Tag Archives: congas

Les Moncada Chats with Master Conguero and Batalero Tony Rosa

There are drummers, then there are drummers. Some go out of their way for exceptional things to happen to them. Tony Rosa, master conguero and master batá drummer, resided in the City of Los Angeles, California. He played batá for the Orisha community for 7 years with conga batá master, legend of legends, Francisco Aguabella, from Matanzas, Cuba.

Francisco was a very stern group leader; whether it was his Latin Jazz Orchestra or Folkloric group and his religious batá ceremonies. Francisco either liked you or he didn’t like you. It was always beneficial to be on his good side. Francisco had three Afro-Cuban folkloric groups in California: one in San Francisco, another one in Los Angeles, and a third in Sacramento. Sometimes I say ‘Masters’ are so good, that they actually are not teachers.

Francisco Aguabella’s apprentices have reached legend status and Tony Rosa is one of them. Tony Rosa performed with Francisco Aguabella’s Afro Cuban folkloric group in Los Angeles, along with batá master Virgilio Figueroa and Francisco Aguabella.

 

Virgilio Figueroa, Francisco Aguabella & Tony Rosa

 

Virgilio Figueroa, also from Matanzas, Cuba, made a remark in one article I wrote for World Music Central, where Virgilio contributed on a tribute to Francisco Aguabella. He said that Francisco showed his apprentices Afro Cuban rhythms that are no longer played in Matanzas today!

Tony Rosa took the big step and moved to New York City. Being an accomplished conga drummer, he linked with great all time master timbalero Manny Oquendo and Conjunto Libre, with co-leader bass legend Andy Gonzalez, brother of legendary conguero and trumpet player Jerry Gonzalez. Tony also performed and recorded with the legendary group Conjunto Folklórico Nuevoriqueño Experimental and recently won a Grammy performing and recording with Arturo O’Farrill.

Let see what Tony has to say about his life and career.

 

Tony Rosa, Jerry (Gerald) Gonzalez & Gene Golden

 

Tony, tell me your background, or family background in Latin music and drumming.

I am Puerto Rican, born in New York City, raised in Los Angeles, California. My father is from Mayagüez, Puerto Rico and my mother from Loiza, Puerto Rico. My influence comes from my mother, being a priestess of Elegua and taking me to all the African dance classes and “tambores” (religious drum ceremonies) as a kid.

How did you meet conga bata master Francisco Aguabella? Tell us some of your history with Francisco Aguabella.

I met Francisco Aguabella in Los Angeles in the 1980s. Francisco was very serious when it came to Cuban drumming (batá, yesa, etc…) He was very selective with who he would share and teach Matanzas-style drumming with.

So how was it that it occurred for you to go to New York City from Los Angeles?

I went to perform in New York with El Chicano. While there, I hung out, checking out other Latin bands. The music vibe in New York was intense at that time. Salsa was booming. I felt like I wasn’t growing musically in Los Angeles so I decided to move to New York in 1996.

 

Tony Rosa – Photo by Kirk Richard Smith

 

You performed with Manny Oquendo and Conjunto Libre. What was your experience with that orchestra?

I started with Manny Oquendo y Conjunto Libre in 2000. Never ever did I think I would be with Libre steady. Manny was very picky when it came to conga players. That’s how I got respect from others; plenty wanted “that chair”. Laughs out loud.

 

 

What other bands have you played with in New York?

In New York I have performed and shared the stage with artist like Nelson Gonzales (legendary tres player), Miles Peña, Chocolate’s group Grupo Foklórico Nuevayorkino Experimental, DLG, Orlando “Puntilla” Rios, Bebo Valdés, MalPaso Dance Co. from Havana Cuba, Lou Soloff, among other artists.

What do you think is the difference in musicianship Los Angeles, vs. New York City?

There are great musicians and drummers everywhere, I think it’s all about attitude. New York musicians are aggressive, where Los Angeles musicians are more laid back. My opinion!

