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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cuban rhythms

Last weekend, I attended a lovely Pena(pronounced Penya, but I can't get the squiggly over the n) at the Blue Chair Cafe . It was a show for a Latin Jazz band called Bomba. Their members live in Calgary and Edmonton and when they get a chance to get together, they do in either city and have these little music sessions.

I cannot believe this is the same group Bomba I had heard about when I was living in Calgary all those years ago. I used to occasionally take drum lessons from Luis. I just went to the Bomba site and I recognized one of their guest players- Toto. Toto used to be (and I presume still is) good friends with Luis. This was at least 10 years ago. And as I was looking at the pictures, it suddenly dawned on me that the singer that was also playing the gourd and guitar was Luis that I learned to drum with. He taught us how to drum djembe, but had from time to time brought in the congas for us too. My most cherished memory of my time drumming was this sultry, hot summer evening. This was in One World's old studio, above the hydroponics shop on Centre Street , in Calgary . It was hot and stuffy there. The windows were open yet it was stifling since there was about eight of us and the room was very much akin to an oven. Luis was showing us how to play several lines. He wasn't happy with what he heard, so again and again, he showed us what we had to play and listened. This went on for what seemed like endless hours. By this time, beads of sweat were wending its way down my shoulder blades and between my breasts. The music was pounding. And hypnotic. We could barely hear the traffic outside, though as we drowned out the sounds or cars and honking trucks. At some point in time, Luis turned off the lights in the place in hopes of keeping the heat down. So, there we were, in the evening's half light, beating away our own individual drum lines as he made us repeat again and again till it became part of our selves. Or hands and our hearts took over and collectively, we sighed. The the music started tightening up and for that small window in time, we were transported to Cuba, with the gentle and hypnotic beat of the congas,the clave, his melodious singing and the thick viscous heat on that hot summer day. He used to offer conga camps in Cuba- where one could go and live as the Cubans do, and play and eat and dream with them too. I wonder if he still does that. I would go in a heartbeat.

1 comment:

Kimmie said...

Wow! You went to Cuba without getting on an airplane - what an awesome experience - thanks for sharing!