Saturday, February 27, 2021

Ten Songs That Changed My a Percussionist?

According to music educators I am a percussionist because my instrument is part of the percussion section. I don't dispute that because I do hit drums, cymbals, cowbells and jam blocks while I am do my thing onstage. However, as I have told a few of my friends: I don't like being called a percussionist. I am a drummer! 

Okay, it's true that I also own timbales, congas, djembes and other percussion knick knacks and do love to play them from time to time. I guess it's more of my comfort zone and also my regard for the drum set because one can go to music school and focus on the piano, voice, guitar, etc. but drummers are expected to be percussionists because somehow the drum set is not considered by those who created the curriculum to be an instrument that is worthy of lifelong study. 

Now that my rant is out I will backtrack a bit and admit that I am a big fan of world rhythms, which many of you know because you have seen my work on the drum set that is based on these rhythms. (EX:  I also grew up in the Los Angeles area so aside from listening to Latin and R & B classics that my parents played at home I also got to hear African, Polynesian, Asian, Middle Eastern and Native American music at various events I attended throughout my life.

While I am a big fan of any type of fusion music where drummers might take some of these rhythms and apply them to the drum set it is also important to hear these rhythmic treasures in their natural atmosphere, which would be in some sort of percussion ensemble. So, in the spirit of a blog I wrote a few years ago about some drum set performances that had a huge impact on me I am going to revisit the same idea with me sharing some percussion performances whose rhythmic brilliance impacted me as a drummer and a songwriter. It was really hard to narrow it down to ten but I also wanted to demonstrate the diversity of my interests. 


1) "Shango (Chango)" by Babatunde Olatunji 

The 12/8 rhythmic groove has a beautiful flow and shows how much the bell does in fact drive the ensemble. This song impacted me in a big way as it affected both my solo drumming work as well as the way I write tribal drumming compositions.


2) "Code of the Ninja Warrior" by Asiabeat 

I love the way this thing just moves as if it were imitating a ninja running after its prey. The power of those big drums and the bells layering these rhythms is just beautiful. I also love the way the drums are attacked, almost as if they were imitating the deadly strikes of the ninja. 


3) "Four by Two" by Tito Puente  

Following the ripping timbales that begin the piece Maestro Puente drives the groove in a very different way than we are used to hearing in an Afro-Cuban context. His soloing over this rhythm is amazing as we hear the young timbalero begin his conquest of the Latin world with his spitfire attack of the timbales. 


4) "Fuertes Ancestros" by Xavier Quijas Yxayotl 

The colors produced by all of these Aztec instruments is just mind boggling. It reminds me of those days as a young Mexican kid growing up in Los Angeles and seeing the Aztec dancers and drummers perform at Olvera Street. It was always a highlight for my family as we could really feel the presence of our ancestors expressed by our people in the modern age. The groove and orchestrations never cease to amaze me.


5) "Kpatse/Tokoe" by Obo Addy 

This is the first African drumming album I ever purchased. I still remember walking into a store called Africa 2 U in Carson, CA and asking the owner if he had any African drumming albums. Once I threw on this track I was hooked. I couldn't believe both the groove and sound of these instruments. It was certainly a huge influence on me both in my drum set performances as well as my writing of tribal drumming compositions. 

6) "Sunu/Diansa" by Mamady Keita

An monstrous track with some amazing soloing on the djembe by Master Keita The groove is absolutely amazing but the phrasing by Master Keita gave me a lot to take in as I began to experiment with soloing over various African rhythms. And did you hear the sound of these drums? Good Lord!

7) "Doom Tac A Doom" by Brent Lewis 

I walked into a Native American store in Santa Monica, CA on the 3rd Street Promenade and while I was admiring a vest this track came on. I turned to the cashier and had to know who it was. As soon as he handed me the CD I added to the rest of my purchase. I am amazed at Lewis' way of playing his carefully tuned drums in the most melodic way over an ethereal groove. 


8) "The World is my Oyster" by Hossam Ramzy 

This groove takes me into another place. It is both smooth and sexy while also relaxing and soothing me when I am stressed out. It's all about the feel of the groove and the way it influences the performance of the other instruments. A global example of how rhythm is everything and how if you don't have it then there is no musical composition. 

9) "Two Friends" by The Estrada Brothers (Percussion Section) 

Here is a duet between a drum set and a conga and it is deadly. Here we have the power and groove of Ruben "Cougar" Estrada and Raul Rico grooving through a careful arrangement that feels like one is moving slowly through the air before the kicks take us into a strong groove that feels like a roller coaster taking off. Absolutely amazing!


10)  "Guajira Candela" by Francisco Aguabella 

You want talk about a groove. Yes, this is a full Latin band but there is nothing going on without the groove of the percussion section. This takes me back to my childhood as I remember the music my father would play in the house, which of course had a huge influence on my musical upbringing. Of course this song features El Viejito Aguabella performing a beautiful conga solo that tells a beautiful story before taking the song out. 



Carlos Solorzano



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