 

Tony Rosa

 

You won a Grammy. Tell us a little about that situation?

Winning a Grammy was very exciting and awesome. My first Grammy was with Cachao Master Sessions in Los Angeles 1994. I didn’t find out till later on. Conguero Richie Flores informed me. I am so proud to say I am a 4 times Grammy Award Winner, feeling blessed. The other 3 Grammys were with Arturo O’Farrill and The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.

What are you doing now musically in New York?

I currently have a 9-5 and traveling and still playing drums.

 

Tony Rosa & John Rodriguez

 

What does the future bring for Tony Rosa, master conguero and batalero, the musician?

I am currently working on my own project CD, recording. Latin Jazz with Afro Cuban and Puerto Rican rhythms. Lots of drums…

 

 

Thank you, Tony Rosa for your interview. Now that I have up and coming musicians that have been in the circuit for a while, the next few interviews that I will be doing is with the middle generation of musicians, to expose their contributions to the Latin music community. Those musicians are Latin percussionist, orchestra leader and Puerto Rican Folkloric Director, California-based Jeri Quiñones from Vieques, Puerto Rico and legendary Latin bassist Lalo Vazquez from northern California, residing in Mexico City. There will also be other specialty interviews to surprise the readers as well.

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Artist Profiles: Poncho Sanchez

Poncho Sanchez

Poncho Sanchez was born in Laredo, Texas. He was the youngest of 11 children. Poncho grew up in Norwalk, California and remembers hearing Afro-Cuban music while growing up. “As a kid in third or fourth grade I would hear my sisters dancing while listening to Machito, Tito Puente, Cal Tjader and various bands from Cuba while my brothers listened to doo-wop music and early rhythm and blues.”

While in sixth grade, Sanchez bought a fifty- cent guitar in hopes of joining an r&b band that rehearsed across the street from his home. Although he practiced quite a bit when he showed up for an audition he knew immediately that he did not stand a chance. “But it turned out that they needed a singer and although I had never sung I gave it a try and became the lead vocalist in that band for five years. Then when I was in high school the first chance I had to get behind a set of conga drums I hit them and it felt quite natural.” Soon Sanchez had saved up money from his singing jobs and was practicing congas as much as possible in his garage playing to Machito, Tito Puente and Cal Tjader records.

Sanchez’s big break occurred in 1975 when after a period of struggle he had an opportunity to play with his idol vibraphonist Cal Tjader. “I found out later that Cal’s conga player was planning on leaving soon and he was letting a lot of people sit in with him. I played one number with Cal, he asked if I could play the rest of the set with him and a week later he asked if I could join him for a week, starting New Year’s Eve at the Coconut Grove opposite Carmen McRae!.” Sanchez would be a major part of Tjader’s band for the next seven years an association that lasted until the vibraphonist’s death.

Poncho Sanchez first formed his own group in 1980, leading his ensemble during Tjader’s vacation periods and recording two albums for Discovery. Shortly before his death, Tjader recommended to Concord founder Carl Jefferson that he sign Sanchez to his Concord Picante label (a subsidiary originally started to document Tjader’s music). Poncho recorded numerous albums for Concord and won a Grammy Award for 1999’s Latin Soul.

My band and I really do love Latin jazz. We played this music before it was popular and I think we’ve played a part in helping it to become popular again. Our main goal is always to keep Latin jazz alive growing and moving while being authentic to the music that we love. I’m proud to say that we have stuck to the basic fundamentals and the roots which are very important to us. And as I always say in clinics this music is not just for Latino people. It was born in the United States and it is American music. It is for everybody!

