08 Winter 1999 - Bronx Conexion
Miguel “Anga” Diaz: Anga Mania!
by Victor Rendón
Cuban born, Miguel “Anga” Diaz, is known as one of the new generation
congueros following the path of pioneers such as Tata Güines, Armando Peraza,
Candido, Mongo Santamaria, Carlos “Patato” Valdés, and Jorge “Niño” Alfonso.
He attended the music conservatory in Havana where he received a complete
musical education, studying drums and classical percussion. Before graduating,
he was asked to record several TV and film soundtracks with José Maria Vitier.
He then joined Joaquin Betancourt’s “Opus 13” traveling with this band
throughout the world for several years. He was given the award for best
instrumentalist by the UNEAC (National Reunion of Cuban Writers & Artists) and
in 1986 was considered “revelation of the year” at the International Jazz Plaza
Festival in Havana. In 1987 Jesús “Chucho” Valdés offered him the prestigious
conguero chair in the band, “Irakere”, in which he played for seven years.
Freelancing since 1994, he has been regularly playing, recording and teaching
master classes in various schools and universities. He has played and recorded
with musicians such as Roy Hargrove, Steve Coleman, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Danilo
Perez, Paquito D’ Rivera, Buster Williams, David Sanchez, and many others. In
1994, Anga recorded his first solo album with Tata Güines and several stars of
Cuban music winning him the Egrem prize for best record of the year.
Anga continues to perform jazz and Afro-Cuban music. He has been recently
exploring the DJ’s and electronic world, mixing his Cuban roots to sounds of today’s world. This is evident in his first master class
video “Anga Mania!” released by Music In Motion Films.
Where in Cuba are you from and how did you get into percussion?
I was born in a small town named San Juan y Martinez in the province of Pinar del Rio. I come from a musical family. My father
played saxophone, my mother played the piano, and my younger brother is a singer. I started my music studies at the Escuela
Nacional de Arte de Pinar del Rio. Later I went to the Escuela de Arte (ENA) in Havana. I studied a total of eight years. It was all
classical percussion. One of my classical teachers was Balcaser. He comes from a family of classical performers in Cuba. At that
time, folkloric percussion was not taught in the schools. In the late 1970’s, one had to either go to the streets to learn rumba or find a
teacher who played popular music.
Who are your influences in Afro-Cuban percussion?
The first is Tata Güines. Then there is Armando Peraza, Candido, Mongo Santamaria, Carlos “Patato” Valdés, Changuito, and
Jorge “Niño” Alfonso. Niño was the previous conguero in Irakere
before I joined. In reality, the older players have been very
influential. I always made it a point to listen to all these players.
They are the ones that form the foundation of today’s conga
Feature: Miguel “Anga” Diaz: Anga
drumming. I believe that each conguero had his own approach to
playing in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s. I tell my students that there is
Hearing Clave and Discerning The
no one certain style in percussion.
Inside This Issue
Melodies of the Batá Drums p. 4
CD, Video & Book Reviews p. 10
Ads p. 12
The editing and publishing of the Latin Percussionist has
been a great experience and learning process. We have had the
honor of having many talented percussionists write for the
newsletter in the course of four years covering eight issues.
They are listed to the right. In this issue we have the
distinguished Miguel “Anga” Diaz with deep insight on the
function of a conguero in a band. Check out his new
instructional video information on page 12. We also have the
first of what I hope will be many articles by “Dr. Clave (David
Peñalosa), performer, writer, and executive vice-president of
Bembé Records. Until next time.
Issue 8, Winter 1999
Published by Tortilla Flat Music: Victor Rendón/Armando Rodríguez
Editor: Armando Rodríguez
Latin Percussionist welcomes manuscript material, however, cannot assume
responsibility for them. Items must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped
SUBSCRIPTIONS are $6.00 per year ( U.S. and Puerto Rico). Outside U.S. and
P.R., rate is $10.00. Individual copies are $3.00 each
Tortilla Flat Music
Send all correspondence to:
TORTILLA FLAT MUSIC
P.O. Box 556
NY, NY 10116-0556
(Miguel “Anga” Diaz, continued from p. 1)
Can you talk about the older style of playing from the
1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s?
