I CAN HEAR MONGO

ANTIBALAS (Afro/Jazz/Spanish band from New York)

It is an infectious sound, that finds its way into your lymph nodes; your blood begins to curl, agitated, similar to the movement of an agitator in a wash machine; your feet begin to move, your waist finds a twist, elbows, hands, and you are now doing, believe it or not, the SALSA! Why?

Is it because you are of African descent? You look around and there they are, people of different colorations, even more expressive than you, convulsing, and screaming with excitement. What is it that generated all this? Immediately it came to me. It was not the horns, not the guitars, not the electric piano, it was the drums, the CONGAS.

Phot by Luz Mendoza

Made popular in Cuba by the slaves who came from the Congo, the Bantu region in Africa, where they played the Makuta.

I am at THE PUBLIK PLAYHOUSE in Hyattsville Maryland. On stage is ANTIBALAS, an American Brooklyn New York group, famous for Afro Jazz. It is the slum music of Havana’s Congo slaves mixed with the European music of the Spanish Conquistadors.

Have you ever heard WATERMELLON MAN featuring Mongo Santamaria on congas? It is what elevated the conga instrument to world class recognition.

JUNE has youthful significance. For African Americans JUNETEENTH, has the rebirthing parlance for those associated with African blood, but denied it, with make-up and wigs. Ate fried chicken only at home and not in public. Danced ballet in public but prefer the electric slide and boogaloo.

All pretense was bagged at The Public Playhouse. Funk, jazz, salsa, were all bellowing; and I can see and hear, MONGO.

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