Timbalive in Syracuse May 5th

Could not get it together on the night of May 5th and Timbalive the band came on, and then I became:

Alive – Inspired – One With All
Joining the band and resonating on their timba frequency
Time Slowed Down and Heart/Soul Beat Clarified
Timbalive truly is like their jingle “Salsa Vitamina” – Medicine for the soul

I always say that the music must speak to you. Playing inspiring new music – live music well – encourages growth and creativity, nurtures the soul. A new standard for live Latin Music has been set in CNY area by Timbalive

Salsa Cubana Workshop in Ithaca – Feb 25 2012

When I got into dance I personally experienced the difference that in made in my life and others.  In my travels I was able to connect with many through the language of dance, and gain a sense of the larger global community that I was part of.  However, I began to see that while Ithaca has a salsa community, as does Rochester, Binghamton, Syracuse…there isn’t much movement of people between these local/regional locales. In the hopes of doing something to change that I organized my first weekend workshop in Feb of this year.

I brought down Vic Hadar from NYC to conduct a series of workshops on the last Saturday in February.  It was an unqualified success with people from all the above areas coming to Ithaca to learn and later to social dance together.

Photo Album

Latin Song Philosophy from a Dj/Instructor

So, what goes into choosing songs? There are songs that are popular that are easy to pick for dancing, and that is a trap that many instructors and djs fall into. Hey! You play it as a dj and everyone dances to it, so why not use it? As an instructor it is easy to pick a cha cha cha and use it instead of searching for a slow enough song, or manipulate a song to slow/increase the tempo for class instead of leaving it at the tempo that the artist/band.

I refuse to fall into that trap. As a dj and instructor I realize that some familiarity with what is played helps a lot of people who come out, but that doesn’t mean that 70-90% of the songs I use are used over and over again.

I am passionate about the Latin dance and music universe that is so vast (wide and deep) that we often only carve a small portion of that for ourselves and stick to what is easy to familiar. As a dj and instructor I seek to expose those who already participate in this community to what is beyond our “home town” – the wide blue yonder. And I also wish to increase the strength and vitality of the Latin dance/music community by increasing membership. One way I do this is through what songs I play.

One example: La Matricula by Giraldo Piloto and Klimax.  A timba song that can be heard on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA0QkSmIKFI

This song has a steady and clear beat that can be used in class, either for salsa or casino de rueda. In terms of timba, it isn’t a hardcore song, and so is accessible to those more comfortable with cuban salsa/salsa. Those who do Argentine tango like this, so it has a broader cross-genre appeal to attract those who may be more comfortable with something other than salsa, which brings up something else. The song has an interesting twist to it, that some people either connect with unknowingly, or by recognizing it.

La Matricula seems to have a backbeat referring to “Peter and the Wolf”, a Russion children’s story, played by an orchestra, and written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936. Each animal is played by a different instrument. It is a classic.

Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_and_the_Wolf

One youtube link to get you started: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILI3s7Wonvg 

Giraldo Piloto of Klimax is also a pivotal figure in the Cuban salsa music scene, starting with the band NG La Banda, and to find out more about him and Klimax check out http://www.timba.com/artists/klimax and 

As you can see one song can bring a wealth of opportunities if chosen well.  Some other quick songs to throw out there are Nganga Kisi by Ricardo Lemvo from the Sao Salvador album, Tras Tormenta by Arnaldo Y Su Talisman, Chin Chon Chow from Snowboy AfroCuban Kaleidoscope.  Perhaps, I’ll explore these and other songs in more detail another day?

So, when choosing a song I look to find something that hasn’t been played often in my area, or that is unknown yet still is accessible, broadening the community’s knowledge of the Latin dance/music universe.  I also search for something that can appeal beyond just the core group of Latin dancers.

Some advice from Yanek Revilla – One of the World’s Best Cuban Dancers

I do quite a bit of reading and when I came across this article I thought that it was one of those that I should share.  I think that everyone who does Cuban salsa and/or rueda will get something out of reading the article at http://planettimba.com/entertainment/yanek-revilla-worlds-most-cuban-dancer/

I copied some points from it below in case you just wish to get some of the highlights.

Yanek says” I think there are basic rules for being a good dancer. I call them “The 5 Golden Rules” in salsa cubana – doesn’t matter what level you are, if something doesn’t work it’s always [because you are] breaking one of the following rules:

1.Never grab the hands, just a touch which I call full contact and always re-accommodate the hands before any change with the arms, in order to be more comfortable, faster and avoid injuries.

2. Turning around each other clockwise. The Cuban combinations are created to be danced in [a] circle and it makes [dancing] easier.

3. Distance. Dancing too far away from the partner is one of the biggest problems (in my European experience) due to cultural taboos, so the dance is too strong with a lot of tension in the arms.

4. The timing with the arms. All the moves with the arms end in 3 and 7 – defining this [detail will make] the dance be more fluid and clear. 70 (setenta) is the classic example for this rule.

5. Naturalness. Every unnatural or uncomfortable move must be fixed, natural small steps, not jumping. It’s more comfortable to dance the same way we walk.

Followers, he had the following suggestions: “[Learn to] improvise before and during “dile que no”, after “vacílala” and during the figures.”

Yanek compared salsa casino with “Bruce Lee’s Jet Kune Do. You have basic rules but then you adapt your dance to your possibilities, body work and feelings – that’s why all the people look different even if they all dance Cuban style. It’s freer because there is no choreography in the teaching process. You have to lead and improvise-doesn’t matter who you dance with. I think salsa cubana is very free and different from the other styles.”

What Yanek thinks about rueda choreography: “There is a problem with Rueda nowadays, the choreographers are including moves for couple dance into the Rueda and it’s a huge mistake. They stay too long with the same partner, and turn the choreography less dynamic. Besides that they create new long moves in which they change partners only once and I think that in a good figure you change at least twice. Good rueda choreography should include (in my opinion):
1. A figure in which you do lots of changes
2. A figure in which you mix salsa with other rhythms (Rumba, Afro or other traditional Cuban dances)
3. A figure with the hands joined
4. And a figure with lots of changes of directions or formations”

La Rumba No by Los Van Van – dj vs live band – and other ramblings

It has been way too long and I’ve missed so many oppportunities to share. It is a matter of getting into a new rhythmn, adding this blog to my daily pattern…

I discovered a great song at the Oasis last night – La Rumba No. This song is from a 2009 CD called arrasando by the group Los Van Van and can be heard on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3C9EpmC6S4 . So what makes it a great song? La Rumba No has a great clear beat, danceable by almost anyone. Secondly it has an additional piquancy, with the arrangement mixed a little. There are some songs where the band will be creative and change things up so often that only the most advanced/creative of dancers can be with/in the music. There are others where the arrangement is like deeply worn ruts on a dirt track. This song finds just the right balance in my opinion and will be enjoyed by both the advanced dancer who likes cuban salsa as well as those just starting their dance journeys. This brings to mind the difference between dj’d and live music.

When I go to a dance there are many times I feel that a good dj is a 1000 times better than a live band. Last Saturday I was entertained by the band “Grupo Calle Uno” based out of Rochester. A band that played covers of the most popular latin songs heard in the clubs, with few original numbers and not enough playing time. This band took three long breaks, plus seemed to need a long discussion each time before playing the next song. Come on! Is this band practice or a gig? On the other hand I went to Taughannock Falls State Park yesterday evening and heard the “Caribe Jazz All Stars”. Great danceable music, with many originals. In fact I like their latest CD – not their older ones so be careful – called “Jorge T Cuevas and the Caribe Jazz All Stars” which can be bought at http://www.jorgevisions.com/store.htm