Note: Please do not copy this newsletter and give to your friends. Publications
like this will only survive through the support of its readers. ¡No Cuesta
At that time, every group had its rhythm that provided a unique sound. For example, Conjunto Chappotin played a type of son with
one tumbadora. The conguero’s name was Campeón. On the other hand, the conjunto of Roberto Faz used two tumbadoras. As stated
previously, each one had a different rhythm. For example, Juanito Marquez used the ritmo pacá, Pacho Alonso used the pilón, Pello
“El Afrokan” used the mozambique, and Orquesta Aragón used the cha cha chá.
Did the rhythms die out with the passing of each orchestra?
No, that is one of the jobs that I am doing now. I am rehashing these rhythms “que son muy ricos” (which are very rich). What we
have lost in Cuba is the constant use of those older rhythms. We haven’t had someone to guide the new generation in listening to the
music of those eras. But, I believe that the work Changuito and I are doing is helping in that regard.
On the video you talk about the fact that your style on five congas comes from Jorge “Niño” Alfonso.
Yes, the first conguero to use five congas in Cuba was “Niño." He had a very peculiar way of playing. His technique had a specific
movement to it that enabled him to play five tumbadoras with ease. That technique made his playing very melodic. When I joined
Irakere, I realized that I had a different way of playing. I got a video of “Niño” from Chucho Valdés (musical director of Irakere) and
studied it thoroughly. From there I united his style with mine. In reality, my playing is a combination of Tata Güines, Niño and
In your video and the upcoming book, you have some exercises for two and three congas as well. What would you recommend
to a student to develop this type of playing?
I always start my students with one drum. When one drum is mastered, then we move on. It is more difficult to play with one
tumbadora then it is to play with two, three, four, or five. I think that one should start playing with one tumbadora and master all
aspects of it. Playing more drums is a matter of applying the one drum technique to more drums. The purpose of playing five drums is
to find new sonorities. Sometimes you see players using five drums. However, if you take away four out of the five, you realize the
basics have not been mastered yet.
What do you see as the primary function of a conguero in a band?
“La marcha!” (the basic tumbao). That is why I say that one should always study with one tumbadora. A conguero who does not
have a solid “marcha” makes a band sound unsettled or unstable. He can also rush and drag the tempo. So, it is the “marcha” that is
the principal function of a conguero in a band. After that, we can apply some of the drum rudiments such as the double stroke roll and
the paradiddle. It is no secret that we can apply stick control (technique used by drumset players) to conga drumming. I don’t use
rudiments simply for the rapid effect. Rather, I use them for melodic reasons.
Tell us about your USA tour scheduled this summer with the Afro-Cuban All-Stars and Rubén González.
Yes, we are going to the United States at the beginning of June, 1999 for three weeks. We will be going to New York and other
What are your reasons for settling in Paris, France?
I believe that Europe (Paris in particular) is the best place for me to be at the moment. Here you encounter many styles of music.
My aim is to fuse all types of music and world percussion with Afro-Cuban music. Paris is one of the centers of fusion music. There
are a large number of good musicians and percussionists in this city. I work here but I also travel a lot using Paris as my home base. I
work a lot in the field of jazz with artists such as Steve Coleman, Roy Hargrove, Buster Williams, Chico Freeman, among others.
What are your plans for the future?
Well, I just finished an instructional video titled “Anga Mania!” and I’m working on a CD. I am interested in mixing Afro-cuban
percussion with other types of music. I plan to keep playing all types of music.
Is there anything you would like to end with?
“Seguiré lentamente y tranquilo” (I shall continue slowly and in tranquility). I would like to add one message to the students of
percussion. That is to study the masters from before. Don’t close yourself off to only listening to the younger players. One who does
not study the older players, cannot find out what’s happening now. Congueros should listen to Tata Güines, Armando Peraza, Candido,
Mongo Santamaria, Carlos “Patato” Valdés, and Jorge “Niño” Alfonso to name just a few. Timbaleros should study players like
Guillermo Barreto, Tito Puente, Changuito, and Orestes Vilato. These are the people that teach us the concept of what the instrument is
Hearing Clave and DiscerningThe
Melodies Of The Batá Drums
by David Peñalosa
Brought from Nigeria in the early 1800’s by way of the slave trade, the batá drums are the most
important and complex of all the various Afro-Cuban drums systems. Batá are a set of three
progressively-sized, double-headed, hour glass shaped drums. All three are considered to be one
instrument, acting as a single organism. The batá literally “speak” the Yoruba language and recite a
litany that is crucial to particular rituals. Batá used in religious ceremonies are considered sacred. Each
consecrated set of batá has living within it, the deity known as Aña.
