Friday, March 6, 2015

DJ BONGOHEAD of the 
PEACE & RHYTHM CREW presents: 



Hey ya'll, come check out the great shows this coming Saturday at Barbes!
I will be playing a lot of rare and freaky tropical dance vinyl, vintage and contemporary cumbias, boogaloos, descargas, and other steamy, dreamy delights for the latest sensation at Barbes, the Midnight DJ Set.
Before my DJ gig, be sure to come dance to Chia's Dance Party!

Shoutout to Thom Dudley of Sightlab for the awesome poster design!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


EL SONIDO ROBOTICO
An Interview with DJ Roger Mas of 
Los Discos Duro & Discos Mas

Recently some dope tropical gems have caught my interest and they all seem to come from the same mysterious source, one DJ called Roger Más. Who was this masked man?



The only thing I could gather was he was from California and had great taste and some mad skillz. First on my radar was a totally nast-ay re-edit of the classic left-field deep cut “Los Esqueletos” by Cumbia Siglo XX from the LP Cumbia Africana Vol. III released by the Colombian Machuca label, which some of you may know from various Afro-Colombian themed compilation releases by Analog Africa, Soundway, and Vampisoul. 


I first heard it on a French radio broadcast in 2013 of a session by my friend at Vampisoul, Iñigo Pastor, who was visiting Paris as a guest DJ.
He played some great music that set, including this freaky leftfield rework of “Esqueletos” on the Unicornio label – I knew I had to find it! Sounded like if The Residents were Colombian or Eno on peyote! 



I discovered that it had come out a few years before all the hoopla around Afro-Colombian champeta and psych cumbia had gone mainstream, in 2009 in fact, so this DJ must have some pretty deep knowledge, I figured! Check the sick Miles Steuding vid here:

Soon enough I also found out that there was another cumbia rework 45 by Más, “Baila Hihi”/”Cumbia Bonita”, which I picked up and was equally thrilled by.


Then in 2014 the first Los Discos Duro 45 showed up, “Te Lo Creo”/”Muchachada” (Más) – I stumbled upon it at my friends’ online store Ear Candy Music (they are based in Missoula, MT):

And amazingly, within the same week, I found it as well as on my other friend’s spot, Independent Grand out of La Gran Manzana: http://www.independentgrand.com/



Plus, when my man O-Dub on his Soul-Sides.com blog wrote: “Disco-synth-cumbia? Hell yeah!” — I felt it had to be worth my further investigation. And finally, when I saw it was associated with Roger Más, I just knew I had to snag it without question.


It did not disappoint! It fit right in with these other tripped-out dubby electro-flavored cumbias I was into from Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia so it was a natural shoe-in for the Rumba Psicodélica sets I was doing at The Quarters: http://hadleyquarters.com/  
... with my DJ gig/Peace & Rhythm label partner, Andujar.






I am a big fan of dub echo, electro, flange, and other effects, often adding them to my DJ sets, but with this 45 I did not need to mess with anything, it was like it came already Bongohead-ified. The A-side was the spacey, loopy one that really sent me to the outer limits. Thankfully, the B-side brought me back to earth with a super-up-tempo jam (great for getting yourself up in the morning with your cuppa Colombian joe, BTW). Best of both worlds, this little platter o’ wax was, and in addition, what a hoot to hear these old sonidero/picotero classics revisited in such an irreverent and hip way! ¡Coño!, ya nailed it, bro, I wanted to say to him. But I still did not know just who really was responsible for these oddly affecting 45s I had added to my crate arsenal, seemingly out of nowhere. And that was that, for the time being at least!



Then waddya know, a year later DJ Roger Más himself contacted me, mentioning that he had a new one out, and was I interested in checking it? ¿Que que? More vocoder tropical goodness from the dynamic duo Los Disco Duro? Hola, ¡claro que si! Count me in, I said.







So I promptly ordered a couple from him on his Discogs store (that is how I prefer to do it anyway, direct from the source).



You can hear/see it here for yourself:



Despite a snow-engendered delay, the package eventually came (it was hard waiting for it knowing how dope it was gonna be) and I opened it up to discover, lo and behold, more great fun again from Los Disco Duro in an electro-stylee – but this time an original crowd mover was on the A, and a sick “quinceñera” version of the Benny Moré mambo cha-cha classic “La Culebra” was on the flip. Much to my delight, it was done in an up-tempo digital cumbia mix, like some foil-wrapped arepa sabrosa to-go, washed down with a cold Guayaquí yerba maté.




Funnily enough, I grew up with El Bárbaro Del Ritmo’s records blasting on the stereo hi-fi of my parents’ various pads back in the day, and had just gone to Moré’s home city of Cienfuegos in November, so he was fresh in my mind. It was really cool to hear this version right after getting back from a trip to my father’s birthplace, Cuba. 