Discography:

Salsa Picante (1980)
Straight Ahead (1980)
Machaca (1981)
Sonando (1982)
Baila Mi Gente (Concord Records, CCD-471-2 1982)
Bien Sabroso (1983)
El Conguero (1985)
Papa Gato (1986)
Gaviota (1986)
Fuerte (1987)
La Familia (1988)
Chile Con Soul (1989)
A Night At Kimball’s East (199)
Bailar (1990)
Cambios (1990)
El Mejor (1992)
Para Todos (Concord Records CCD-4600-2 1993)
Soul Sauce (Concord Records CCD-4662-2 1995)
Conga Blue (Concord Records CCD-4726-2 1995)
Freedom Sound (Concord Records CCD-4778-2 1997)
Afro-Cuban Fantasy (Concord Records CCD-4847-2 1998)
Latin Soul (Concord Records, CCD-4863-2 1999)
Poncho Sanchez – The Concord Jazz Heritage Series (2000)
Soul Of The Conga (Concord Records, CCD-4894, 2000)
Latin Spirits (2001)
Ultimate Latin Dance Party (2002)
Instant Party: Poncho Sanchez (2004)
Poncho at Montreux (2004)
Out of Sight! (2004)
Do It! (2005)
Raise Your Hand (2007)
Psychedelic Blues (Concord Picante 2009)
Chano y Dizzy! (Concord Picante, 2011)
Live in Hollywood (Concord Picante 2012)

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Artist Profiles: Giovanni Hidalgo

Giovanni Hidalgo

 

Widely acknowledged among the greatest congueros of his generation, Giovanni Hidalgo was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1963, first taking up the drums five years later

The son of the noted percussionist Jose “Manengue” Hidalgo, he was educated in Latin rhythms from childhood onward, and as a teen regularly walked to local gigs with his congas strapped to his back. He soon caught the attention of the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, touring in his United Nations All-Star Orchestra for four years.

Hidalgo also became a noted session player, recording with Freddie Hubbard, Paul Simon and Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum project. In 1992, he recorded his debut solo LP, Villa Hidalgo; Worldwide followed a year later.

1997’s Hands of Rhythm collaboration with pianist Michel Camilo, earned Hidalgo a Grammy nomination in the Best Latin Jazz Album category.

His Greatest Hits collection followed the next year.

 

Giovanni Hidalgo

 

Berklee College of Music presented an honorary doctor of music degree to Giovanni Hidalgo in 2010. Hidalgo taught in Berklee’s percussion department from 1992-1996.

 

 

Partial Discography

* Villa Hidalgo (Messidor, 1992)
* Worldwide (RMM Records, 1993)
* Time Shifter (RMM Records, 1995)
* Hands of Rhythm, with Michel Camilo (RMM Records, 1997)
* The Best of Giovanni Hidalgo (RMM records, 1998)
* Conga Kings, with the Conga Kings (Chesky Records, 2000)
* Jazz Descargas, with the Conga Kings (Chesky Records, 2001)
* Silver Gold (Incipit, 2009)
* Mano a Mano, with Michel Camilo (Emarcy, 2011)
* Mysterium Tremendum, with Mickey Hart Band (360° Productions, 2012)

Videos

* Conga Masters: Changuito and Giovanni Duets (Alfred Publishing, 1995)
* Conga Virtuoso: Giovanni Hidalgo (Warner Brothers Classics, 2005)

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Les Moncada Remembering Conga Bata Master Francisco Aguabella in 2016

Francisco Aguabella - Photo courtesy of Virgilio Figueroa
Francisco Aguabella – Photo courtesy of Virgilio Figueroa

Francisco Aguabella was one of the greatest Latin drummers. He was a conga and bata master, a Latin Jazz orchestra leader, and composer. Francisco was born on October 10th, 1925 in Matanzas, Cuba and passed away on May 7th, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.

Francisco composed many pieces and eyes and ears were always open to his tunes. ‘El Agua Limpia Todo and ‘Complicacion’ were composed by him and recorded and performed by the Tito Puente Orchestra. The dance halls from New York City to the West Coast went crazy. This was the mambo era after the war, a magnificent time and reason for all the races to unite, whites, blacks, Jews, Latinos, Asians, all who wanted to learn the new dance steps to the mambo, cha cha cha and the rumba (as in Walter Winchell rumba not Afro-Cuban folkloric rumba).

