Sunday, 29 September 2013

Amadito Valdes


I have an intermittent (and not so secret, now) desire to be a percussionist in a traditional Cuban band along the lines of The Buena Vista Social Club variety. There. I said it (again).

The closest time I ever came to having a full-blown - if a little late - mid-life crisis was when I asked a professional drummer friend of mine if he would teach me to play them, and he agreed. I knew - and still know - that I would have been quite good at it if I had started earlier, but that's not the point. It would still have been a sad and embarrassing thing to do aged about 48, and I don't think that the essential practicing could have been endured in our compact but adorable city apartment.

My friend is probably one of the most sought after drummers in the music industry and has played with almost everyone, but that would still have been no excuse. There is no justification for playing solo drums in existence, and  - I believe - there is no justification for any sort of drum solo episode, even when playing in a band.

You have to be reasonably mad (I like that expression) to be an inspirational drummer - think Keith Moon - and if you're not, you become a bullying bore - think Phil Collins. People like Ringo Starr perform a vital role in holding down the egos with the use of mundane repetition, and Ringo even did this with the rest of The Beatles when not playing drums.

A good Latin percussionist embellishes the tune by pointing out rhythms and beats where none previously existed, deliberately ignoring the entire structure of the music and transporting the rest of the band to a level that would be impossible to reach without him.

The percussionist for Buena Vista just happened to look exactly like Terry Thomas when his hair was darker, which - in a strange way - added to the authority with which he thrashed his kit. How he managed to thwack his bell-tight single drum not only between beats, but also on a beat which bore no relation to the undercurrent of rhythm whatsoever without going off at a tangent, is a complete mystery to anyone thinking about it in classically trained methodology. He was the sanest madman I have ever seen. How is it possible to be such an individual team-player so successfully?

Strange fact: Phil Collins has the largest collection of Davey Crockett memorabilia in the world.

13 comments:

  1. I always knew that you like to bang your own drum
    ,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Banging on John sounds like a job for you, Heron.

      Delete
  2. Lloyd Knibb, who was a renowned Jamaican Ska/Reggae drummer, would (when older) go off into his own little world, disregarding everything that was going on around him. I have a few really bizarre recordings

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've known a few guitarists like that too.

      Delete
  3. Ringo was my favourite Beatle. His Long and Winding Road my favourite Beatle number. Ringo's voice on Thomas the Tank Engine was just the right train set anorak voice. I think Ringo's a cool cat. And if I had a cat or even a dog I'd call it Ringo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny you should say that - Yellow Submarine was - in my opinion - the worst record The Beatles ever made. Good for children though, I suppose.

      Delete
  4. I used to have a tortoise called Ringo. He didn't survive his first winter hibernation. He didn't play the drums either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The real Ringo had a thick skin as well, though, and he has almost out-survived the rest of them.

      Delete
  5. Ah. I had thought you were in the middle of your mid life crisis now Tom. I shall have to rethink my impressions of you after reading this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would be interested to hear how you see me manifesting the symptoms, Weave.

      Delete
  6. I don't think that playing a set of drums at 48 is either sad or embarrassing - what the hell. Mind you I would feel a lot of empathy for H.I. and your neighbours while you were practising.Ouch. I love the sound of steel bands though, especially the musicians that play really well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In Bath, we have The Rainbow Steel Band, and they used to practice every Sunday on the green where I used to live in the 70s. It was great - so much better than church bells. They specialise in a lot of classical music - sounds great by a steel band.

      Delete