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The Routes of Rumba

Artist:   Pedro Martínez & Román Díaz

Style Released Album Tracks Charts
Afro-Cuban 2009 11 0


© 2009 Berta Jottar. All rights reserved.
Audio album download includes album tracks, liner notes and cover art.
All audio tracks in MP3-VBR format. About LPM album downloads.
# Name Play Time Info
01  Encyclopedia of the Drum
Alternative text
6:06 greetings to the three warrior dieties
02  Prohibition Protesta Carabali
Alternative text
4:22 nationalistic guanguancó
03  Dialogue
Alternative text
1:30 u took my drum so my body is now my drum
04  Stomach Health
Alternative text
3:23 intergrates the Cuban diet into the absurd
05  Conflict
Alternative text
6:41 reaffirmations of one's beings
06  Abakua Greetings to the Powers
Alternative text
8:59 sounds between ceremonial and secular
07  The Monument
Alternative text
4:36 tribute to Manuel Ël Llanero"Martínez Olivera
08  Seduction
Alternative text
3:50 flirtation, friendship, love & broken hearts
09  El Brete
Alternative text
2:48 Havana meets New York's rumba characters
10  Exodus
Alternative text
3:59 composed on the Guantanamo base during the Special Period
11  Fragmentation
Alternative text
5:30 musical kaleidoscope
The Routes of Rumba (Rumbos de la Rumba) is the result of the collaboration between professor Berta Jottar and music virtuosos Pedro Martí­nez and Román Dí­az. It is a conceptual musical journey about Rumba's performance culture understood as a set of socio-historical relations. Each track is located within a different psychic space to evoke a sense of walking in la Havana, or circulating in the African Diaspora, or feeling caught between love and conflict, between the secular and the sacred.

This is a multi-media album containing 11 audio tracks, 1 flash file (an interactive rumba where each instrument's sound is activated by your computer’s mouse), and 1 video file (a short lyrical video about Pedrito's and Roman's synergy). An exceptional download for rumba collectors.

This recording captures Pedrito and Román’s musical chemistry right after their arrival from Havana, thus documenting their unique interpretation of their generation’s sound, the Rumba guarapachanguera, a grass-roots music movement that emerged in the late 1970s and that introduced a different Rumba rhythm, the interplay of beats and rests, or what the rumberos call “silences.” The guarapachanguero style juxtaposes traditional instruments with the invention of new ones, for example the “raspadura” drums. Raspaduras are pyramidal wood box instruments which size determines their tonality. Marielito Manuel Martínez Olivera "El Llanero" baptized the guarapachanguero by naming it before his departure from Cuba in 1980. The rhythm, however, was actually invented by his neighbors and cousins, the López brothers, better known as "Los Chinitos," a Rumba family from La Korea suburb in Havana. Los Chinitos, Francisco Mora “Pancho Quito,” Jacinto Schull “El Chori,” and the ensemble of Yoruba Andabo were this musical movement’s precursors and Pedrito and Román’s direct influence.

The invention of the guarapachanguero’s new rhythm and drums is a key indication of Rumba’s improvisational nature, an acoustic elaboration that showcases Rumba’s experimentation based on a profound sense of polyrhythmic knowledge based on the clave (performed with two wood sticks or two different spoons) timing, and the necessary conversation among drummers, singers and dancers. Thus improvisation or inventar (to invent) is a great example of the rumbero idiosyncrasy: anything rumberos think becomes a Rumba lyric, anything the rumbero touches becomes an acoustic surface, and when the police arrives there are no drums on sight but wood trunks, suitcases and spoons.

Track Notes for The Routes of Rumba
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE DRUM: MOYUBBA ILU (Greeting to The Drum or to The People) Performed by Pedro Martínez. Because of its connection to slaves, the knowledge of the batá drums’ religious foundation also traveled to the Americas. It initially arrived in Cuba and Brazil but expanded to the rest of Caribbean and Latin America. “Encyclopedia of the Drum” is a greeting done with batás to three warrior deities of the Yoruba Pantheon: Elegua, who opens and closes the paths, the beginning and the end; Ogún, whom is the orisha of labor; and Ochosi, the hunting god. “Encyclopedia” is a sonorous journey through time and by sea that transports us into one path of rumba's spiritual routes. In the union lies the strength. (Román Díaz)

PROHIBITION (Guaguancó) Rumba is the celebration of the being, and the result of the coming together of diverse African ethnicities. This guaguancó is a nationalistic anthem that exemplifies Rumba as a space of political and social debate. The author is Abakuá Reynaldo Brito.