 

 

Tito Puente made the world go crazy with Francisco’s tunes. One of these, ‘Marchando Bien’ was recorded on Tito Puente’s last CD that featured Eddie Palmieri, and was sung by the late Pete ‘El Conde’ Rodriguez.

 

 

At times, I would be at a restaurant, eating with Francisco and he would hum a few bars of a tune and chuckle, saying “Listen, this is something I composed and Eddie Palmieri is interested in it”.

 

 

Francisco resided in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years, making recordings, performing with the Latin rock group Malo; Carlos Santana; and Tito Puente. He was the musical director to Cesar’s All Star band nightly at Cesar’s Palace, a nightclub owned by pianist Cesar Arscarrunz. Francisco was always performing with his own Latin Jazz orchestra and traveled at night to play a bata drum ceremony in Los Angeles the next day without resting. Francisco traveled back and forth to New York City to play with Eddie Palmieri, to participate in recordings and to perform with various other Latin orchestras. In his later years, Francisco returned to Los Angeles.

 

 

Francisco had a knack in finding young new talent, such as the late vibe player, composer and bongosero Nerio Degracia. Nerio wrote compositions and performed with Francisco and in his later years had his own Latin Jazz band.

Composition by Nerio De Gracia, Image of a Star:

 

 

The first Latin female pianist in San Francisco, Patricia Thumas performed with Francisco Aguabella while Armando Peraza was in his orchestra.

 

 

Conga drummer and batalero master, Virgilio Figueroa, colleague, friend and apprentice with Francisco Aguabella says about Francisco:

I first met personally Francisco Aguabella in 1972 in Los Angeles through Julito Collazo, who was my bata teacher and friend in New York City at a bembe toque at Bebo Ochun ocha house, when I was 15 years old at the time. I relocated to Los Angeles in 1974 and became Francisco’s personal friends till his passing 5 years ago.

I became a full member of his traditional Afro Matanzero folk group in 1980. Francisco was living in the city of San Francisco at the time. In 1982 I became a Lukumi priest and traveled to Cuba in 1983 to expand my knowledge of the Lukumi religion and ceremonial bata drumming in the city of Mantanzas (Cuba). In turn, I met my padrino (godfather) Alfredo Cano Calvo (deceased) who also happened to be Francisco’s sister Librada Aguabella’s godfather.

I met all of Aguabella’s blood relatives and became the bridge between them. In 1983 I decided to bring from Matanzas Cuba the first consecrated full set of añan bata to Los Angeles and recruited Aguabella to move here to Los Angeles from San Francisco and teach us how to play Matanzero style since he was the only one in the USA that new how to play in that manner. Tony Rosa, Mike Orta and myself were his only students at that time.

What impressed me to most about Francisco Urrutia Aguabella was his commitment in preserving the traditional Matanzero añan style of playing which he learned at the tender age of 15 by master oluaña Carlos Alfonso and the power he had when he played never got tired and demanded the same from his players.

Francisco Aguabella, courtesy of Aguabella Family.
Francisco Aguabella, courtesy of Aguabella Family.

Personally, I learned with him many other style of drumming such as olukun, iyesa, bricamo, bembe, arara and bakoso, styles that are no longer played in Matanzas today.

Francisco was a time capsule from the 40s and 50s.The main thing I miss about him is his sincerity and honesty and overall loyal friendship. Francisco did not befriend many people, but he made friends with me, and gave much needed advice growing up as a young man. For me, besides a friend and teacher he will always remain my Afro-Matanzero legend the one and only.”

 

 

Francisco Aguabella had few personal apprentices some who have reached legendary status due to their contributions in music:

John Santos, 5 time Grammy nominee and musical director of many charanga orchestras and Afro-Cuban folkloric groups throughout the decades. He’s a bata, instructor and clinician and a Latin music historian and musicologist.