Makes perfect sense to hear it in this updated, translated style since Roger Más is based in “Califas” (California), home to so many Chicano and other Latino/a people who love cumbia, and Benny Moré (some spell it Beny) made his career in the Chicano homeland of “México Lindo” during the film blitz there of the 1940s and 50s, and since cumbia has always been huge in Mexico as well, the whole thing dovetailed perfectly in my mind. Yeah, this is perfecto, I thought, and the timing is just right too. I want to get to know this Roger Más cat a little better, I decided. It seemed worth it to try and get a little deeper into his mind to see what makes it tick and whatnot. I was not disappointed (but in honor of his wish for anonymity, I will not reveal his name or publish photos of him). Suffice it to say along the way I discovered we have a mutual friend in DJ Beto, aka Ernesto Gyemant, another thing that only endeared the guy to me even more (más)!



Here’s what Roger had to say:


Bongohead: Are you in the SF/Bay Area?

Roger Mas: Yes, Bay Area, Oakland specifically

B: Do you do remixes?

RM: I do remixes mainly for my DJ sets. For the most part just adding a little bass and bass drum to make stuff friendly for the dance floor.


B: So you have a band? 

RM: Yes, I like to think of it as a hybrid between a band and a live studio session. Parts of our set are sequenced and we play and sing live so dynamic things happen much like a band but we have the consistency and fatness of working with a drum machine which gives us the 80’s electro type vibe. 


At a bare minimum it’s me playing guacharaca (a type of metal scraper used in cumbia percussion) and babysitting the vocoder and midi sequencer while Marcos sings. We usually perform with timbales. The main idea is to get everyone dancing to our weird cumbias and the timbales make that happen.

B: Are you guys playing out much?

RM: Our first show was in San Jose in June 2014 at a monthly roving party called Sonido Clash hosted by Raul y Mexia from the Los Tigres del Norte dynasty. It happened to be at Chinese restaurant called Peking House, which sounds weird but it actually ended up being a perfect place to shoot our first video. 


Our second show was at the Electronic Sriracha festival, which drew almost 10,000 people. It was a crazy second show to say the least.
We are scheduled to play our 3rd gig on March 20th at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco with Candelaria and Afrolicious. That's a big deal for us, I mean, that’s where Robin Williams filmed his famous HBO special.

B: That is totally cool. Who are the players? 

RM: Basically it’s me and Marcos and an excellent percussionist named Eric Mendez on timbales and conga on the records. Eric is busy most of the time playing with the major salsa acts in the Bay Area so my friend Miles Steuding has played timbales for our live shows.



B: I have always had a soft spot for electro/break-beat elements, I guess because I came of age in the early 80s with Bam, Strafe and Mantronix. When it is tastefully combined with Afro-Caribbean ritmos pegajosos (especially if there is some sort of organic element), it can have a really excellent frisson, like The Empire Strikes Back meets carnival time in el caribe. How do you do the robot voice, with modern digital effects or an old vocoder?



RM: We use hardware vocoders live and in the studio. Our first record is all Korg MS2000 and MicroKorg which are essentially the same beast.



It's a really good sounding vocoder but not the most stable or predictable so we’ve moved on to other hardware like the vintage Roland SVC-330, of “Transformers, more than meets the eye” fame and the Electro Harmonix Iron Lung pedal. It sounds really good and you can flavor it with any synth you like. In conjunction with the Korg Volca Bass synth it makes for a super compact live setup.



B: When did you first get into cumbia? What are the influences on the music you make?



RM: Coming from a DJ background, a segment of my musical taste is informed by what moves people on the dancefloor. I realize that’s different for every DJ, but for me, I cut my teeth playing in the SF Mission for the last 10 years where there are people from all over the world, especially Central and South America who react viscerally to cumbia, merengue, punta, salsa, champeta, etc.

I just decided to try and cover some of my favorites of the songs I would keep coming back to week after week in my DJ set for this Los Disco Duro project. My approach to the material was similar to how Tomita interpreted all the top euro classical music, with synthesizers. We literally just take the music apart and reconstruct it with synthesizers just like Tomita did except by ear, no sheet music.

Instead of Beethoven we mess with Fito Olivares. Instead of Bach we prefer Banda Machos. Franz Schubert, Fruko Estrada...

For instance, on the new 45, I’m not sure if you know about this version of “La Culebra”, but it’s the cover of the cover that we covered:
Originally we were only doing human vocals but the vocoder was just a natural fit to our ultra synthesized renditions of these tunes that we created Los Disco Duro to explore themes in this totally over the top way.

B: Are you a musician as well? 

RM: I am a musician more in the studio/recording artist sense. The last time I played in a conventional group setting was in college at Laney in Oakland playing guitar in the jazz band in the department run by Jay Lehmann and Ed Kelly but that was 20 years ago. Since then, I have become somewhat proficient at keyboards, picked up the clarinet again (hadn’t played since the 5th grade) and I’m currently learning timbales.