Because of their powerful and beautiful rhythms, the batá have been continually used to enhance
dance music (Orquesta Revé, Conjunto Libre, Eddie Palmieri, Batacumbele, Conjunto Céspedes), Latin
jazz (Irakere, John Santos’ Machete Ensemble, Fort Apache, Conrad Herwig), and even experimental
music (Herbie Hancock, Laurie Anderson, Kip Hanrahan, Malcolm McLauren).
In my many years of accompanying dancers and singers with the batá, I have encountered the
difficulty with which non-percussionists have hearing clave within these intricate drums. The following
is taken from lesson plans to help those who wish to better hear the batá.
The different batá drums’ names are from largest to smallest, iyá Illu (in Yoruba, literally “mother
batá”), itótele and okónkolo. Each drum has two heads. The larger head is called enú and the smaller,
chachá. The rhythms of the batá, poly-melodic and full of cross-rhythms are often difficult to discern to
many people, due in large part to the fact that there are six drum heads being played at once.
Two Strata of Melody
One helpful way of making sense of this dense euphony is by identifying the melody of the enús as
the primary reference and the chachás as the secondary. It’s almost as if there are two drum batteries
being played at once. The melody of the enús is similar to that of the open tones which make up the
primary melody of a conga drum ensemble. The melody of the chachás on the other hand, sounding
somewhere between conga slaps and woodblocks, provide a second strata of melody which adds depth
In the example below, each drum part for the rhythm Obaloke is written. The enú and chachá
melodies are written separately as well. Notice the difference between the enú’s and chachá’s emphasis.
The melody of the enús is sparse and easily distinguishable, while the melody of the chachás consists of
descending triplets, falling upon every division of the beat. The rhythm Obaloke is typically used to
accompany songs for the orishas (Yoruba deities), Oggún and Ochun.
Clave and the main beat cycle (four evenly spaced pulses), are spread across two measures here.
Clave is written in this way for ease in reading and to emphasize the key pattern’s binary nature.
Although I believe son clave demonstrates the clave principal more clearly, I use rumba clave because it
is the standard reference for Afro-Cuban folkloric music. For ternary rhythms, I also include the standard
bell pattern as a reference.
Please note that the drum heads’ placement on the staff are not meant to imply specific pitches and
note durations were chosen for ease in reading. All strokes are of course, staccato.
Roles Of The Drums
The okónkolo, smallest of the batá, generally marks the beat with a simple repeating pattern. The
okónkolo and itótele often play in opposition to each other. In Obaloke for example, the chachás of the
okónkolo and enús of the itótele are on the beat, while the chachás of the itótele and the enús of the
okónkolo are on the first off-beat (“and”).
The iyá is the lead drum, commanding the ensemble to start, stop and change rhythms. The iyá player
must improvise to the dancers steps, play in such a way as to “bring down” the orishas in the bodies of
mediums and know when a song change requires a rhythm change.
The chachás of the okónkolo and itótele are fixed and rarely move. Except for established
conversations, the enús of the okónkolo and itótele are fixed, although in some rhythms there is some
latitude for a modest amount of improvising by the okónkolo.
The iyá improvises with both it’s enú and chachá. In addition, the iyá’s enú initiates call and response
conversation with the itótele’s enú. In some cases, the itótele’s response consists of adding just one extra
tone, while at other times the appropriate response is a radical departure from it’s basic part. In some
instances an itótele player may choose to answer with a creative variation of the traditional response. The
role of the itótele is a difficult one because it requires knowing the difference between an iyá’s call for a
conversation, an improvised phrase within the mode, or a call into an entirely different rhythm, all of this
while usually keeping a steady off-beat pulse riding on the chachá.
The example below illustrates the basic conversation for Obaloke. The iyá calls the itótele on the
three side of clave and the itótele responds on the two side.