Michael Spiro, music professor at University of Indiana, clinician, instructor, musician, and bata and Brazilian percussion master.

Tony Rosas, conguero, bata master, and musician currently based in New York City, performing with Conjunto Libre and Conjunto Folklorico Nuevorriqueño and other Latin orchestras;

Virgilio Figueroa, bata master, conguero, performing musician with other Latin orchestras in the Los Angeles area, with his tireless contributions to the Los Angeles, Nevada and other communities with his sacred añan drum group;

And me, Les Moncada, musician; former Latin orchestra leader & Afro-Cuban folkloric drum group leader; bata performer in clinics with Francisco Aguabella; founder of Latin Drumming Educational site on Facebook: Timbales and Congas Bongo Bata and Bells and 8 other Latin instrument sites on Facebook, and writer for World Music Central.

Francisco left us history in his recordings, especially his Afro-Cuban folkloric recordings. Additionally, Francisco contributed a great deal of folkloric knowledge to the Afro-Cuban recordings of Ramon Mongo Santamaria.

Francisco you are greatly missed by all.

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Les Moncada Chats With Legendary Latin Percussionist and Orchestra Leader Angel “Cachete” Maldonado

There are at times special musicians with the utmost talent and creativity. Angel “Cachete” Maldonado is this type of musician. We will refer to him as “Cachete” during this interview. Cachete has played the rhythms of Puerto Rico, which are bomba and plena, with his folkloric groups; but he also preserves the Afro-Cuban guaguanco (rumba) style, with Cachete’s style and flavor.

Cachete had, and still has, an outstanding Latin orchestra by the name of Batacumbele that performs on a regular basis on the island of Puerto Rico. Let’s see what Cachete has to say about his life in this interview.

Cachete, tell me a little bit about your childhood background. Where in Puerto Rico were you born?

I was raised in the Barrio Obrero, the nest of a lot of musical groups, as well as sportsmen, playwrights. A nest of all the big ones, like (composer) Tite Curet Alonso, adopted son of the Barrio Obrero, The Rodriguez, Tito Rodriguez (Latin orchestra leader), Arturo A Shimburg, Rubén Gómez, to mention a few.

Were any of your parents or family members musicians?

My father was a bassist and guitarist. My sister was a singer and my aunt Ana Maria Cruz was a singer, of the famous Fiestas de Cruz, very well known on the island.

What is the first group or band that you were in and what was the instrument that you played?

The first professional group was with Johnny El Bravo López and Danny González. I would play bongo and cowbell with Johnny and timbas with Danny González. Prior to that I would perform with other groups, although they were not known and I used to sing at 13 and 14 years of age.

What bands have you performed with during your musical career?

Larry Harlow, La Conspiracion, Luis “Perico” Ortiz, Eddie & Charlie Palmieri, Leandro “Gato” Barberi, Machito, Tito Puente, Típica 73, Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto, Jaguares, Ricky Martin, Lucecita Benitez, Celia Cruz, etc.,  etc.

 

Batacumbele - Con un Poco De Songo
Batacumbele debut album Con un Poco De Songo

 

What gave you the idea to form the band Batacumbele?

It was my first trip to Cuba. It was born out of a development concern for rhythmic music. There already existed rhythmically an example, Los Van Van with Changuito, creator of the songo rhythm that revolutionized the musical wave in Cuba. The Ritmo Oriental de Cuba, Irakere and other groups who spearheaded the new wave of music. A new form of playing the drums of the Ritmo Oriental and the tumbaos (beats) of Nino Valdes with four tumbadoras (conga drums) and Batun Bata, etc.

 

 

I have a love myself as a conga drummer for Afro drums of Rumba music. What inspired you to love and play that type of music?

Even when I was really young, studying drums, my love for the rumba and its drums (congas) was born. I remember that my father would take me to a rehearsal of Rafael Torres Silva. That was my first contact with the percussion of conguero Celso Clemente. He was the first person I saw play the timbas.

