Friday, October 9, 2009

Giovanni Hidalgo + How To Copyright a Song + More Drums

Hello, Friends! Welcome Back!

You know, it just dawned on me that I've yet to acknowledge a dear friend of mine who, in turn, has grown to be an inspiration to thousands of drummers, young and old. I'm referring to the one-and-only: Giovanni Hidalgo!

I first met Giovanni around '82 or '83, when I went to Puerto Rico to perform a series of shows with the Airto Moreira and Flora Purim Band. The band configuration, at that time, had Airto at the helm from the drumset, with me on multiple percussion and Flora featured on most of the vocals. The other members of the band included Jeff Elliot , Kei Akagi, Keith Jones, Larry Nass.

During what was to be the first night of a week-long engagement at the Teatro Tapia, in Old San Juan, friend and fellow drum-brother Angel "Cachete" Maldonado showed up during the sound-check, to hang out and catch up on old times. It was at this moment that he introduced us to somebody whom he was mentoring on the Bata drums: Giovanni. We all had dinner together and then, after the show, Cachete took us to a restaurant a couple of blocks away where we ran into bassist Eddie Gomez, who was also in town, performing with I don~t remember who right now.... We all had something to eat and drink when.... don't ask me how, but, there were suddenly some more drummers on the scene with congas and Plena hand-drums... and I had my shekere (like American Express...I never leave home without it!)... and an electric bass materialized and fell into Eddie's hands...and the jam was on! Pretty soon, the restaurant owner locked the doors and the sangria began to flow and the music and drumming got more intense, and.... well, let's put it this way; I remember leaving way after the sun had come up, feeling tired but enriched and thankful for this unforgettable experience. And, Giovanni, a young teenager, at the time, had hung in there with us, just drinking soft drinks and playing drums non-stop all night!

That series of concerts in San Juan led to the recording of Airto's first record album directed towards a Latin fan base. It was a project produced by Frank Ferrer and recorded for a Puertorican label called Tierrazo Records, which came to be titled, "Latino: Aqui Se Puede". The recording session was done in Los Angeles and included, besides the core members of Airto's band , some other cats such as Roland Baptista (guitarist with Earth, Wind and Fire), Laudir D'Oliveira (percussionist with Chicago), Geni da Silva, Giovanni Hidalgo, Joe Farrell,Jorge Dalto,Oscar Castro Neves, Rafael Jose ,Tite Curet Alonso, and Tony Moreno.

At Mickey Hart's (Grateful Dead) Ranch/Recording Studio, in San Anselmo, California.

At the time of this recording, I was impressed with Giovanni and his dedication to his craft, because whenever there was a rest period during the studio recording, when we'd all be either listening to what had just been played and/or discussing new ideas or specific music arrangements, we'd notice that Gio would have slipped out, only to be diligently but softly practicing something that, to my eyes, was a different way of handling the conga drums. Friend and colleague, Sammy Figueroa, used to tell me that when Giovanni stayed with him, at his apartment in NYC, he would often wake up in the morning and find Gio already softly practicing on his congas...apologizing, in case his shedding had woken Sammy up!

Besides this seminal recording, Airto brought Giovanni and myself back together again for the recording of his CD, "The Other Side of This", produced by The Grateful Dead's drummer, Mickey Hart.

This CD became very special for me, as I believe it was the first one on which I recorded the sacred Bata drums on popular music...and it also marked my debut as a lead vocalist on a commercial recording! And, while we were in San Anselmo, CA. recording at Mickey's studio, he took the opportunity to invite me to perform on his Grammy-winning CD, "Planet Drum".

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Planet Drum is a world music album by Mickey Hart, a musician and musicologist who was a member of the rock band the Grateful Dead.

Hart's concept for Planet Drum was to play drum music with percussionists from around the world, and incorporate their different musical styles and traditions into a new global sound. The musicians on the Planet Drum album were from the United States (Hart), India (Zakir Hussain and T.H. "Vikku" Vinayakram), Nigeria (Sikiru Adepoju and Babatunde Olatunji), Brazil (Airto Moreira and his wife, vocalist Flora Purim), and Puerto Rico (Giovanni Hidalgo and Frank Colón).

Planet Drum won the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album of 1991, the first year for which the award was given.

Since then, Giovanni has completely re-defined the concept of playing conga drums and shows no sign of stopping his forward motion! While there may be a slew of young drummers who have studied and learned the techniques that Gio has generously demonstrated, none to this day, in my opinion, have been able to perform the ambi-dexterous double-stroke speed rolls and other modern and progressive techniques with the sophisticated musicality that Gio so smoothly exudes! And, besides the unequaled height at which he glides, soaring constantly higher out into space, I have rarely, in all my life, met a more humble and compassionate human being!

I consider this friend of mine, who kids around calling me "Uncle Frank", to be truly the Avatar of the art of congas.... touched by the hand of God.

Here's a video clip of Giovanni, totally open to the universe and channeling cosmic sound vibrations!

Now, I'd like to share a video about a topic that might interest musicians in general: How To Copyright A Song.

I was recently looking for some printed info on this subject, you refresh my memory, as I'm writing some new material... and I came across this video clip which explains the procedure quite clearly.

Check it out!

Now, those of you who know me (specially, my colleagues who've been on the road with me!) are well aware of the fact that I've been a vegetarian and a physical fitness buff, from way back! I'm not so much a gym rat as I am a martial arts lover, having pursued and earned teaching degrees in Chinese Tai Chi and Israeli Krav Maga.

I've also always approached the art of drumming as a physical contact sport, for which one has the responsibility of maintaining one's health and fitness in the utmost of excellent conditioning! I owe it to myself, in respect for the material vehicle which houses my essence this time around, as well at to the friends who come out to enjoy my music!

Photo session for DRUM! Magazine Interview

As a vegie-head since 1970, it's definitely been a challenge to tour around the world, often visiting countries where the concept of a vegetarian was often exactly like that scene in the movie, "My Big fat Greek Wedding" - where aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) tells boyfriend Ian Miller (John Corbett) of the bride-to-be Toula Portokalos, (Nia Vardalos), "What do you mean, you don't eat no MEAT?! (pause...) That's ok....I'll make lamb!" For years, when touring, I'll pack, along with my clothes and many instruments, a large supply of vitamins, dried fruits and assorted fresh nuts and seeds, in order to supplement my diet. Back in the 70's, I used to get some weird stares for this... not as much anymore, though.

So, as I'm definitely a senior citizen now, ("...what do you mean...'NOW'? You've been senior citizen for a long while, dude!") it always pleases me immensely when I run across an example of someone who embraces similar concepts about healthy living, nutrition, meditation, martial arts, chanting, NLP, and other self-improvement and enlightening disciplines as me! One such brother very dear to me is the sensational guitarist/composer/producer/animal rights activist/meditator/cosmic joker, Jamie Glaser (, who's friendship changed my life for the better and who's example continues to inspire me towards striving for the maximization of the human potential. But, I will write about Jamie, at length, in a near-future post on this blog....

Jamie Glaser

Right now, however, I'd like to share a video clip of 72 year-old bodybuilder, Jim Morris, in hopes that his example may serve to inspire us all to believe that there are no limits to what we, in our humble human form, may achieve! Once you see this, I think you'll see why this clip has been viewed close to 2 million times! And, please, pay attention to the description of Jim's diet! :-)


And, of course...........MORE DRUMS!!!

Here's a short clip of former child prodigy and present-day tabla master, Zakir Hussain, gracing us with a short solo in the Tintal (16 beats) rhythmic cycle. Enjoy!!!

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