Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Re-imagining 80s rock classics in the era of geo-political warming

Havana Rocks Cecilia Noël - 140 g. VINYL EDITION 
Compass Records, 2015 (revue)

Lima, Perú-born, L.A.-based Renaissance woman Cecilia Noël continues to push boundaries and delight fans with her original and ground-breaking take on Cuban-derived Latin dance music. On her latest release, Havana Rocks, she brings authentic, made-in-Havana instrumentation and arrangements to her own refreshing reading of classic 70s/80s rock, New Wave and pop tunes. However, unlike some Latin pop salsa romántica with English lyrics, Ms. Noël’s interpretation of how to cover gringo rock tunes differs from your Ricky Martins and J-Los in that Havana Rocks does just that: it rocks out! And way down in its soul, the record’s still resolutely Cuban too. Noël describes her style as “hard-core salsa” and feels she is more of a “punk salsa singer” so it’s quite fitting that she revisits the punk and New Eave era for this outing.

With Havana Rocks Noël and her fun-loving band make truly hybrid music that feels honest, real, and playful at the same time. At first glance, skeptics might balk at AC/DC done as salsa – is this some sort of hipster exercise in irony, a corny nostalgic gimmick to cash in on Buena Vista’s coattails, or just an embarrassing continuation of the Yankee Imperialist project to dilute “pure” Cuban music? One listen will silence critics as they start to move to the familiar melodies buoyed along by the infectious tropical grooves. The amazing thing is Ms. Noël fully integrates the contrasting elements of Latin and rock in a bi-cultural, organic union that is both pleasingly danceable and satisfyingly confident, where similarities and affinities are highlighted to cunning effect (it helps that the tunes are bi-lingual and that snippets of equally classic Cuban songs are melded seamlessly onto the Anglo tunes). A case in point is her imaginative re-working of Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town” that fits her hard-core son cubano treatment like a leather glove. Yet the question of cultural imperialism with Havana Rocks, if there is any, is more around an interesting reversal of sorts – the viewpoint is resolutely looking outward from the island at the larger “90 miles” world beyond the “Mango Curtain,” where the rock element is merely a jumping off point for something deeper (literally in the instance of her brilliant version of Van Halen’s “Jump”). When Brit synth-pop icon Gary Numan’s originally ennui-infused “Here In My Car” is done within the context of Cuban history, it takes on a whole other meaning, enriching the album with sociological layers that belie the notion that salsa is only for the feet. Perhaps it is Noël’s own outsider immigrant perspective that facilitates this richness. Whatever the case, her special blend goes together like Havana Club rum and Coca-Cola.

In a time of ever-warming relations between Cuba and the US, this release is indeed timely and hopefully is a harbinger of our putting a more positive, collaborative spin on our shared past history and future destinies. As a vinyl fan and DJ who only plays wax, my own desires were answered when Noël’s label heeded the public’s petitions and came out with this vinyl edition in October, 2015. In a way it’s only fitting since the tunes covered on the album originally came out in that very same timeless format. (Hey label folks, any chance Cecilia’s 2009 release, ¡A Gozár! will be reissued on vinyl?!?). My advice is snap Havana Rocks up while you can and shake all night long, or as we say in Cuba, ¡Sacúdanse toda la noche!

—DJ Bongohead

Listen to song samples here:

Gettin' ready to rock tha house at New City Brewery's After Work Vinyl Hang, Easthampton, MA

From Compass Records' press release: 
“If you’ve ever wanted to hear a boogaloo version of “Whip It”,” a timba chart of “You Shook Me All Night Long,” or salsa-dance to “Cars,” then Havana Rocks is definitely the album for you. Seriously, this is more fun than should be legal.” –WRIR’s Global A Go-Go

