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Voices in New York:

Román Diaz and Pedro Martínez were the July 2012 selection in the Voices in NY membership program. Read about their CD, Rumbos de la Rumba, here.


FOLK ARTS & CULTURE: Traditional Music & Dance


Román Diaz and Pedro Martínez—Rumbos de la Rumba

CD Artist Selection for July 2012
Román Diaz and Pedro Martínez
by Elena Martínez

The CD Rumbos de la Rumba (The Routes of Rumba) [Round World Records, 2008] — produced by scholar and filmmaker Berta Jottar — features two of the most knowledgeable practitioners and performers of Afro-Cuban liturgical music traditions who live in the United States today—Román Diaz and Pedro Martínez. Román is an elder with a mastery of the island’s different sacred and secular drumming genres, as well as a deep knowledge of the traditions of which they are a part. Pedro, a young protégé, is one of the most exciting drummers, singers, and dancers in the Afro-Cuban music scene today, already being compared to the legendary Chano Pozo of Dizzy Gillespie’s band and the NEA Jazz Master Cándido Camero.

Rumbos de la Rumba by Roman Diaz and Pedro Martinez
Berta began to document the vibrant rumba music scene in New York in 1994, and along with many writings on the subject (including an article for the New York Folklore Society’s Voices,From Central Park Rumba with Love,” Volume 37, Spring-Summer 2011) is currently producing a documentary about the history of Central Park Rumba.

The rumba, though African in its sound, is a thoroughly Cuban tradition that brings together various African diasporic traditions from the island as well as elements from the island’s Spanish heritage. The rumba tradition originated in urban centers in Cuba, specifically in Havana and Matanzas by manual laborers especially along the docks during the 19th century. It is a complex of percussion-oriented dance and music fused with vocals whose most significant styles are guaguancó, yambú, and columbia. The main instrument is the tumbadora, known to most people outside of Cuba as the conga, the most recognizable instrument from the Caribbean. The music and the people who practice it usually are practitioners of Santeria, the Nigerian Yoruba-based religion and many are also identified with the Abakuá religion, another sacred tradition in Cuba from the Efik-speaking people of Nigeria and Cameroon. The music itself is composed of elements from the Abakuá, for instance the clave sticks played in guaguancó utilize the same rhythm as the Abakuá ekón bell; most of the percussive and dance traditions come from the Bantu-Congolese cultures that were brought to the island; the nasal timbre and harmonies in rumba echo the Islamic and Jewish roots of Andalucia, and the vocal syllables sung at the beginning of a rumba song which set the key for the song, called the diana, are a legacy from Andalucia’s Mozarabic heritage. Though the forms of yambú and columbia survive mostly in folk form, the guaguancó has been adapted to commercial Cuban music, particularly mambo and salsa.

This CD, Rumbos de la Rumba, explores the Cuban rumba tradition with a mix of popular traditional rumbas featuring new arrangements by Román and Pedro (their first recording as a duo in the United States since arriving from Cuba) and some new compositions by them. Over half the compositions are guaguancó with songs that are rooted in the Yoruba traditions such as the opening, “Encyclopedia of the Drum: Moyubba Ilu” which is a greeting to the warrior orishas (deities) in the Santeria pantheon—Elegua, Ogún, and Ochosi; to songs from the Abakuá tradition like, “Abakuá: Greetings to the Powers.” The songs are also rooted in a specific rumba style, the rumba warapachanguera, which evolved in the late 1970s and according to Berta “introduced a different rumba rhythm based on the interplay of beats and rests, or what rumberos called ‘silences.’” The CD also comes with an interactive rumba video produced by Berta where you can add all the elements of the music one by one from the cajón (wooden box) box to the clave sticks to the conga drum to the voices of the musicians, and see how they intermingle to form a polyrhythmic whole.
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These traditional music & dance web pages were developed with support of New York State Music Fund, administered by the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. These music pages are still in development. Please enjoy and come back again, as we continue to expand this section.

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