrew Cruz
Les Moncada giving lessons to grandson Andrew Cruz

 

Les, how did you get involved with World Music Central?

I lived in Arkansas for a time and was bored living in the Ozarks, learned to play and read music with the mandolin (beside the tres and cuatro). I started writing obituaries for World Music Central about Latin music artists, and then later started with interviews with fellow musicians and friends, trying to preserve the actual words of the artist.

I believe I was one of the first writers for World Music Central and with World Music Central we were the first music website to offer actual interviews with the artist. Most internet writers for other sites were getting incorrect info from blog sites. It has been a complete success and I will continue to write for World Music Central because the public has found it educationally informative and interesting. I try to also publicize the artists that do not always get the publicity they deserve. This is not in all cases but with some.

I have a lot of exciting interviews coming up, and I myself can’t wait for the public to see them, they are so exciting and educational.

Les, you mentioned that bongosero Richie Bastar stated that he wanted to interview you, to see what was behind the World Music Central and Facebook timbales, congas bongo, batá & bells sites.

Yes, Richie’s father was the famous Puerto Rican timbales player “Kako” Bastar (Francisco Angel Bastar, b1937-d 1994) and Richie Bastar is the bongo player for El Gran Combo in Puerto Rico. I have different members of the Timbales, Congas, Bongo, Batá & bells site and others folks have been asking questions of who was behind the Latin drumming andinstrument educational sites.

Marco Moncada, my son, has been involved with music all his life, with musicians at my house, conguero, Francisco Aguabella, conguero Poncho Sanchez, timbales legend Ramon Banda, Latin bass legend Tony Banda and a lot more. He was raised with around the music and musicians, Marco is extremely charismatic and is very informed about Latin music; he is also a welder by trade.

 

Les Moncada
Les Moncada

 

Well what is the future for Les Moncada and the sites?

I definitely will keep doing the interviews for World Music Central. The artist as well as the reader are thrilled with the actual interaction with the artists.

The Facebook pages will continue there are on the main site over 2,500 members, viewers and the viewers, members and Latin percussion students enjoy the site.

Musically, for me, I am presently subbing on Latin percussion at the moment, but will be playing again with Les Moncada Latin Jazz Band this spring.

A sample of Les Moncada interview for World Music Central: An interview with Enrique Papo Lucca, famed Salsa and Latin Jazz Pianist, and Director of La Sonora Ponceña.

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Turiya Mareya and Javier Cabanillas Perform Latin Jazz at El Dragon Rojo Bar in Tijuana

Turiya Mareya
Turiya Mareya
Veteran Latin jazz pianist Turiya Mareya is collaborating with percussionist Javier Cabanillas in a new project being presented at El Dragon Bar in Tijuana Mexico. Performing with bassist Juan Tettras, the trio plays classic and original music and arrangements by Turiya Mareya . The music flows from traditional Boleros and mainstream Latin Jazz to Fusion Funk grooves.

Cabanillas moved to Tijuana from the San Francisco Bay area in 2000 and has established himself as one of Tijuana’s most respected and in demand percussionist. Also leading his own group he has performed at major venues and festivals in Mexico in a classic Afro-Cuban style using 4 congas. A powerful soloist he is showcased in the Trio format.

Turiya Mareya has been working in Tijuana for 20 years. An International recording and touring artist she has performed from the Yucatan to Alaska her unique brand of powerful Latin Jazz. A dynamic performer and prolific composer her music reflects her deep love of Cuban Jazz as well as her traditional Jazz roots.

Oct. 20th 2009 9 pm
Admission Free
El Dragon Rojo Bar
Calle 1r Entre Revolucion y Constitucion Frente a Plaza Santa Cecilia
Articula #123
1934 Zona Central
www.dragonrojobar.com

myspace.com/mareya

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Dennis Noda, Internationally Known Asian-American Bassist Dies

Dennis Noda
Dennis Noda
Dennis Noda, one of the few Asian-American musicians who attained recognition from artists and audiences throughout the world, passed away on May 19.

Dennis, a funky, rockin’ bBassist and vocalist with a high visibility facto, was one of the few Asian-American musicians who has attained recognition from artists and audiences throughout the world. His impeccable sight-reading abilities, energetic stage presence, and rock solid groove, made him an in-demand studio and touring musician.  He was a devout Christian who gave of his time freely.  He was a kindred spirit, loved by all and will be sadly missed by his wife, children, family and his friends and fans around the world.

Touring Credits: The Classic Rock All Stars, Cannibal & the Headhunters, “Diamond” Dave Somerville, Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad), Wayne Foster Entertainment, Crystal Lewis (Gospel), Carl Saunders, Lee Thornburg, The Smothers Brothers, Bobby Kimball (Toto), Sugarloaf, Al Wilson, Chuck Negron (Three Dog Night), Otis Day & The Knights, Wolfman Jack, Micky Dolenz (The Monkees), Elvira (Mistress of the Dark), Spencer Davis, Felix Cavaliere (The Rascals), Coasters, Jimmy McConnell Orchestra, Edwin Starr, Jon Garner Trio, Sophisticated Ladies (National Tour), Gary “US” Bonds.