How Enú Melodies Are Structured
There are two fundamental ways in which the melody of the enús is structured. The first way is with
each drum having it’s one or two tones which when combined, create the full melody. Obaloke is such a
The second way consists of the iyá playing the entire rhythm with the other drums merely filling it
out. For instance, the itótele’s enú will be on top of the iyá chachá, while the okónkolo marks time.
Babalú Ayé, the rhythm written below is an example of this second way enú melodies are structured. This
rhythm is six claves long, with the structure A-A-B.
Hearing Clave In The Batá
Once one can focus on the melody of the enús, hearing clave in the batá is a much easier task. The
“clave logic” of Obaloke is a bit obscure however. The itótele’s two enús being on the beat implies that
they are on the two side. The reasoning being that the three side of clave has an off-beat emphasis and
the two side, an on-beat emphasis. Hearing clave in Babalú Ayé on the other hand, is much more straight
forward. For most of the rhythm, the iyá and itótele’s enús literally make a melody out of the standard
In the example below, enú melodies for various batá rhythms are written. Clave’s relationship to
these rhythms is evident. In toque Arará (the batá adaptation of the Arará drum system), the okónkolo’s
enú plays ternary rumba clave. In Aggayú, the okónkolo’s enú plays the standard ball pattern ) excluding
the stroke on “one”). In the written example of Dadá, the iya’s chachá was included because it plays
The Music of Santería: Traditional Rhythms of the Batá by John Amira and Steve Corneleas
(White Cliffs 1992)
Los Instrumentos de la música Afrocubana Vol. 3, Vol. 4 Fernando Ortiz
(Havana, Ministerio de Educación 1952, 1954)
Música Yoruba (National Folkloric Ensemble of Cuba) Bembé 2010-2
Illu Aña (Regino Jimenez) Fundamento Production
David Peñalosa answers questions related to Afro-Cuban music at his “Ask Dr. Clave” page for Bembé Records website
Anga Mania!: Miguel “Anga” Diaz
Music in Motion Films: www.mimfilms.com
Price: $39.95 + $5.00 (S&H)
NYS residents add 81/4 % sales tax
w/ booklet 60 minutes approx.
Send check or money order to:
Tortilla Flat Music, P.O. Box 556, NY, NY 10116-0556
Dan Thress (former editor with DCI/Warner Bros.) is now
residing in Paris and has formed his own publishing company, Music
in Motion Films. His first production features renowned conguero /
percussionist Miguel “Anga” Díaz. Perhaps what makes this video
different from others is that it deals with three, four, and five drum
applications. The first section starts with a five drum tumbao pattern
(called marcha) followed by various fills and melodic variations. It
is then followed by a piano / conga performance, which demonstrates
how these patterns can be applied. A guaguancó section for five
drums then follows starting with a basic ride and followed by
variations. Anga briefly talks about some technique exercises
coming from the school of Changuito, Tata Güines, as well as
himself. An interesting duo performance follows with DJ Gilb-R in
which Anga provides us with more applications of the previous
material. It is in this section that we start to see some of Anga’s own
style such as playing with a stick in the right hand and applying it to
his unique setup which includes various bells and timbongoros. He
also has two sets of bells and a woodblock setup on bassdrum pedals,
which he plays with his feet. Anga also provides us with some
excellent applications of mixing rhythms such as pilón and batatumbá
with funk. On the pilon + funk he plays drumset, timbales, and
congas. On the batatumbá + funk the drumset, three congas, and the
iyá are utilized. The final section is an uptempo tribute to the late
Cuban pianist, Emiliano Salvador featuring a four-drum setup.
A transcription and analysis booklet (by Victor Rendón)
accompanies the video with all the basic rides and variations on the
tape. By the time this goes to print, a book/CD version of the
material should be in the works so keep an eye out. This video is
available through Tortilla Flat Music as will the book/CD. Check the
ordering information and the ad on page 12.
Counting is a main feature of Kim’s teaching strategies. All parts
are counted in 8th and 16th notes. Drum syllables are also used for
the conga parts derived from Olatunji’s “Gun Go Pa” method with
The 2nd half of the video features what Kim calls mozambique
“New York Style”. For the newcomer, this is the style of
mozambique that developed in New York most notably with Eddie
Palmieri’s “La Perfecta” (1960’s) with Manny Oquendo on timbales.