Later, Papo Román, the second conguero that I saw in the group. Then I began to listen to Mongo Santamaria; Carlos Patato Valdez; Francisco Aguabella; Julio Collazo, my first teacher of bata drums; Tommy Lopez; Mr. Ray Barretto; Ray Romero; Francisco Aristides Soto, better known as Tata Guines; Yeyito Iglesias; Guillermo Barretto; Tito Puente; Willie Bobo; and Jose Mangual.

 

 

Cachete, what’s the latest with Batacumbele these days?

With Batacumbele, now I am working with a group of young talents in union with Luis Marin, the musical director, and Pablito Rosario one of the original members. Noel Rosado, Tono Vazquez, Angie Machado, we have continued with the hard work of continuing with the group.

Due to my condition, I had to readjust my involvement with Batacumbele, but I keep working with the group Batacumbele Sangre Nueva (New Blood) and Los Majaderos de Cachete Maldonado, a group of rumba, bomba, and plena.

 

 

What are the future plans for you as a drummer, bandleader an artist?

Right now we are currently in the process of finding a location to give workshops and classes of Afro-Antillean dances, bomba, plena, rumba and other rhythms of the Caribbean, where all local and international people can enjoy the work in a patio.

I await to serve the public in general this year, 2016.

Discography:

With Batacumbele:

Con un Poco De Songo (1981)
En Aquellos Tiempos (1983)
Afro-Caribbean Jazz (1994)
Live at the University of Puerto Rico (1994)
Hijos del Tambó (1999)

With Cachete y los Majaderos

Cachete Maldonado y los Majaderos (SMG Productions, 2003)
Rumba Boricua Campesina

Facebook Page: Los Majaderos de Cachete Maldonado
For Bookings 787-533-6909

I would like to thank Cachete Maldonado for his great time and effort to make this interview possible.

At times, when I’m writing, I’m aware of conditions suffered by artists or craftsmen that due to age, and the fact that we are all human beings, have maladies that are not discussed on our Facebook page(s) Timbales Congas Bongo Bata & Bells, nor in our interviews for personal reasons. At given times, there are impolite or abrupt remarks made by readers that are unaware of the condition of the artists and craftsmen because they do not know them personally; those are overlooked at this time.

I would like to give a “great thank” you to Pablito Rosario for making this interview possible. Thank you Pablito!

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Les Moncada Chats with MOPERC Company owner, Michel Ouellet

When you talk about drums, there are the handmade versions of drums and then there are also mass manufactured drums. Michel Ouellet the owner of MOPERC located in Canada has one of the most outstanding handcrafted drum companies around, making congas, bongos, wooden timbales (tarolas) and soon, once again, batá drums.

Michel is an extremely social individual even though he has a busy shop schedule. He made time to talk with me as did the famed Jay Bereck. Let’s see what Michel has to say about himself and his drum company.

Michel, can you tell me little about your background?

I was born in a “not musician” family but very young I loved and listened to much music. My father was a blacksmith and was very clever with his hands so seeing him working daily, I began very young to make and build different things with my hands, spending my time beside him in his shop.

Michel, when did you first discover the drum, conga, bongo etc?

I moved to Montreal to study Arts at college. There, I began to play bongos with my guitarist room-mates. At the first 80s I began to study Latin percussion with different good players in Montreal as my friends Pierre Cormier and Andre Dupuis who studied in New York and Cuba. I learned rumba at this moment with them. This was my passion. I played hours and hours.

What made you start a drum making company?

At the age of 28 I moved to the country with my little family. I was a carpenter. The first month I arrived here, 27 years ago, I made for myself a djembe with a log with my chain saw! I accompanied African dance class with my first djembe. I made a second one that was better and I did more than 20 instruments in this way. Mostly, djembes and also batás.

