What do you do when you are completely cold and suddenly have to play hot? Well my first piece of advice is, “don’t get caught with your pants down” as my father always used to say over and over again. Did I listen?
Last night the islands best trumpet player performed with his band at Bali’s version of Yoshis called interestingly enough, Ryopshi’s! Any coincidence? Great sushi and great tunes. Rio Sadik, the trumpet player, singer and “star of the show”, ( as James Brown would say), was in rare form. The venue was so packed you could not move. Raymond, my impromptu agent and good friend here in Bali, Indonesia called his long time pal Rio earlier to confirm me sitting in but I think I got there way to late and there was already another conga player there.
Ray had said he did not invite people to sit in the first set but he was obviously way off on that call as everyone was sitting in including rappers and other instrumentalists. I could not even make my way through the club. The music was happening and the crowd was thick (as was the tobacco smoke). But it was happening! What energy this guy creates on stage! I ordered and ate some awesome sushi downstairs where I could still here all the action perfectly.
As per my instructions from Raymond at 10:30 PM I went up to Rio during the break, introduced myself, told him my credentials, (what I call “giving the cruddy”) and he said he would call me up to play “later”. Later is the key word here.
When the second set started he called up the first conga player to play again. I started to get a little discouraged. He was a decent conga player, nothing special. Ray was not there yet and it was already 11:30 PM. It was well past midnight and I was pretty tired by the time I got called up on to the stage to play. I was hoping for a song I could dig into and the leader of the group surprised me and told me to do a conga solo cold turkey. I love to solo if I am warmed up but this was not what I was prepared for to say the least.
I had to think fast. I had played lightly in my room at about 4:00 P.M. but I was completely cold at 12:15 AM! I asked the drum set player and bass player to play along, which the leader did not want. Damn. Luckily I had a nice three drum pattern that popped out of me that I could work off of. They have Toca congas at the club, the house set which is nice as I am a Toca endorsee. But half way through I realized I had the tumba (low conga) on the left instead of right. So the first chance I got I switched the congas around.
I do not understand why non percussionists like conga solos with the congas playing all by them selves. Personaly I find conga solos with out other instruments playing borring to play and watch. Of course I am in a minority on this one and it is just my opinion, but it is not something I spend as much time as I could practicing. But believe me, I will! That’s what I do when I find a new weakness. What is interesting to me is playing off of other instrumentalists. Maybe it’s from playing in so many drum ensemble formats.
That is when I get excited, like at the height of a montuno section of a salsa piece. I can feel it and I want to solo. So anyway, I played a cha cha La Bafoon on 3 congas and I did the best I could and the crowd seemed to like it. But I was not warmed up at all. And he kept telling me to continue. More. Then he wanted a second solo in the middle of the piece. However, I was prepared this time and played a 3 drum Afro Cuban mozambique rhythm.
Tonight I am playing with the same bands keyboard player Erik Sondhy who also has his own group. I practiced this morning on my desk top in my hotel room and I am going to try and go early and play both sets so I do not get caught off guard again! I will practice again before I go and do stretching and drum exercises right before I play! Tonights 3 drum solo will be Rumba Obatala (a bata rhythm I have transcribed to congas. Rumba Obatala is interesting because the okonkolo part (smallest bata) is similar to a samba or funk feel. I like to use it in band situations because fits perfectly and is unusual compared to mambo and other typical patterns many conquerros use for example.