The great Chris Tucker once said, “You can’t be everywhere at once.”* Well, he didn’t exactly say it in those words, but that was the idea. I’ve been lucky enough to be in many places, but always one place at a time. The downside of this big adventure is that I’m always missing out on something back home. I’ve missed Christmas with my immediate family two of out the last three years. As for weddings and babies, let’s just say that my friends are dropping like flies and I’ve been absent for these special occasions more often than I care to admit.
After breezing through the Bay Area for ten days this summer, I arrived in Colombia in mid June. It was great to be home for my brother’s birthday and Father’s Day, but I did miss out on something that is near and dear to my heart—JazzCamp. No regrets, but while I was settling into my new home, a piece of my heart was back home in the woods, where I knew my friends were rocking out for the week.
The good news is that ther's no shortage of great music here in Barranquilla. The city seems to have its own soundtrack, feeding my ears a steady stream of Salsa, Vallenato, Champeta, and the occasional unfortunate bit of Reggaeton or Banda. Half of the folks in the U.S.A. couldn’t clap on 2 and 4 to save their lives; but here, old ladies tap out clave rhythms on their bus seats while whistling a Joe Arroyo classic and balancing a bag of groceries in their other arm.
By day, I play in the Orquesta Tránsito Publico**... by night, I get my salsa fix at the various nightlife spots. The best known joint in town is La Troja, a two-floor open-air club, designated as cultural landmark. I was a little surprised to find that Salsa dancing here is pretty different than what I’m used to, but I’m doing my best to get in where I fit in. The bad news is that after two months, I still have not touched a piano. I know, I promised myself I wouldn’t do this again ("Notes" April, 2012).
Don’t worry, I haven’t been slacking completely. With the constant music in my ears, I found myself drumming on whatever was in reach—tabletops...my lap... my friends. They were starting to get annoyed so I decided to hunt around for some real percussion—either a caja vallenata or a pair of bongos. I started studying percussion—mostly congas—in elementary school with Mike Margolis. I never lost the love for it, but since high school my percussion education has been limited to my annual week at Camp. While this is no recipe for becoming a master, I’m still grateful for all the hours I’ve spent since 1998 soaking up knowledge from two of the greats, Carolyn Brandy and John Santos. Over time I adoptem them as my unofficial Percussion Parents—no they are not a couple, but yes, we have been mistaken as an actual family.
Unfortunately, percussion skills cannot be inherited via imaginary genes, so I guess I’ll just have to practice. No worries, I’m up to the task. After a healthy hunt, I purchased a new pair of bongos last week, and I’m already practicing. I hope I don’t disturb the neighbors... wait, they’re already blasting music.
* A very inexact quote from movie, Dead Presidents.
** The Public Transit Orchestra. No, this is not an actual group.