Studio Credits: Light The Fire (Inspirational), Circus Vargas, “The End of Innocence”, “Blue Skies”, “Come See the Paradise”, IBM, Fostex, Metavision, McMahon’s Furniture, Ice Capades, G.T.E., Mattel, Coca-Cola, “Murder She Wrote”, Home Depot, CK Enterprises (Hardees, Carls Jr), Walt Disney Company, Feld Inc. “Dawsons Creek”, “Ally McBeal”, “Party of Five”, Rex Merriweather, Gary Herbig, Jonah Kiss, Peter Rivera, Genius Girl, Disfigurine a new Emo-Rock project.

More information at http://nodableproductions.com

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Move it Chaleh! Hiplife and coupé décalé compilation

Move it Chaleh!
Move it Chaleh!
Move it Chaleh! Words you might hear at an outdoor chop bar in Accra, Ghana, a calling for you to get up and shake it. A hint to the pungent grooves blasting out of subwoofers and beat up sound systems throughout West Africa today.

Smaller, cheaper studios are sprouting all over big African cities, allowing a new generation of artists to create and push the envelope of urban and dance music. In particular, Move It Chaleh! focuses on two underrated African trends: Hiplife and Coupé décalé.

Coupé décalé is the upbeat sound of Ivory Coast today, a dance craze which can be heard throughout francophone Africa. It has roots in both Congolese soukous and Ivorian zouglou. It emerged at the height of the Ivorian crisis around 2002-2003, first in Paris, but it quickly spread to Ivory Coast, to Africa and now to the world.

Hiplife is a Ghanaian mish mash of hip hop, dancehall, calypso and other Caribbean styles, with highlife, itself a mix of soul and funk with more traditional Ghanaian rhythms. It has taken Ghana by storm, and it is well known to Ghanaian abroad, particularly in the US and UK, yet it is still off the radar for most.

Time to change that. Move it chaleh!

Buy Move it Chaleh!

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Afrobrazil Documentary Comes to Harlem

Quilombo Films announces the first Uptown screening of “Quilombo Country,” the award-winning feature documentary about Brazilian villages founded by escaped and rebel slaves, at the Taller Latino Americano on Friday, the 6th of February (Black History Month). The event will include a question-and-answer session and a discussion by director/producer Leonard Abrams about ethnographic filmmaking and distribution. The screening and discussion will be followed by a cocktail reception.

Brazil, once the world’s largest slave colony, was brutal and deadly for millions of Africans. But many thousands escaped and rebelled, creating settlements in Brazil’s untamed hinterland. Largely unknown to the outside world, these communities struggle today to preserve a rich heritage born of resistance to oppression.

“Quilombo Country” includes rare footage of festivals and ceremonies that blend Catholic, African and native Amazonian rituals and customs, and examines issues of political identity, land rights, and racial and socioeconomic discrimination. The film is narrated by Chuck D,  the legendary poet, media commentator and leader of the iconic hip hop band Public Enemy.

“Quilombo Country” has played at more than 20 film festivals worldwide, winning Best Documentary at Black International Cinema Berlin, and has been acquired by more than 300 universities, museums and other cultural organizations.

The Taller Latino Americano (The Latin American Workshop), renowned for its Spanish classes and art shows and programs, is a gathering place for culturally and linguistically diverse people who come together to share their ideas and find creative inspiration.

WHAT: Uptown Premiere of “Quilombo Country”
WHEN: Fri, February 6th, 2009. 8:00-10:30 [film: 73 min.]
WHERE: Taller Latino Americano, 2710 Broadway [103 St.] NYC
PLUS: Q&A plus discussion on filmmaking with director Leonard Abrams
CONTACT: Leonard Abrams at 212-260-7540 info@quilombofilm.com
PRICE: $12. includes discussion & reception. Reserve early, as seating is limited.
WEBSITE: http://www.quilombofilm.com

 

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Artists Celebrated Human Rights Day 2008 in Stockholm

On the 10th of December, the Sweden branch of Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI-S) presented an opportunity to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights with international artists.

Besides Master of Ceremony Samson Mande European Human Rights Hero awardee, several renown human rights activists honored the event. Norsang Drikung, leader of Tibetan Community in Sweden and Dr. Elfatih Shora, member of International Rescue Nubia organization spoke about issues demanding solutions in their countries, while Stig Johnell from Amnesty International took up several situations worldwide, including Sweden. Honorary guest speaker Mrs. Jacqueline Mukangira, Ambassador of Republic of Rwanda to Sweden and Nordic Countries highlighted the evening, who told stories of how her country has risen from genocide to a safe and prosperous land, setting a good example of finding constructive solutions to various problems.

