Kelvin Roy at The Loaded Hog
AAJ: How did you meet Latin music and what attracts you towards it?
KR: While there isn't a lot of Latin in my recorded work, we have done a great deal in performance over the years. It started in Los Angeles when I played in a band with a Latino rhythm section and we did some of that repertoire. Songs like “Rosa María.” I found Cumbias very popular in that part of the country, I guess because they are also popular in Mexico, even though that style came from Colombia. Later in New Zealand, I formed a Latin band of my own and we did a range of salsas, merengues, sambas, and bossas. Then, we developed the repertoire further with the BlueStars band, which included quite a bit of Cuban music, as one might have noted on the album. I think many of the recent Cuban music recordings were long overdue, like the ones instigated by Ry Cooder.
I was in Miami in 1998 for the MIDEM music trade fair. The showcases I saw and heard there were the best I’ve ever experienced. I believe it was the first US performance by Chucho Valdés with about a twelve-piece band, plus La Charanga Rubalcaba, of about 14 members. Then to top it off, Compay Segundo and Rubén González were there with their groups. It was sort of a Buena Vista Social Club (BVSC). This was a concert before the one they filmed in New York for the BVSC movie eventually released, I think. They were all on one bill. It was incredible! What’s even more incredible is that there was a bomb scare near the end of the show in the Miami Convention Center, due to the expatriate Cuban community's objection to Castro supporter Chucho Valdés’ performance. Then, the next night they did the whole show again! It was like lightening striking twice in the same place!
What attracts me so much to Latin music is what attracts me to jazz and quite a bit of the music we still listen to today. That is the polyrhythms and certain rhythms –the strong African ones– that survived the trip to the Americas. I have an affinity for the Afro-Cuban sound and beats that we hear in so much Latin music. I also think there’s an independent sense of melody often times in Latin music similar to that of jazz and other African-derived or cross-pollinated music. I also am inspired by some of the percussion instruments. I’ve owned the same güiro for 20 years and I’ve got some pre-Columbian Aztec percussion instruments, like the Ayoyote –a seed pod rattle– that are really fascinating. It sounds like applause, so if people seem a bit hesitant I can always shake it myself to drum up a bit of support! Moreover, sometimes, you hear a performance of a particular song that inspires you. A good example of this is the classic song “Bésame Mucho.” I never quite liked it that much until I heard Spanish artist Sammy Goz do a Cha Cha Cha version of it and I was sold!
AAJ: How popular is Latin music in New Zealand?
KR: Latin music was quite popular in New Zealand in the 1990’s. In 1992, we played the opening of a large Latin venue. A lot of our dance repertoire is Latin and it has worked well for us in terms of crowd acceptance and appreciation all the way through. It gets people dancing around the tables, or at least under them. There were many Chilean immigrants to New Zealand in the 1980’s and 90’s and this certainly provided some of the impetus for the practice and popularity of the music.
AAJ: Any comments on the live musical scene in New Zealand?
KR: I think like many places in the world, live performance is on the way down. Like music itself, however, it will cycle back. Just now, I think we're in the middle of this gigantic polyrhythmic reverberation. I feel that participating in a live performance, whether as a performer or part of the audience, is the most human thing we can do. Therefore, it might be down, but it will never be out. I moved to Australia last year for a change. With gambling and all the home entertainment options, the live musical scene is getting the squeeze. However, as long as there are people who love to do it and put their music out there it will never die.
AAJ: Would you please relay any comments about famous people met, special occasions, or highlights of your career in New Zealand?
KR: Playing during the America’s Cup was exciting. There were so many people, you couldn't move! Since I like wine, doing the wine festivals was always a favorite one and there are some good jazz festivals there like Waiheke Island of Jazz –started by New Orleans pianist David Paquette– and the National Jazz Festival. We really made an impact at these events. In addition, I’d have to say there was a reasonably good market for jazz during most of the time I was in New Zealand. For this I am Thankful.
Website: http://www.kelvinroy.com .