I have a considerable soft spot for that family of percussion instruments which are played with mallets. So, last week I was delighted to discover what a prominent role the marimba plays in the music of Latin America.
There have been several vibes virtuosi in jazz such as Lionel Hampton, Roy Ayers and Milt Jackson. But these versatile instruments appear in many different styles of music. Let’s not forget how much multi-instrumentalist Ruth Underwood contributed to the quirky sound of the Mothers of Invention. Or how the balafon playing of Malian Keletigui Diabate complemented Toumani Diabate’s kora so well. Without the stupendous Mulatku Astatke, the Ethiopian Jazz would never have happened.
My new discovery is Colombian marimbero, Hugo Canelario from the Pacific Coastal town of Guapi, who with his band , Grupo Bahia, has done much to spread the popularity of the “marimba de chonto.”
I should also mention a tip from @Alias. From Ecuador, a vintage salsa album. Andarele by Carmen Gonzalez and Koral Y Esmeralda, which makes very effective use of marimba.
And these new discoveries are due the fact that @Salwarpe is currently on a new road trip in Darkest Colombia, in search of the contemporary sounds of that remarkable country.
Last week, I was hitchhiking just outside of Bogota and as it was pelting with rain, he kindly offered me a ride.
I’ll be honest. He’s probably regretting his act of kindness as it has impacted what gets played on the car stereo. He’s got lots of mp3s of sizzling, innovative, modern electronica. I’ve got a tote bag full of cassettes of elderly accordionists in cowboy hats singing about their inappropriate feelings for schoolgirls.
I exaggerate! There are many tracks we both enjoy. And it’s a long drive to Cali, so I expect there will be many more. Go over and take a listen!
Now amigos, what I’d like to know is: who are your favourite maestros of the mallets?
And are there any pieces of music on which these instruments are used particularly effectively? To my ear, they always add a feeling of sophistication.
Any vibes players that I don’t like? Well, that Austrian geezer playing on the Bonzos’ Intro/Outro should never have been allowed in the studio!
Let’s kick off with Hugo Canelario….