The audience was entertained by a colorful concert of classical, pop and world music, dance from Africa, Asia, America and Europe. In the artist line-up, different ages, races, music styles and most of the continents were represented.

Latvian viola/piano duo Ineta & Milda Zigure gave the concert a very aesthetic opening. Mrs Sonoko Kase’s students from Östermalm Private Music School, performed Japanese children songs, piano and ballet pieces. Venezuelan born soprano Gabriela Gonzáles-Toledo who is also an active lecturer in Latin American music and culture entertained with beautiful opera and musical songs. The Romany National Anthem from Hungarian folk singer Andrea Gerak was a perfect choice for the occasion and really hit home to the audience. Swedish singer-songwriter Mimmi Siegel sweetened the mood while rock singer Lizette& and Nsako Afrodans, a group performing tribal music and dance from Uganda broke the floor with high energy sounds and moves.

The attendees appreciated the international diversity, the very informative speeches, artistic quality and the relaxed atmosphere of the gala. The event concluded with the participating representatives expressing their intentions to further co-operate in order to make human rights a reality.

More info

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The Ancient Koto on DVD-ROM

A new DVD-Rom about the Japanese koto is now available. The new release, titled Koto, was recorded with the player facing the koto using the correct posture and emotional display to achieve the high quality 96 kHz/24bit sound. You can hear many basic play techniques such as types of chalking, finger slides, pizzicato, and arpeggios all inside 1023 file.

The koto is not only used in traditional music, but also modern day composers have also used the instrument in collaboration with orchestras since the early 1900’s. The koto captures the pure sound of Japan. It was used in old Japanese court music to sooth the body. It has also been said that this instrument could purify you mind, body, and soul.

Its 13 strings bring elegant and spiritual sounds that mimic stillness and motion as does the 4 seasons of Japan.

The DVD-ROM is available from www.discoverysound.com/en/DFSD720/

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PowerFX Releases All Them Beats

Stockholm, Sweden– PowerFX, the leading online distributor of loops and samples, unveiled this week All Them Beats, a definitive beat resource boasting more than 430 MIDI rhythm and beat files and over 1,000 acidized wav loops and rex files for today’s producers and drum software aficionados.

 True to the PowerFX signature, the extensive beat library is expertly produced and organized within three categories, including: “Regional” featuring Brazilian (bossa nova and the samba), African, European, and other regional beats; “Genres” showcasing jazz, rock, country, and blues styles (Chicago shuffle, Texas shuffle); and “Greatest Breaks” such as the Funky Drummer, The Amen Break and Walk This Way, among many others.

We were inspired to create All Them Beats by our customers, a growing number of whom use high-quality multi-sampled drum libraries and drum software in their music projects,” explained PowerFX CEO Bil Bryant. All of the MIDI files were recorded live with an electronic V-Drum kit, assigned to General MIDI files, and exported out to loops using representative samples of each style, making it accessible to users with or without drum libraries. And because each beat is assigned to a MIDI file and short text description, auditioning beats is simple and user-friendly.

All Them Beats also features a bonus selection of drum loops culled from PowerFX’s award-winning samples. Users can choose real played acoustic beats and grooves in various styles like the original Motown Beat played by “Pistol” Allen, one of the Original Motown Drummers, or funk master drummer Jabo Starks, as well as country, blues, rock, world beats, and stylistic electronic and hip hop loops.

The versatile collection of samples and rhythms serves as an essential resource for musicians, producers, DJs, composers and engineers who own multi-sample drum libraries and drum software like EZ Drummer, Addictive Drums, BDF or Session Drummer. “Whether they create jingles, film scores, or commercial recordings, producers now have a definitive resource of drum beats to suit any situation,” said Bryant. “If you need a Zydeco Shuffle, a Polka, a Reggae One Drop, or the Mexican Hat Dance, it´s all here.”

All Them Beats is available from PowerFX.com for $69 US, and can be purchased as a downloadable package or on DVD. The midi files are also available as a separate download $39 US. For more information, and to purchase or listen All Them Beats, visit www.powerfx.com.

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The Teak Project

The Teak Project (First Hand, 2008)

Second generation Indo-Jazz sitar player Jonathan Mayer is the son of Indo-Jazz pioneer John Maye, which maintains the tradition nicely. The devilish complexity of the music does nothing to detract from its sweetness and serenity.

Justin Quinn is a fleet-fingered guitarist worthy to fill John McLaughlin’s sandals.

Tabla-player Neil Craig provides the impetus, and transforms the gentle acoustic music with the serpentine-like beats of the raga.

In short, The Teak Project offers a near-perfect realization of Indo-Jazz, yet hints at further expansion: the floating impressionism of Outnumbered By One recalls the work of Belgian guitarist Philip Catherine. Lovely stuff.

 

Buy the CD:

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