“Chango … the mysterious one … break the paila …”
Pedrito Calvo ‘s exhortation wasn’t not only giving the green light to José Luis Quintana to put the beat the paila in the legendary Sandunguera by Van Van, but also created an enigma in the Cuban popular dance music: Why the mysterious one?
OnCuba directly asked the prestigious master , whose six decades of artistic life were honored in the current Guillermo Barreto in Memoriam Drum Festival, better known here as the Fiesta del Tambor.
“That was something Pedrito came out with and this was not because I was someone with secrets or mysteries , but because I have always liked to walk alone , even when I go out , I’m someone more introverted , quiet, I do not like to talk much … “he said.
Yes, he revealed that the only secret to get into the paila is to give it ” heart and soul, because without that you can’t get the rhythm. We also have to deeply understand the instrument, and do not stop studying it, no matter whether it is in the academy or in the street. “
Dressed in the emblematic cloth cap of the rumba players, smiling and grateful, Changuito especially enjoyed this tribute because it allowed him to return to the stage with an All-Star of Percussion that gathered at Havana’s Mella Theater.
There he shared the stage with Swiss JoJo Mayer, Japanese Takafumi Kikaido, and enrolled in a daring fusion of drums and bata drums with paila, with much respect for the liturgical drum. And the result was not disappointing: pure and simple rhythm…
Professor of greats like Giovanni Hidalgo, Karl Perazzo, Karlos Marrufo and others who have him as a role model, Changuito feels himself as a debtor of essential ones like Chano Pozo, Tata Guines, Barreto, Pello el Afrokan, Domingo Arau, Roberto Concepcion, among others. “Hard to say names, after all, Cuba is still the Mecca of percussion” he says.
At this point in his life, time has healed almost all his wounds, because no one goes around without bitter pills. However, it still hurts him not being able to convey all his wisdom in the classrooms of his country, paradoxical thing, as he has taught at prestigious universities such as Berkeley College, the House of Culture of San Francisco, the Universal Hall of Los Angeles, the Druman Cole in New York, the Conservatory of the University of Amsterdam, among others.
“It strikes me that I have taught at many universities outside of Cuba , but they have never given me the opportunity to teach in my country. Once I almost got it, but transport failed. Things in life … “he recalls with some bitterness.
Asked how he would like to be remembered, Changuito smiling responds: “As a simple man who always put his people above all, because I am my people. And for everybody to know: Changuito is not done, he is always on and ready to play his paila for Cuba. “
Phew … And he plays it, boy…