The same procedure and strategy is used in the presentation of this
style as in the first. Both styles are played in 4 and 7 piece
ensembles, which makes it easy to see and hear the complete picture
of how these styles are played. What is appreciated most is the
articulate and concise presentation, which should make it easy for
any percussionist of any level to learn these two important styles of
mozambique. A music transcription booklet is included with all the
parts written in both standard notation and a time unit box system.
La Africanía De La Música Folklórica De Cuba
by Fernando Ortiz
Fernando Ortiz (1881-1961) was an early century pioneer in the
study of Afro-American studies. He wrote a number of books, which
examined the indigenous and African roots in Cuban music. This
work was part of a two-volume work published under two titles, La
Africanía de la Música Folklórica de Cuba (1950) and Los Bailes y el
Teatro de Los Negros en el Folklore de Cuba (1951). These led to a
five-volume study titled Los Instrumentos de la Música Afrocubana
(1951-1955). These books have long been out of print and could be
obtained only in xerox form if you happened to know someone with a
copy. This classic book examines musical and oral expression in
Africa and Cuban origins of singing, poetry, oral tradition, as well as
rhythm and melody in Afro-Cuban music. One interesting aspect of
the book is that it contains batá musical transcriptions of the oru del
igbodu (drummed religious ceremony without song, also called oru
seco). While these transcriptions are problematic in themselves, it
must be noted that these transcriptions became an important source of
batá information for New York musicians. Using them as a learning
tool they went on to study various recordings to decipher many of the
toques (rhythm patterns). It is available through the Latin American
Folk Institute, 2306 Fairview Terrace, Alexandria, VA 22303-1906
$24.95 (S&H $4.00) Spanish, 266 pages
Mozambique Volume 2 with Kim Atkinson
Cuándo Salí De La Habana
Pulse Wave Percussion
P.O. Box 703, Sebastopol, CA 95473
Price: $30.00 + $4.00 P&H w/ booklet 60 minutes approx.
CA residents add $2.20 tax
Phone: 707-823-8885 Fax: 707-823-0131
by Cristóbal Díaz Ayala
P.O. Box 190613, San Juan, PR 00919-0613
256 pages in Spanish including a CD $25.00 including S&H
This video is a continuation of Mozambique Volume I in which
percussionist Kim Atkinson demonstrates the mozambique as he
learned from its creator, Pedro Izquierdo, better know as Pello El
Afrokan. As in volume I, Kim offers a concise presentation of the
mozambique with a breakdown of the individual bell, conga, and bass
drum parts in relation to the clave. In Volume I the rhythm was
demonstrated and played in 3-2 clave. Here the rhythm is presented
in 2-3 clave serving as a review of the first video and reinforcing the
importance of thoroughly learning Cuban rhythms in both clave
1898-1998: Cien Años De Música Cubana Por El Mundo
Celebrating the first centennial celebration of Cuba’s
independence, this book traces many artists, musical groups, and
personalities, which form the musical history of Cuba since 1898. A
CD containing twenty recordings is included. The reader is prompted
to listen to specific tracks at various sections in the book, which help
to mentally visualize the different eras. Included in the CD are an
early version of “La Paloma” and the danzón “Habanera Tú”. It also
contains the first version of “El Manisero” (1930) and “El Son De La
Loma” (1928). Of particular interest is the inclusion of a version of
“St. Louis Blues” recorded in New York (1931) by the orchestra of
Los Hermanos Castro. The author cites this as an intention to fuse
American jazz with Afro-Cuban music. Indeed, upon listening to the
track one can definitely hear a rhythmic foundation of son with a
coro from “El Manisero”. This intent, however, was not a
commercial success. If this information is correct it should shed new
light on the common belief that Mario Bauza and Dizzy Gillespie
were the first to fuse jazz and Afro-Cuban music. Overall this work
will serve as a good reference source with many facts and dates and
should be in everyone’s personal library.
