Beautiful Boricua ~ I just bought my ticket and can't wait to see John Santos and the Machete Ensemble at the ODC Theater in San Francisco this Saturday, August 7 ! The show is called Fiesta Boricua ~ The Puerto Rican Element in Jazz and Salsa. John and his band are brilliant at blending traditional Yoruba and Cuban forms with innovative, modern, contemporary latin jazz arrangements ~ their shows are HOT and fun. Of course, they are from the Bay Area ~ we kick-ass here. Damn, between Saturday night with John Santos and Sunday afternoon with Dolores Huerta, this weekend is going to be amazing!
I first learned about John Santos maybe 10-11 years ago (um, when I was about 10 ~ yeah right) ~ anyway, my friends Kristina and Ian were taking this class that John was teaching in The Mission: What is This Thing Called Clave? If you don't know, clave is a rhythm that is played by striking one wooden stick against another, or on percussion ~~ although some songs might not include the actual clave instrument and instead there is an implied clave ~ i.e., feel the music and find the damn beat yourself! :) Anyway, clave is a five-note, two-bar rhythm pattern which generates rhythmic measurement and is the foundation and backbone of Salsa (and all Afro-Cuban based music). Salsa musicians always say that salsa music should obey the clave. In fact, clave is the primary rule and chief factor that defines all music called "Salsa" ~~ it's what you try to listen for when you're figuring out whether to shimmy forward quick-quick-slow, or backwards right-rock-back when you salsa dance. As you can imagine, the concept of clave goes far beyond Latino and African music, breathing rhythm into our friendships, relationships, emotions, enjoyment of life, and even endurance in hard times. Check out this excerpt from the inscription found on the inside cover of the first issue of New York's Clave magazine, published throughout the 1970s:
Ian and Kristina, and all our friends back then, were/are salsa-lovin', Spanish-spewin' Gringos and Latinos ~ spending 2-3 nights per week out salsa dancing, way before the "Latin Explosion" hit the United States. Ai, there were Friday nights at Pier 23, Tuesday nights at Cafe du Nord, Sunday afternoons at El Rio or The Ramp, the weekends at the no-name clubs in those alleys South of Market or at the house parties, including that Labor Day Weekend when I visited Ian in New York and at the house party in Brooklyn my dance partner (whom I had met about two hours earlier) introduced me to his father at the party and asked me to marry him ~ for reals ~ I thought the guy was crazy, now I think I should have said YES during our cha-cha-cha! Dios mio, salsa dancing does that to you ~ makes you feel like you are falling in love with your dance partner, with everyone around you, and with the amazing rhythm screaming out of your body. Back in these good ole days, after John's class each week, Ian and Kristina would punctuate our dinner conversation with some brilliant comment John had made that night, and we would basically swoon at the mere thought of him. John Santos is amazing and inspiring, and hot. His musical philosophy bears in mind what our collaborative life philosophy should be:
What's your clave like? Do your life's actions obey your clave's rhythm? Are the two in sync? (And no, I don't mean the Boy Band!). Are you off-beat and dancing backwards? Can you trust the rhythm around you, stop trying to lead, and follow the music, or even create your own? Play it loud, play it proud ~ be honest, be free, educate yourself, express your emotions, ask yourself questions, don't worry about the answers ~ find your clave.