(Nashville, TN) October 21, 2015 — CECILIA NOËL's newest album, HAVANA ROCKS, is now availble on vinyl LP. Havana Rocks is a Latin-infused collection of pop/rock classics recorded in Havana, Cuba which recently won the 2015 Cubadisco International Award (the first American album to win this award). Together, Noël and crew combine elements of salsa, soul, jazz, funk, and Afro-cuban music to deliver infectious Latin takes on MTV-era mega-hits. The album includes covers of Devo’s “Whip It,” Gary Numan’s “Cars” andACDC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long,” along with hits from her husband Colin Hay's 90's hit machine Men At Work, Thin Lizzy, David Bowie, Van Halen and more–all propelled by deep percussive grooves and Noël’s rich and appealing alto vocals.
Originally from Lima, Perú, Noël was discovered by Stan Getz and moved to New York City where she briefly performed as a dancer with Jo Jo’s Dance Factory and Menudo. In 1989, she relocated to Los Angeles and became involved in the local music scene. She formed Cecilia Noël and The Wild Clams, a James Brown meets Pérez Prado type band, which received frequent bookings at the House of Blues and the Playboy Jazz Festival and instant acclaim for their explosive live shows. In 2009 Noël released A Gozár! (Compass Records), an infectious set of playful ‘salsoul’ grooves for which Noël is known and which earned Noël a spot on Putumayo’s critically-acclaimed Latin Party release in 2010. In addition to her band, Noël also performs and records with husband and former Men At Work front man Colin Hay and has produced Los Chapillacs. She is currently finishing production on Cuban tres master San Miguel Perez's first solo album.

Monday, November 2, 2015

THIS Thursday, there's some funky vinyls a-brewin' - so come on down after work, November 5th, 2015, and get down - or just chill with a brew!

The Peace & Rhythm DJ crew (Andujar, Bongohead & Studebaker Hawk) will be spinning records at New City Brewery in Easthampton MA for an evening thing this Thursday. We’ll also have P&R releases and t-shirts for sale.
We’ll be spinning a wide range of styles , including funk, soul, rock, dub, cumbia & afrobeat, all from vinyl, from 5-10 pm. We will also be previewing forthcoming releases from our test pressings! There is no admission fee. Come and hang, drink some fantastic New City brews (including the gluten-free alcoholic ginger beer) and check out this brand new taproom! They also have non-alcoholic ginger ale.
180 Pleasant St, Easthampton MA 01027

Psychedelic Cumbia Reaction, via Rolando Bruno & His Mighty MIDI Orchestra!
Some of the jams we played last time 

Afrosound 45 goodness!

Andujar re-fuels with Guayaki

Paris DJs on the decks


Thursday, there's some funky vinyls a-brewin' - come on down after work, October 22, 2015!

The Peace & Rhythm DJ crew (Andujar, Bongohead & Studebaker Hawk) will be spinning records at New City Brewery in Easthampton MA for an evening thing this Thursday. We’ll also have P&R releases and t-shirts for sale.
We’ll be spinning a wide range of styles , including funk, soul, rock, dub, cumbia & afrobeat, all from vinyl, from 5-10 pm. We will also be previewing forthcoming releases from our test pressings! There is no admission fee. Come and hang, drink some fantastic New City brews (including the gluten-free alcoholic ginger beer) and check out this brand new taproom! They also have non-alcoholic ginger ale.
180 Pleasant St, Easthampton MA 01027

Thursday, there's some funky vinyls a-brewin' - come on down after work, November 5, 2015!

The Peace & Rhythm DJ crew (Andujar, Bongohead & Studebaker Hawk) will be spinning records at New City Brewery in Easthampton MA for an evening thing this Thursday. We’ll also have P&R releases and t-shirts for sale.
We’ll be spinning a wide range of styles , including funk, soul, rock, dub, cumbia & afrobeat, all from vinyl, from 5-10 pm. We will also be previewing forthcoming releases from our test pressings! There is no admission fee. Come and hang, drink some fantastic New City brews (including the gluten-free alcoholic ginger beer) and check out this brand new taproom! They also have non-alcoholic ginger ale.
180 Pleasant St, Easthampton MA 01027

Sunday, May 17, 2015

VISUAL CLAVE comes to The Bronx and Brooklyn, Summer 2015!

50 Years of Latin Album Cover Design

Visual Clave documents the little known evolution of ‘Salsa Graphics’ and the expression of Latino identities through the prism of album cover art over half a century of music packaging and graphic design.

