Song of the Day: August 25

This week’s Songs-of-the-Day are being written by the cast of our NYFOS@North Fork project. Today’s entry is from our ace percussionist Josh Vonderheide. He describes how he got ready for the concert:

To get prepared for the “Latin Lovers” concerts that NYFOS presented last weekend in Long Island, I had to immerse myself in the music of Latin America. Steve had given me free rein to be creative. But with so many percussion instruments to choose from–bongos, congas, shakers, timbales, claves–sometimes the most challenging element of a performance can be pinning down the exact combination of timbres and tones to fit a tune. And rhythmically speaking, Afro-Cuban music is some of the most complex and elusive music for an “outsider” to absorb and control. So what does a percussionist in his twenties do when he lacks a natural instinct for what instruments to choose–and what rhythms to play on said instruments…? YouTube, of course! And what a resource! I was amazed to find authentic recordings of nearly every country and style that “Latin Lovers” would visit. I was particularly fascinated by the very famous Cuban song “El Manisero” by Moisés Simons. It’s always a good idea to start with the classics because there are so many wonderful interpretations by great drummers who add their own flair and character to the music, while retaining the authenticity and traditional elements of their culture. 

“El Manisero” translates to “The Peanut Vendor,” and the song describes a long-standing tradition in Cuba; street vendors calling out to passers-by in an attempt to sell them food or goods. As the Don Azpiazu’s shaker and claves accompany Antonio Machin’s alluring voice, one can picture him/herself walking the streets of Havana, getting swept up in the rhythm of the city, the music, and of course, the peanuts.

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