DIALOGUE (Guaguancó) And when they took their drums away from them, they used their body as a resonating body. They turned it into an acoustic body.

STOMACH HEALTH (Guaguancó) Rumba narrates the quotidian. In marginal neighborhoods, the culinary arts are always a topic, “the gossip of the spoon.” This number integrates the Cuban diet into the absurd.

CONFLICT (Columbia) Always, where there is exploitation there is war and illness. This columbia begins with a prayer to Babalú Aye, King of Arará land, and saint of diseases and epidemics. The piece introduces masculinity, puya, competition, provocation, all reaffirmations of one’s being.

ABAKUA: GREETINGS TO THE POWERS The Carabalí and Brikamo people from West Africa, known as Abakuá, created one of the strongest socio-cultural and religious organizations in colonial Cuba. Their lodges have made a presence in the various emancipation and union movements during the pre- and post-colonial Cuba. This number occupies an in-between space, a sound between ceremonial and secular performance.

THE MONUMENT (Guaguancó) This is a double tribute performed via the conversation between two voices, that of the quinto’s improvisational drum and the singer’s. Manuel Martínez Olivera “El Llanero” composed this guaguancó in tribute to Benny Moré, one of the most prolific interpreters of Cuban popular music. In this context, the song operates as an homage to "El Llanero" himself who was also known as the Beny Moré of Central Park Rumba. "El Llanero" was a central figure in NYC for having taught the relationship between Rumba’s clave and singing to many first generation Nuyorican rumberos.

SEDUCTION (Guaguancó) Where there is Rumba there is flirtation, friendship, “he says to her nice things, and the people tells her to leave him. He tells her that it is a love story, that people have given up their life for it ….”

EL BRETE (Guaguancó) Rumba integrates and convokes the people’s voice, the unfolding of words, the riddle. This piece connects Havana and New York City by greeting Central Park rumba’s picturesque characters.

EXODUS (Guaguancó) Rumba itself is exodus, migration, crossing borders, seas and also nations. It is not being able to return, as well as the encounter with other cultures. Rumba is the embodiment of the conditions of crossing, and the meeting between subjectivities in transit. For instance, this rumba was composed in the U.S. Guantanamo Base by one of the 35,000 balseros (rafters) who left Cuba during the 1994 Special Period. Indeed, the mass movement of temporary field-workers has historicaly produced the so-called Rumberos invasions. In 1926, when migrant laborers travelled from Matanzas to Havana escaping the hurricane and the resulting lack of employment, it is said that these rumberos formed dance competitions in their free time.

FRAGMENTATION by Román Díaz. "This number is a history also, a history inside memory …” Migrations, forced or not, always create a sense of personal or group fragmentation. But when these individuals find each other, they form a great Rumba. “Fragmentation” follows rumba’s musical routes, in this trajectory “the clave and the cata are two guys that are just crazy, walking around and they find one thing and later another.” (Román Díaz) Thus, the Congo tradition is founded on dance and the strong stepping on the ground; the Yoruba Lucumi traditions are manifested in the guaguancó’s flirtatious nature, Oshún’s feminine gestures, Oya’s fortitude, the queen of the wind and the cemetery. As Román says, “like Andrea Baró, not all women want to be possessed.” The Abakuá manifests itself in the guaguancó’s eloquent rhythms and masculine energy. The Rumba is the synthesis of all: it is a conversation between all the rhythms with the joy and festivity of the carnival, the public form where ethnic groups have manifested themselves since the 19th century. The Carnival is the union of all the fragments. For Román "the beginning in the end…because the black people were understanding everything, that there was a way to unite all… Carnival, holiday of the people." “Fragmentation” shows the musical kaleidoscope rumba encloses.

INTERACTIVE RUMBA by Berta Jottar. (Flash file) An experimental rumba to be activated in your computer. This piece illustrates rumba's musical structure. Each instrument's sound is activated independenlty by using your computer’s mouse enabling you to analyze each drum's sound in relation to the clave.