This exhibit explores the evolution of Latin music album cover art over the last 50 years,paying critical attention to issues of identity and aesthetics through depictions of Hispanic people and cultures, with an emphasis on historical context and the unsung graphic artists who helped present Latin music — and its attendant socio-cultural themes — to the world. Visual Clave’s premise is that the record jacket is not just an ephemeral mass-produced object to be relegated to the trash heap of a bygone era, but rather a unique 12 by 12 inch window onto a culture’s soul. 
The concept of “clave” is essential to understanding Afro-Antillean popular music forms and the dance culture that surrounds it, and is therefore a perfect metaphor for describing Latin album cover art. Clave is the African-derived 2-3 or 3-2 beat used in almost all genres of Latin music. In addition, the claves are the wooden percussion sticks used to mark these syncopated time signatures and as an instrument date from the time of slavery and colonialism. Therefore both the beat and the instrument can be seen as a potent symbol of Hispanic cultural identities and practices. Clave as a concept is the ‘key constant’ through all these different genres of music and different national narratives, and this exhibit is the vibrant visual manifestation of this cultural heritage, full of variety and consistency at the same time, just like Latin music itself.
New York City, especially the area of Spanish Harlem and the boroughs of Brooklyn and The Bronx, are all locations central to the type of Latin music known as salsa so it is fitting that Visual Clave is being exhibited in two of these locations. Each gallery features original album art (paintings, photographs, sculpture, and layouts) as well as LP covers from the golden era of Latin vinyl. But each show is also unique and concentrates on different facets of the music and history, with an emphasis in each on the particular location of the gallery. Be sure to see both! Openings feature DJs playing rare Latin records followed by special events: live music, lectures, and discussions.
 For more information go to: and or visit: or visit them on Facebook.

1303 Louis Niné Boulevard, Bronx NY 10459
OPENING: June 5, 2015 - 5:00 PM
Featuring a Multi-Media presentation by “Mr.Salsa” Izzy Sanabria, and DJ Turmix, Andujar and Bongohead playing classic Latin vinyl.
Also:  August 14, 6:00 PM: 
Lecture on the history of Fania Records by Joe Conzo, Sr. 
August 14, 7:00 PM: plus concert by salsa orchestra (TBA).
Exhibition dates: June 5 - August 15
Gallery hours: 

 Monday – Tuesday – Thursday: 4:00 – 7:00 PM;   Saturday: 1:00 – 5:00 PM

338 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn NY 11211
OPENING: June 6, 2015 - 5:00 PM
Featuring MC “Mr.Salsa” Izzy Sanabria and live music by Ola Fresca “Unplugged” with Jose Conde, followed by Pablito “El Indio” Rosario and the Brooklyn All-Stars, plus DJ Turmix, Andujar and Bongohead playing classic Latin vinyl
Also: June 13, 7:00 PM: 
A Multi-Media Presentation by “Mr.Salsa” Izzy Sanabria, performance by Charlie Rosario and Los Rumberos Callejeros and guests
Exhibition dates: June 6 - July 5
Gallery hours: 

Monday – Friday: 11:00 – 6:00 PM; 
Note: week-night viewing hours can be scheduled per need, supervision and office availability.
All events are FREE and open to the public. 
Made possible by The Bronx Music Heritage Center and Picture Farm Gallery.

Izzy "Mr. Salsa" Sanabria

Pablito "El Indio" Rosario

Jose Conde of Ola Fresca

Charlie Rosario of Los Rumberos Callejeros

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Drums & Dreams
I just put up a new art show with my friend Charlie Rosario last week in the Bronx at the Bronx Music Heritage Center Lab (1303 Luis Niñé Boulevard). We hung our work side by side, and collaborated on a shrine to the great conga players, percussionists, and rumberos of Cuban and Puerto Rican origin called "Para Los Rumberos" - check an early shot of it below. Better yet, come to the Bronx and see it in person! Many thanks to BMHC's artistic directors Bobby Sanabria and Elena Martinez, as well as Jennifer Rajotte, Development and Marketing Officer (Arts and Community) for WHEDco and BMHC. Opening is May 2, 2015. DJ Andujar will be there playing vintage vinyl representing the rumba and Latin percussion genres; and Charlie Rosario will perform his spoken word poetry over rumba beats with bass and congas, featuring Los Rumberos Callejeros.