During this time I was carpenter, as my career, during this part of my life. In the end of the 80s I began to study the construction of congas made by staves. I found different ways to build them. I saw the LP [Latin Percussion] method, with staves in two or three plies, I saw Skin On Skin who steamed and banded the staves (I went to buy congas at the Jay shop in Brooklyn).

I also saw how Valje (drums) would cut some grooves inside each staves to curve them. And I discovered the Junior Tirado; that Junior would cut each staves in a solid piece of wood. But I began with the steam method myself. Then I changed from cutting the staves to a solid piece of wood. This is the method I’ve used for 20 years and the one which I prefer.

The first congas I made I showed them to the percussionists in Montreal and they began to order some, and then ordered more. Later, I went to Toronto and the results were good, In 1990 I found the proper method officially, after 2 years of research.

The 90s were the years I developed my methods and different instruments. I have made batás, tamboras, congas, bongos, timbales, djembes, sabars, dununs, talking drums and different other little drums. Even a couple of drum sets for friends.

Quickly, I knew that my market would be in the bongos, congas and djembe drum making. Therefore, I have put the others drums on the aside and I just started offering timbales.

What kind of styles of music do you play and where have you traveled to expose your great product? Who have been some of the sponsors of your drums for your MOPERC Company?

In the 2000s. I came back on the scene with different models, salsa and grupo de son. I have Cuban friends Habana Café; with a salsa timba band. They still have a good success here in Canada.

I have played this style of music for 12 years on congas. But 8 years ago I quit the scene for keep my energy for my business.

I traveled to Cuba many times where I have concluded partnerships with Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, Yoruba Andabo, Afrocuban All Stars, La Charanga Habanera and different musicians such as Panga (Tomas Ramos Ortiz), Rolando Salgado, Pacha Portuondo, el Chino…

In the USA I have held clinics during these last years in different places as PASIC in Nashville, in Los Angeles and once In New York.

Last year, at the age of 55 and after more than 25 years of business I made a move to sell MOPERC Company and retire. But for some technical and human reasons the sale did not work. I think it is because I have not finished with this work. Now I’m very glad to be here as owner and founder for some more years. I have many projects. The sales go very well. I sell much in USA, much in Canada and a little in Europe. Some of my drums go to South and Central America and some to Asia, Africa …

How is the drum production going? Do you plan to start making batá drums again?

I’m working now on a new model of conga made of oak and mahogany. I used to make many congas and bongos with oak and mahogany in the 90s and I loved the sound projection of these woods. That will be more a vintage style model reminiscent of the old Cuban drums used in the rumba before and after the revolution. I like oak for the great projection and volume it offers. I love mahogany for its warm and rich tone. These are very nice looking grains of wood too. During these years I worked with maple, birch, ash, mahogany, cherry, oak, and others.

I’m working now also on batás drums. I have made some set during the years. Yoruba Andabo, Muñequitos de Matanzas and others play my batás around the world now. I have many demands. I’ll come back with these “high class” models of batá’s soon in 2016.

Michel Ouellet
Michel Ouellet

What is in the future for MOPERC, your drum Company?

We just went out with wood timbales (tarolas) recently and we have had great comments and success with them. We produced 2 videos demonstrating the wood timbales with my good friend and great Cuban percussionist based in Toronto: Rosendo Chendy De León.

I’m working on other different videos with my partner Francis Mercier. We are planning to film videos in Montreal, Toronto and also in Cuba this winter.

I do not have retail dealers, my preference it not to. So the best way for my product to be heard is on videos, and certainly producing live clinics with musicians. That is why in 2016, I will be producing several clinics in Montreal, Toronto, New York in and probably in Miami.

I have a small team, 2 employees in my workshop, plus myself and Francis, who helps me to develop and create the marketing utilizing these videos. We only focus on quality and contact with musicians. It had been always my target; “to make them happy and proud of their instruments”. Money and success come only after when this is well done. I think every craftsman and his craftsmanship should be like this.

I say, that it is much more than the profession, it is a passion, a calling!

By Les Moncada & Marco Moncada

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