February 2013 Archives

Grilled Chicken with Ray Vega

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By Julian Gerstin, Ph. D.

Julian is a percussionist specializing in the traditional music of Cuba, Martinique and Ghana. Julian's base of operations was California and Martinique prior to moving to Vermont in 2006. He has performed and recorded with numerous African groups including Kotoja, and Zulu Spear; Brazilian Samba groups such as Batucada Nana and Batucada do Leste and many others. Julian's academic credentials include several articles in scholarly publications such as The New Grove of Dictionary of Music, Latin American Music Review, He currently performs with his newly formed Afro-Caribbean jazz band, Zabap and teaches at Clark University and Keene State College.

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photo by Craig S. O'Connell

After the show, about 1 a.m. at Eugene's house, Ray Vega and drummer Diego Lopez are sitting over plates of Eugene's grilled chicken--by now, it's just bones--still talking music. The question is, "What has happened to guaguancó?" which is one of the main varieties of Cuban folkloric drumming. Over the past fifteen or so years a younger generation has radically changed this style, and here's what puzzles Ray: do they or do they not know the tradition they are changing?

You see, Ray Vega knows the tradition. He really knows it. He's not afraid to mess with it creatively, but first he knows it. And that's what his concert, earlier that evening, was all about.

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