Drums and Dreams Artists’ Statement

I invite all rumberos to come on down, to the best visual rumba show in town. It will be a colorful bembé if you know what I mean. From collage to painting, it’s about drums and dreams.
—Charlie Rosario
My art is inspired by music, storytelling, Afro-Caribbean and Mesoamerican cultures, and is influenced by dreams and the surreal. Through my exploration of the subconscious, rhythm, faith, and family history, I explore identity, sacredness, states of possession and ecstasy. Totemic objects, metaphorical imagery, ritualistic practice and special color-coding all play a part in forming my aesthetic and vision.
—Pablo Yglesias

Recognizing a kindred spirit in his friend Charlie Rosario, Pablo Yglesias suggested that the two artists put on a duo show of their work. Both are inspired by many of the same sources, utilize similar mediums of artistic expression and have collaborated on creative projects in the past. Yet their art is different enough that the end result of their being shown side by side leads to complementary and synergistic results. Having a showcase that allows the two artists to share an overview of their art in the same space is a long overdue opportunity that will produce a polyrhythmic visual interplay greater than the sum of its parts. In many ways, Drums and Dreams is the logical outcome of their previous collaborations, affinities and long-standing friendship. You might say this show is “the perfect combination” (la combinación perfecta), to quote an often used phrase in Latin jazz.

 Charlie Rosario: Semí - Pa’ Bravo Yo • (1999) • Acrylic on board • 24" x 27" (NFS)

 Charlie Rosario: Dog Dream • (1995) • Acrylic on board • 23" x 16" (NFS)

Congueros/rumberos muertos honrados en Para Los Rumberos:

Ricardo “Papín” Abreu

Francisco Aguabella

Federico Arístides Soto Alejo
aka “Tata Güines”

Candida Batista

Justiniano “Justi” Barreto Blanco

Carlos Vidal Bolado

Celia Cruz
Julio “Julito” Collazo
Miguel “Angá” Díaz

Modesto Durán

Carlos Embales
Frank “Machito” Grillo

Luciano Pozo González (“Chano” Pozo)

Félix “Pupi” Insua

Pedro Izquierdo (“Pello El Afrokan”)

Silvestre Méndez

Celeste Mendoza

Jesús Alfonso Miró

Beny Moré

Armando Peraza

Jesús Pérez

Daniel Ponce

Francisco “Chino” Pozo

Arsenio Rodríguez

Israel “Kiki” Rodríguez

Ramón “Mongo” Santamaría

Merceditas Valdés

Miguelito Valdés

Carlos “Patato” Valdés

Pancho Quinto (o “Kinto”)

Alberto Zayas “El Vive Bien”


Ray Barretto
Francisco “Kako” Bastar
Milton Cardona
Mike Collazo
Rafael Cortijo
Gilberto Miguel “Sonny” Calderón (“Joe Cuba”)
Tommy López
Frankie Malabe
Luis “Sabú” Martinez
David “La Mole” Ortiz
Victor “El Negrito” Pantoja
Tito Puente
Martín Quiñones
Louie Ramírez
Cándido Rodríguez
Frankie Rodríguez
Joe Rodríguez
Johnny Rodríguez, Sr.
Tito Rodríguez

 Rumberos Callejeros recording session with Cholo Pérez, Yogui Rosario, and Louie Montañez drumming for backing track on Charlie Rosario's spoken word piece "Drums & Dreams". Recording took place with Jacob Plasse and Quinn McCarthy at The Creamery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 3/24/15.

Charlie Rosario gets ready to record his spoken word piece "Drums & Dreams" while Quinn adjusts the mic.

Chico Alvarez leads recording session for "Drums and Dream" featuring the bass of Jason Youvert.

Friday, March 6, 2015

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

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:

Plus, when my man O-Dub on his 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:  
... 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.).

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: