Dafnis Prieto: About the Monks
AAJ: Undoubtedly, radio has a huge impact. I would like to switch gears and dedicate this segment of the interview to aspiring drummers. Do you have any words of wisdom that you would like to share with them?
DP: Yes. You always see people that inspire you to play. However, you have to see yourself there as well. In other words, you have to visualize and do a lot of work in your head. Your head is what gives you the optimism and the point-of-view to make it. If you feel that drumming is your passion then do it. With respect to mastering the various rhythms, the rhythms in and of themselves mean nothing. The drummer is the one who gives meaning to the rhythms. For example, clave in and of itself is just clave. It is the person who plays the clave that breathes life into it. I have seen people play, what I call "dead clave" (laughter). So the question is, what do you want to do after you learn a particular rhythm? In order to understand rhythm you have to internalize it. The meaning of playing swing is to swing. The meaning of clave is to play WITH the clave. It is an attitude. That is the essence of music. I listen to folk music from Asia, Africa, Indonesia and various parts of the globe. When I listen, I attempt to capture the essence of what the musicians are attempting to do. The rhythm is a way to say something but it is how your interpretation that makes all the difference.
AAJ: Are there any young drummers that grab your attention?
DP: There are a lot of young drummers out there. I like Eric Harlem, he is very musical and I like his attitude. Also the nephew of drummer Roy Haynes, Marcus Gilmore. He is playing around.
AAJ: What kind of music do you listen to in your spare time?
DP: Man, that is a hard one. Whenever I can, I listen to Silvio Rodriguez. I also like Caetano Veloso (his early music) and Hermeto Pascoal. I also listen to folk music: African, Indonesian and Indian music for professional purposes. I have a bunch of cassette tapes that I still listen too ...
AAJ: About The Monks is currently set to be released in February (2005). The CD release party will be held at the Jazz Gallery on February 18th and 19th. Can the CD be purchased anywhere prior to its release?
AAJ: What is currently on the agenda for Dafnis Prieto?
DP: I am going to Uruguay with Michel Camilo ...
AAJ: I caught you earlier this year with Michel and Charlie Flores at Lincoln Center. Great show. Will you be traveling with the same group?
DP: Yes. I just started learning Michel's music. The performance at Lincoln Center was my third gig with him.
AAJ: Will you be recording with Michel?
DP: At the moment we do not have any plans to record, however, we will be performing at the Blue Note (New York) in April. After that I will be recording with Conjure (Kip Hanrahan). The recording is going to be a drummer' s delight. It will feature Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, Robby Ameen, Richie Flores, Milton Cardona and myself.
AAJ: Sounds like it is going to be on the order of Kip Hanrahan's "Deep Rumba." On a more personal note, are you able to visit Cuba? If so, how does it feel when you go home?
DP: I visited Cuba in May. I went there to introduce Lucian (my son) to my mother. I have no desire to live in Cuba, however, I enjoy visiting, seeing my friends and the nature of Cuba.
AAJ: Do your relatives and friends have any idea of how much you have accomplished in the U. S.?
DP: Some of the people in my neighborhood still call me by my nickname, "Kiki" (laughter). Actually, I go to Cuba to visit my mom. One of the things that I am happy and proud of is the fact that I am my mother's only son and I understand what she is feeling. Meaning, the price that we are both paying for my being here. I make every effort to demonstrate to my mother that I am doing something worthwhile with my life. I am all my mother has so there has to be a good reason for me to be here. I think she understands.
AAJ: The price, meaning, the fact that you are not able to be with your family? Do you think your mother would ever consider living in the U.S.?
DP: She has an upcoming interview for a visa in January. I want to bring her to New York and show her around. Judith¹s mom came here last year. As far as my mother living here? Probably not.
AAJ: So getting back to 2004, its been a good year, yes?
DP: Yes, its been a good year. I am very happy about my new album.
AAJ: Dafnis, it has been a pleasure meeting you and speaking with you. In addition it has been a pleasure meeting your wife Judith and your son Lucian. Continued success and thank you for speaking with All About Jazz.
Visit Dafnis Prieto on the web at www.dafnisprieto.com .