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Francisco Aguabella

Francisco Aguabella - congas A master percussionist who was born in Matanzas Cuba, Francisco Aguabella is one of the first eschelon of drummers who came to America and are responsible for all drummers that came after them," says Latin percussionist John Santos in the movie "Sworn To The Drum.” Francisco Aguabella was born October 10, 1925, and raised in the Matanzas drumming tradition of Cuba. In 1953, he immigrated to the United States and established himself in California as an olu batá (batá drummer). Batá drumming is a ceremonial musical style that plays an integral role in the African-derived religion of Santeria, practiced in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and, since the 1950s, in the United States. No other music of the Americas bears a more striking similarity to West African music than batá. Its set of three double-conical drums replicates the Nigerian Yoruba drum ensemble of the same name. Many of the rhythms closely resemble their African prototypes, and the Afro-Cuban language of Lucumi, in which Aguabella sings, is clearly a derivation of Yoruba. Before 1980, Aguabella and Julito Collazo were the only olu batá in the United States who had been initiated into a secret society of drummers designated to perform a highly sacred type of batá known as batá fundamento. The batá fundamento is an integral part of Santeria ceremonies in which an individual's initiation into the religion cannot be consecrated unless he or she has been presented before this sacred ensemble. Annually, Aguabella builds a shrine to his patron saint, Santa Barbara (Changó), and performs music at a birthday party held in her honor. It is an all-day celebration for invited friends, who are mainly, but not exclusively, members of the Santeria sect. "Santa Barbara knows that it is her birthday," Aguabella said. "I know how she feels. She feels content. If I do not honor her, I feel bad. That's why on Santa Barbara's Day, December 3, whatever work I'm doing, I work for nobody this day.... I love this saint very much.... I promised her that I would have a fiesta every year." Although Aguabella is widely respected for his sacred drumming, he is equally well known for his virtuosity in secular forms of Afro-Cuban music. The choreographer Katherine Dunham was so impressed with Aguabella's drumming that she invited him to join her company for tours of South America and Europe. The most influential of Aguabella's secular styles is the rumba, a complex of several musical genres that evolved in Cuba around the beginning of the twentieth century.

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Album Review

Francisco Aguabella: Ochimini

Read "Ochimini" reviewed by Russ Musto

Master percussionist Francisco Aguabella has still not achieved the fame his extensive resume would seem to merit. The great conguero has played jazz with Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson and Bobby Hutcherson; Latin with Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and Mongo Santamaria; rock with Santana, Malo and The Doors; and pop with Paul Simon—but he is still unjustly unknown to most fans of any of these genres. Ochimini finds Aguabella in his perhaps best-fitting role, fronting a hot Latin jazz ensemble comprised ...

Album Review

Francisco Aguabella: Ochimini

Read "Ochimini" reviewed by Chris M. Slawecki

Aguabella has worn the mantle of Afro-Cuban percussion royalty for about half a century since he arrived in New York City from Matanzas, Cuba, in the late 1950s. Among the first generation of Afro-Cuban percussionists who emigrated to the States, his legend stands from his work inside and outside Latin jazz spheres: He has worked with Tjader and Machito and Eddie Palmieri, and with Carlos Santana; he’s worked with Gillespie and Nancy Wilson, with Weather Report, and Frank Sinatra, too. ...

Album Review

Francisco Aguabella: Ochimini

Read "Ochimini" reviewed by Jerry D'Souza

If age does not wither nor custom stale, then Francisco Aguabella drives the point home very well. Ochimini proves that he still has plenty of zest and fire which he pours into his music. Even in the quieter climes there is a slow simmer that brings in a cozy comfort. Aguabella leads the charge, and he has an exciting band that keeps the rhythm throbbing and places the solos at a level that deepens the lure.

Aguabella flies ...

Album Review

Francisco Aguabella: Cubacan

Read "Cubacan" reviewed by Jim Santella

Recorded earlier this year, Francisco Aguabella's latest Afro-Cuban session features an adventurous and unsung pianist, several exciting trumpeters, two lyrical trombonists, two classic woodwind aces and a solid cast of percussion. The arrangements, particularly that of Mike Turre, set the band off in a different direction. Old standards and fresh new originals are brought out into the daylight with fiesta delights in mind. The band avoids fiery exclamations, preferring mellow horns, occasional coro embellishment, and intricate solo work instead. Donald ...

Album Review

Francisco Aguabella: H2O

Read "H2O" reviewed by Jim Santella

Led by veteran conguero Francisco Aguabella, this nine-piece Latin jazz ensemble turns up the heat while making solid references to tradition. Aguabella, who was born in Cuba, immigrated to the United States in 1957 and has lived in San Francisco & Los Angeles most of the years since. His discography lists dates with everyone from Tito Puente to Weather Report and Louie Bellson. There’s even a reference to the soundtrack of French Connection II with Don Ellis.

Released this past ...

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