B: The clarinet could come in handy with recording cumbias! So tell me who is Marcos? Is it the M. Juárez credited on side A?  How did you guys meet and start your robo-collabo fantástico?

RM: Marcos Juárez and I went to the same high school at different times but actually met years later through a mutual classmate friend of mine Devin McDonald (his father is Country Joe McDonald.)

Marcos and I began messing around with music together around 6 years ago. Our first successful recording was of a son jarocho (form of son music from Veracrúz, Mx. – Ed.) tune called “El Jarabe Loco” (mean literally “crazy syrup” in Spanish – Ed.). 

https://soundcloud.com/dj-roger-mas/jarabeloco12inchversion

Marcos played jarana (guitar from Veracrúz, Mx. - Ed) and maracas and I played bass and did the drums. We call that group Los Guapos Sensibles.  Marcos studied and performed son jarocho on jarana with Los Cenzontles in San Pablo, CA. He is a natural performer.




B: Do you do radio?

RM: Marcos and I both did quite a bit of radio at KALX in Berkeley. I had a show in the 90s and early 00s playing hip-hop, soul and Latin and more recently with now defunct all Latin showcase program, Amedianoche. There might be links to those shows on:

B: Why put your music out only on 45? I get the sense that you are of the generation like mine that loved vinyl and never left analog recording, and are an MP3 hater. We are kindred spirits… Are you planning on doing a full length ever, or more 45s? If you did an LP would there be cover art (as you may know I am big into that aspect of Latin music as well)?

RM: I have a personal belief that vinyl, is in fact, final. I question if music even really exists in digital form at all. While I'm not a straight up digital denier, I feel there is something important about manifesting your ideas in physical form.

Plus, these days music is so cheap with everybody listening passively on their streaming services or actively looking for specific stuff on YouTube, we’re all moving towards a world where people are willing to pay less and less for digital sounds. 

It seems like the most the undiscovered independent artist is willing to do is post their stuff on Soundcloud, and from an investment standpoint, I can see why. 

For now we are full-steam-ahead making 7” singles. They are cheaper to produce and it’s easier to do refine 2 songs at a time. Once we hit the big time, I would like to re-issue our singles in album form.

When you decide to take your own stuff seriously enough to want other people to hear it, vinyl is a good way to make that happen. It shows that you are serious enough to potentially waste money on your ideas. It takes ganas (i.e. desire and will – Ed.) but I’d like to think there are people who appreciate that. I certainly do.

Plus, there is just something nice about vinyl and the fact that it’s physical, mechanical, orthophonic medium. You can play it without electricity and you can't erase it with a solar flare.

B: So there you have it folks! An electro-cumbia-vinyl-maniac like me but with a lot more talent for making music! Mil gracias, “Roger”!

Check him here:
And here:







Wednesday, April 2, 2014

R.I.P. The Teacher - Descanse En Paz, El Maestro



My father Professor Luis Ellicott Yglesias passed away last Sunday, and though I was really hit hard by the loss, and upset that he suffered so as he lay dying in the hospital, I take comfort that he is now finally at rest. He was a teacher and a learner, interested in many subjects, from poetry to music, women to nature, spirituality to storytelling. He will be sorely missed by myself and many other people. His loving and devoted wife, my kind and loyal stepmother Suanne, was always by his side, caring for him and sharing in his interests and desires, although of course she also juggled many of her own interests as well. Today, as I am processing our loss, I wanted to share with my readers a photo of him at his last outing, when he visited my gallery show, Visual Clave. His record collection - and the wonderful, colorful stories he told about enjoying Latin music at one of its most important sources, the island of Cuba (where his father's side of the family was from) - is what got me started on this whole odyssey of the book Cocinando, and the shows Que Viva La Música!, American Sabor, and now Visual Clave. He told me the records in his collection were the only possessions he brought back with him in his suitcase when he left Cuba for good on the eve of the revolution. One thing he passed on to me was a respect for teaching and a love of learning, not only in the classroom, but in everyday life, and it was a pleasure to take all the skills I had learned from him, from research to lecturing, and get a chance to teach the teacher. Dad, I love you and your stories will always be in my heart, like sand stays in your shoes after a visit to the beach.