DIALOGUE by Berta Jottar. (Movie file) A short lyrical video about Pedrito's and Roman's synergy.

The Making of The Routes of Rumba by Berta Jottar
Soon after their arrival to New York, I saw Pedrito and Román performing at La Esquina Habanera, a well-established Cuban Rumba space in Union City, New Jersey. This project is their first recording in the U.S. as a duo elaborating the entire music in the Rumba guarapachanguera style. Most Rumba records are performed by established ensembles, or what is known as a “ven tú,” a jam session organized by invitation. This work however traces Pedrito and Román’s musical synergy.

I proposed six essential Rumba concepts to Pedrito and Román: dialogue, prohibition, conflict, seduction, Abakuá, éxodo and fragmentation. Pedrito and Román interpreted these concepts by arranging popular Rumbas and composing new ones. Both decided to interpret the fragmentation concept individually. Pedrito created his “Encyclopedia of the Drum,” a number performed with the batá drums—a double-headed set of three drums considered the “Ph.D.” of African drumming. His piece is a salute to Élegua, Ogún and Ochosí, Yoruba warrior deities, also known as the Orishas from Cuba’s Regla de Ocha (Santería) religion. While Pedrito’s “Encyclopedia” shows one of rumba’s spiritual precedents, Román deconstructed the concept of fragmentation into an eight-movement composition. “Fragmentacion” traces Rumba ethnic roots and culminates in a totality: “all of a sudden you are in a Santería ceremony, then all of sudden you are in a rumba, this is Havana.” (Román Díaz)

This project is also about Pedrito and Román’s encounter with the diversity of NYC rumberos. We invited Alfredo Díaz "Pescao" who arrived to the U.S. in 1980 with the Mariel Exodo. Pescao’s contribution was not only his voice and original compositions, but his witty sense of humor bringing the street and solar energy into the project, elements of el ambiente de la Rumba: El Brete (neigborhood gossip), Salud Estomacal (on culinary matters), and “El Monumento,” a tribute honoring Manuel Martínez Olivera “El Llanero.” Pedrito, Román and Pescao performed together these three numbers, creating a sparkling call and response dynamic necessary in a good Rumba. Thus this recording connects two Rumba generations in the Diaspora, Pedrito and Román’s, who were entirely raised in Revolutionary Cuba and departed during the Special Period, and Pescao and Manuel’s generation who grew up in-between the Batista and Castro regimes and left during the Mariel boatlift. Two migratory generations still connected through Rumba as their common denominator and epistemological framework.

  Berta Jottar -photo by Alisa Froman
Most recordings of Latin music do not emphasize attention to the quality and diversity of the tumbadora drum’s sound because drums are reduced to their rhythmic function. It is also known that the best Rumbas are when they are performed live and spontaneously. However, this recording was done in studio and most of the instruments (with the exception of tracks 3, 6 and 8) were recorded independently. Kamilo Kratc concentrated in the analysis of each drum’s color and sound texture in order to reproduce the melorhythm and harmonies resulting from their combination. Kamilo’s art was also to experiment with different microphones in order to obtain a recording that captured the sound closest to each drum’s natural sounds.

The sound mix was a collective effort. With Kamilo, I was particularly interested in the reproduction of the different drum sounds’ spatial relations. Pedrito and Román also participated in different mixing sessions, they work with the various sounds, their combinations and their drums diverse manifestations. This resulted in sound mixes that complemented each other, adding to each song our different moods and sentiments. The final sound mix was about Rumba’s polyrhythmic figures, to recreate the dialogue between the various drums and human voices. For instance, “when one sound is telling another sound that he has not much time left, that the Abakuá sound is coming.” (Román Díaz) Pedrito also pays particular attention to the choral harmonies; with Kamilo and Maribel they experiment with the creation of Prohibition’s chorus. This resulted in a totally different version of Protesta Carabalí, the song’s real name, a classic made famous by Pedro Fariña and Juan Campos Cárdenas “Chan” in Cuba.

Thus this project is invested in Rumba’s multiple trajectories and layers to demonstrate the presence of history and memory, as they conflate momentarily within Rumba’s contemporary sound, “lo antaño con lo moderno.” (Román Díaz) While Rumba is a highly intellectual, emotional and spiritual, it is also about street culture. Thus where there is rumba, there is controversy, gossip and poetic conspiracies.