Chucho Valdés & Irakere: Babalu Ayé
Bembé Records, P.O. Box 1730, Redway, CA 95560-1730
Phone & Fax: (707) 923-7262 http://w w w. bembe. com
Irakere, led by pianist, Jesus “Chucho” Valdés releases Babalú
Ayé, an album of contemporary dance music. As stated in the notes,
the CD is above all a dance album maintaining the signature sound of
the band with its brassy horn lines and intense percussive rhythms.
A favorite is “Esta Noche” with its precise horn riffs over intense
rhythms. “La Comparsa” is another fiery tune sounding like
rock/Latin/funk out of the late 1960’s with its blaring guitar riffs.
Lázaro Ros (the best known akpwon or lead singer of traditional
Yoruba sacred music) also joins the group for several Yoruba songs
for the deity, Babalú Ayé titled “Cantata A Babalú Ayé”. This is
certainly one of the most enjoyable recordings by Irakere.
Bobby Shew: Salsa Caliente
555 E. Easy St., Simi Valley, CA 93065
Trumpet player, Bobby Shew is world-renowned within jazz as a
player and educator. He had a dream to one day record a Latin jazz
CD. That he did with an all-star Los Angeles lineup which includes
pianist/composer; Mark Levine, tenor saxophonist; Justo Almario,
percussionist; Michito Sanchez, bassist; Eddie Resto, percussionist;
José “Papo” Rodríguez, and trumpeter; Sal Crocchiolo among
others. The result is quite a hard swinging recording with finely
executed solos by all players and well done arrangements of “Cubano
Chant”, “Linda Chicana”, Bill Fitch’s composition “Insight”, and
Johnny Blas: Mambo 2000 Ubiquity Recordings / Cubop
LA based percussionist/composer releases his 2nd CD with
CuBop and continues to bring us good hard driving Latin-Jazz
originals (only one cover tune; Picadillo) with his brassy trombone
Adriano Rodríguez & Edesio Alejandro: Soul of Cuba
This CD is the unification of two generations. 74 year-old master
of the son, Adriano Rodríguez teams up with composer Edesio
Alejandro. Together they bring new light to traditional tunes such as
“Bilongo” and “Suavecito” with funky bass lines and a strong
percussive drum foundation. They call it acid son.
The Commandments of R&B Drumming:
A Comprehensive Guide to Soul, Funk, and Hip-Hop
(Warner Bros.) by Zorro
A historical study of R&B drumming from soul to funk to hip-hop.
Practical grooves from each era of R&B are studied and developed.
The Drummer’s Complete Vocabulary as taught by Alan
Dawson (Warner Bros.) by John Ramsay
Jazz drummer and teacher, Alan Dawson, had a unique approach
for teaching drumset which has been legendary among drummers.
His alumni include Tony Williams, John Robinson, and Terri Lyne
Carrington, among many others. Lessons included the study of
rudiments (more than 80), four way coordination studies which made
use of Ted Reed’s Syncopation for the Modern Drummer (more than
40 ways to interpret) and George Stone’s Stick Control. He also
taught his students to solo by having them play and improvise to the
form of a tune such as “Oleo”. Former student, John Ramsay has
done an excellent job compiling all the material Mr. Dawson used to
teach into one book and making it available to us. The two CD’s are
a definite “must listen” which include tracks of Mr. Dawson playing,
talking, and demonstrating many of his teaching techniques.
Independence: Akira Jimbo
Warner Bros. Publications
Price: $39.95 60 min. approx.
This is Akira Jimbo’s third video. This film is more instructional
in nature demonstrating Akira’s ideas on 4-way independence
(dexterous movement of the four limbs). Not surprisingly he does a
lot of this through the application of Afro-Cuban rhythms in a style
which has come to the front with the work of Cuban drummers such
as Horacio Hernández, Jimmy Branley, Calixto Oviedo, Changuito,
and others. He presents a systematic approach to the development of
playing the clave with the left foot while playing songo, mambo, and
soloing with the hands.
Armando Rodríguez / Victor Rendón
Latin Jazz Ochestra
with Special Guest: Chico O’ Farrill
CD: $14.95 + $2.00 S&H
NYS Residents add 8 1/4 % sales tax
Send Check or M.O. to:
Tortilla Flat Music
P.O. Box 556
NY, NY 10116-0556
Next Issue: Summer 1999