Mi padre el profesor Luis Ellicott Yglesias falleció el pasado domingo y a pesar de que estuve realmente un duro golpe por la pérdida y malestar que sufrió, ya que estaba muriendo en el hospital, me consuela que en la actualidad él es finalmente en reposo. Fue un maestro y un alumno interesado en muchos temas, de la poesía a la música, las mujeres a la naturaleza, espiritualidad a la cuenta de historias. Le vamos a echar mucho de menos por mí y muchas otras personas. Su amante y esposa fiel  y leal Suanne, mi madrastra, fue siempre a su lado con el cuidado de él y compartiendo en sus intereses y deseos, aunque por su puesto ella tiene muchos de sus propios. Hoy ya que estoy procesando nuestra pérdida que quería compartir con mis lectores una foto de él en su última aventura cuando visitó conmigo mi exhibición de la caráctula del LP latino, Visual clave. Su colección de discos, y a la maravillosa historias que dijo acerca de música latina en uno de sus más importantes fuentes, la isla de Cuba (de donde procede el lado familiar de su padre, Dr. Luis Iglesias y de la Torre) - es lo que me hizo empezar a toda esta odisea del libro Cocinando y los shows de Que viva la música, American sabor, y últimamente, Visual clave. Me dijo que los álbumes de su colección fueron las únicas pertenencias trajo de vuelta con él en la maleta cuando salió de Cuba para fin, en la víspera de la revolución de Fidel Castro. Una cosa que ha pasado para mí fue el respeto a la enseñanza y su amor por el aprendizaje y conociminto, no sólo en el aula o salón de clases, pero en la vida cotidiana también, y fue un placer tener todos los conocimientos que había aprendido de él, de la investigación a sermonear la lectura, y tenga la oportunidad de enseñar el maestro esta vez. Papá "I love you" y sus historias siempre estará en mi corazón, como la arena se queda en los zapatos después de una visita a la playa.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The opening party for Visual Clave - candid iPhone shots!

Here are some fun informal iPhone shots of the opening by my colleague, friend (and graphic designer) Moira Greto who was there at the opening last month. Thanks to all of you who made it to the show, from family to Latin Night regulars, FamilyFun colleagues to fellow Shokazoba and Beige band members, faculty to students, radio and music friends, and to all my friends who couldn't make it - no worries, I know you'd have been there if you could have - there will be other opportunities! Many thanks to the gallery staff and volunteers who made it happen, especially Brendan and Paula; to Glenn; and to Jesús and the band. To all my fellow DJs who came and threw down the rare vinyl: Muchas gracias para venir y tocar! Andujar, Bogart, Bosq, Jonathan "Semi-Colon" Goldman, Mike P, and Studebaker Hawk - you will live on in history! — Bongohead















video
Jesús Pagan & Conjunto Barrio playing at the opening, Cape Cod Lounge

Also, 2 pics of me lecturing to UMass students, by John Solem




Filmmaker Rodrigo Balseca documents Visual Clave

Here are some great shots New York-based filmmaker Rodrigo Balseca took at the Visual Clave show and opening at the Student Union Art Gallery. He's working, along with a crew of dedicated filmmakers, on a really exciting documentary about "Mr. Salsa" - Izzy Sanabria. Rodrigo came up with two of his crew members and filmed the opening, interviewing artist Charlie Rosario and the performance of Jesús Pagan Y Conjunto Barrio. Charlie Rosario worked with Izzy, and Izzy loaned a number of amazing original artworks - not only from his own hand, but also pieces by people who worked with him, Jorge Vargas and Walter Velez. Rodrigo brings a special eye to the proceedings, taking the images to another level. Enjoy!



The DJ set up, pre-opening!


Students enjoying the show


Charlie Rosario's original sculpture-graphic for Charlie Palmieri's "Electro Duro" LP


Yglesias gives an impromptu lecture to UMass class


Lots of DJs in tha house!


Sudents start piling in!


Izzy's original Rapidograph art for "Hecto-Mania"


After the opening, live music with Jesús Pagan's "Conjunto Barrio" - here we see Charlie Rosario guesting on the mic!


¡Vaya, soneroooo!


¡Dale al timbal!


More cowbell!


Cuero na' ma'


Cuban-American UMass student studies Izzy Sanabria's work


C. Rosario's "Live In Quad" album art ("sculpture-graphics") for Larry Harlow LP


Closeup of Orquesta Cimarrón sculpture by C. Rosario


Charlie Rosario makes friends with UMass students


Rodrigo's film crew


Pablo Yglesias gives impromptu lecture to UMass students


Ghetto Records logo that Izzy adapted from Gil Suarez LP cover


Izzy's Rapidograph of Ray Barretto's band


Izzy does Pupi


Walter Velez and Izzy Sanabria's famous Sonora Ponceña cover


Izzy's autograph on a Mongo LP


Rare alternate version of "Feelin' All Right" cover for Mongo Santamaria by Izzy


Cesta All-Stars by Izzy Sanabria


Talking with Charlie Rosario about Latina-themed LP cover group


Izzy Sanabria's "Jazz Espagnole" cover


Rare Venezuelan colored version of Izzy Sanabria's Alegre All-Stars LP


Charlie Rosario looks at his work



Pablo Yglesias and Charlie Rosario