Live! | Music Feature | Indy Week
Pin It

Live! 

Michael Spiro Afro-Latin Music Workshops Jan. 8-10

Unless you can travel to Cuba or Brazil, it's almost impossible to get serious instruction in the somewhat esoteric arts of Afro-Latin drumming. Your best bet is to apprentice with a master, which is what area drummers got a chance to do this Jan. 8-10 when Michael Spiro gave a series of workshops in Durham and Chapel Hill. The Bay Area guru attracted students from as far away as Nashville and Philadelphia for three workshops in Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian music and folklore.

The first two workshops focused on Cuba's secular and sacred music with a conga technique class and an orisha singing class, while a third highlighted the music of Brazil known as samba batucada. Students were strongly encouraged to tape the sessions, for further review and practice at home.

On Thursday night, congueros picked up a guaguancó rhythm and some exclusive Spiro techniques, while Friday's group spent the evening invoking Yemaya, Chango, and other orishas (gods of the Yoruba pantheon transported to Cuba by African slaves). Orisha songs, which contained stories about mythical exploits or aspects of each orisha, were sung in a variant of the Yoruba language, "Lucumí," and accompanied by "talking" batá drums that imitate inflected human speech. Spiro explained that song interpretations can vary from street to street in Havana, depending on which part of Yorubaland one's grandmother came from. Spiro then led the class in call and response singing, accompanied by a ritual combination of three batá drums and a chekere.

In a little over two hours, on Saturday afternoon, Spiro turned a group of some 25 drummers--of various skill levels--into a just-add-water samba band.

In Rio de Janeiro, the Escolas de Samba (or "samba schools") practice all year long to earn the best band standing at carnival time. "This is an 18-wheeler," Spiro says of the samba bands. "To move 7,500 people down the street for 90 minutes, you've got to push the beat a little bit or you're late." Batería instruments range in size from large drums to tiny tambourines and bells, but: "Don't kid yourself," Spiro warns. "This is all about stamina. When you see people playing the batería, it's not fun. Those folks are working hard. It's pure effort."

Spiro makes yearly pilgrimages to Latin America to study with drummers and has also trained in the United States with percussion legends such as Orestes Vilató and Francisco Aguabella. He travels frequently, giving lectures and workshops, and teaches every summer at the California Brazil music program. Spiro also regularly records with the ensembles Talking Drums, Mark Levine & The Latin Tinge (jazz), and Charanga La Moderna Tradicion.

Spiro's landmark recording project, Bata Ketu, recombines the Yoruba traditions found in both Cuba and Brazil, and with very few instructional books and videos available, the album has become the "real deal" for players eager to get their hands on an authoritative guide. "I'm proud of it, it had an impact," says Spiro. "Everywhere I go in the world, I find some drummer who has heard it." (As a further resource on Brazil, Spiro recommends the book Samba by Alma Guillermoprieto.)

  • Michael Spiro Afro-Latin Music Workshops – Jan. 8-10

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Music Feature



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

See her sing live! It's transcendent

by Andrew 1 on For Thirty Years, Cult Hero Syd Straw Has Stood Strong on the Cusp of Fame (Music Feature)

The Bronzed Chorus rawk!!! They're gonna be the next Aerosmith!!! …

by Shamus Johnson on After a Bout with Rheumatoid Arthritis, The Bronzed Chorus’s Adam Joyce Renews His Musical Mission (Music Feature)

Basically, it is a really good feeling to compose music. You need pretty strong words to use and give more …

by Antley on Put a Ring on It: N.C. Opera Takes on Wagner’s Formidable Masterwork (Music Feature)

New to the area and would love to be apart of the Hip Hop growth in the RTP area!

by Lateef Massey on Durham’s Beats & Bars Festival Looks to Bring Blackness Back to Main Street (Music Feature)

You should have attended the recent concert (September 13, 2016) at Raleigh's Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. It …

by STH on A quintet of collaborations that never panned out for North Carolina's piano man (Music Feature)

Comments

See her sing live! It's transcendent

by Andrew 1 on For Thirty Years, Cult Hero Syd Straw Has Stood Strong on the Cusp of Fame (Music Feature)

The Bronzed Chorus rawk!!! They're gonna be the next Aerosmith!!! …

by Shamus Johnson on After a Bout with Rheumatoid Arthritis, The Bronzed Chorus’s Adam Joyce Renews His Musical Mission (Music Feature)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation