A beautiful moment at a Brooklyn club…

I’m sure there are some folks who have never been to New York City who imagine that, on any given night, one can find a nightclub to hit where one can hear all kinds of global music and an inclusive environment for anyone—gay or straight, dancing along to it. But that’s not really true.

This is precisely why I became a huge fan of a monthly party called Que Bajo?! a number of years ago (2011) and attended it as much as possible. It was the one party where I could hear music from Colombia, Africa, Puerto Rico, hell, even funky beats coming out of Austin, Texas. Purely danceable stuff with guest DJs from across the United States, Europe or Latin America making a pretty diverse crowd dance all night long.

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Geko Jones and Uproot Andy, founders of Que Bajo?!

That party is now defunct but, luckily for us, its DJs are still out there working at a variety of parties. (Que Bajo?! co-founder Uproot Andy is back from touring in Brazil and will be playing in Brooklyn on Friday, July 7!)

The other founding DJ, Geko Jones, is now throwing a party called Ministerio de la Parranda. Thankfully, this party is continuing the work of providing a cool space for a diverse crowd to hear a “sancocho” of flavors from Latin America and beyond.

Here’s just 29 seconds of video from the party on June 24. In it, you’ll hear the BEAUTIFUL chords of an African guitar so often heard in Congolese soukous and Colombian champeta music. I had to stop dancing and hit record because, again, this music isn’t easily found in New York City, and I needed to share the moment, which came on New York City’s Pride weekend.

It was a beautiful moment and although I’m very sad to see Que Bajo?! go, I’m happy there are other spaces where one can enjoy such an atmosphere.

(Read my story about the new party in Sounds and Colours.)

 

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Ojalá que llueva café en el campo…

A Journey to
Colombia’s Coffee Belt

In the northern reaches of the Andes — where the coffee bean is as
central to life as corn is to small town Iowa — a welcoming spirit prevails.

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Sacks of coffee in the Delos Andes cooperative.

Credit: Federico Rios Escobar for The New York Times

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Mi papa, Virgilio Vergel, 73

Desde que tengo uso de razón, a mi padre siempre le gustó hacer sonreír a los demás. Siempre armado con chistes, letras de canciones y bailes de moda, imitaciones de personajes, o saludos jocosos, le gustaba hacer reír a amigos y desconocidos por igual. Me gusta pensar que todavía está haciendo eso. Y, así es con el corazón encogido y una gran sonrisa en su honor que anuncio su muerte:

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Virgilio Vergel always wore a smile.

Virgilio Vergel murió el lunes 8 de agosto, 2016, en Fair Lawn, Nueva Jersey. Tenía 73 años de edad.

Nacido en Ocaña, Colombia , Virgilio, o “Gillo” como era conocido, era el sexto de los nueve hijos de la familia Vergel Cabrales. Se trasladaron a la ciudad portuaria de Barranquilla cuando tenía tres años. Mi papa consideraba “la Arenosa,” como se le conoce, su tierra natal

Cuando era un niño, Virgilio era enérgico con una amplia sonrisa que hoy se puede ver en su nieto, RJ , que tiene un parecido sorprendente. Le encantaba jugar al fútbol con sus hermanos. Cuando era un adolescente mi papa se distinguía por sus chistes, su pasión por el fútbol, y su amor por el baile y la música colombiana.

Cuando joven, trabajó como un cajero de banco, pero continuó con su amor al baile, las películas, y el ciclismo. En 1969, conoció al amor de su vida, María Socorro Díaz , cuando ella se embarco en un autobús de la ciudad y él le ofreció su asiento. Se casarían un año más tarde y se mudaron a Paterson, N. J., donde tendrían tres hijos – Richard, Gina, y David.

Virgilio le inculcó a todos sus hijos su amor por el trabajo, la música latina y americana (animaría a David en sus pasos para convertirse en un DJ), el futbol, ciclismo, vestirse bien, y el buen sentido de humor. También les hablo mucho sobre la importancia de seguir y terminar sus estudios algo que no pudo completar ya que él y su esposa se dedicaban a varios trabajos para darles a sus hijos una vida mejor.

Nunca le importo lo cansado que estaba después de trabajar un día largo. Virgilio hiso todo lo posible para que sus hijos vivieran una juventud “americana,” completa con excursiones en bicicleta a los parques locales, juegos de beisbol y futbol, o excursiones a las playas de Nueva Jersey, entre muchas actividades más. A veces la diversión de fin de semana consistiría en proyectos en la casa seguidos por asados en el patio. Otros fines de semana Virgilio iba a la disco tienda en donde le tarareaba una canción popular a los vendedores y compraba discos para que los niños los tocaran en el tocadiscos. El siempre fue divertido.

Virgilio tuvo una variedad de puestos de trabajo incluyendo como maquinista, personal de mantenimiento, y por último, un conserje en las escuelas y el departamento de policía de Teaneck, NJ, donde se retiró antes de tiempo debido a su diagnóstico de la enfermedad de Parkinson en 1999.

El Parkinson es un trastorno cerebral neurodegenerativo resistente que progresa lentamente en la mayoría de las personas. La mayoría de los síntomas de las personas afectadas tardan años en desarrollarse, y viven mucho tiempo con la enfermedad. Virgilio vivió durante casi 20 años con la enfermedad de Parkinson, y tuvo un hermano, Raúl, que murió debido a complicaciones relacionadas con el mismo mal en el 2011.

Virgilio tenía esperanzas en los avances médicos en el mundo del Parkinson, y se sometió al implante de un estimulador cerebral profundo en la década del 2000, y si bien se llevó los temblores el efecto secundario fue el empeoramiento del habla. Virgilio era un comunicador apasionado y el no poder hablar claramente lo frustró muchísimo.

¿Cosas que echaba de menos? Montar su bicicleta y visitar a su familia en la Florida, Colombia, y otros dispersos por todo el mundo. Habló de ellos muy a menudo y el vive con cariño en sus memorias.

Hay muchas cosas que no dejó de disfrutar hasta que se fracturo la cadera en enero del 2015: Ver partidos de sus equipos de fútbol colombianos favoritos, hacer ejercicio en su bicicleta reclinada, escuchar música (tocando las maracas) , y ver películas . Por encima de todo, Virgilio fue capaz de vivir muchos años felices en su casa con el amor de su vida , María , y visitas frecuentes de su nieto , RJ , y su nieta, Bella.

Le pedimos que recuerden el amor que Virgilio tenía para la vida cada vez que escuchen música colombiana o historias divertidas. Le pedimos que considere hacer una donación a la Fundación de Micheal J. Fox, que está trabajando para encontrar una cura, o la Fundación Nacional de Parkinson, que se esfuerza por mejorar la vida de las personas que viven con esta enfermedad.

Virgilio le sobreviven su esposa, María, sus hijos Richard y David, hija Gina, así como hermanos, hermanas, sobrinos y demás familiares dispersos en la Florida, Canadá, Colombia, Argentina y España.

 

My father, Virgilio Vergel, 73

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Virgilio Vergel always wore a smile.

For as long as I can remember, my father always loved to make others smile. Armed with jokes, song lyrics with dance moves, imitations of characters, or funny greetings, he was fond of bringing a hearty laugh to friends and strangers alike. I like to think he’s still doing that. And, so, it is with a heavy heart *and* a big smile in his honor, that I announce his death:

Virgilio Vergel died on Monday, August 8, 2016, in Fair Lawn, N.J. He was 73.

Born in Ocaña, Colombia, Virgilio, or “Gillo (pronounced: Hee-yo)” as he was called, was the sixth of nine children in the Vergel family. They would move to Colombia’s port city of Barranquilla when he was three. He considered “la arenosa (the sandy city),” as it is known, his home.

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That’s Virgilio on the left. It’s uncanny how his grandson, RJ, has the same smile.

As a boy, Virgilio was an energetic child with a wide smile today can be seen in his grandson, RJ, who bears a striking resemblance. He loved to play soccer with his brothers. As a teen he was known for cracking jokes, playing soccer, and his love of dancing to typical Colombian music. As a young adult, he worked as a bank teller, but still enjoyed going dancing, sneaking into outdoor movie theaters, and riding a 10-speed bicycle.

In 1969, he met the love of his life, Maria Socorro Diaz, when she walked onto a packed city bus and he offered her his seat. They would marry a year later and move to Paterson, N.J., where they would have three children — Richard, Gina, and David.

Virgilio instilled his love of hard work, Latin and contemporary American music (he would encourage David to become a DJ), futbol/soccer, cycling, dressing sharp, and socializing with a sense of humor to all of his children. He also impressed upon them the importance of continuing onto a higher education, something he could not complete as he and his wife worked several blue collar jobs to give them a better life.

No matter how tired he was from a long day’s work, Virgilio would do everything possible for them to have an “American” upbringing, complete with bicycling trips to local parks, pickup softball games, or day trips to New Jersey beaches, baseball stadiums, or amusement parks. Sometimes the weekend fun would consist of projects around the house with cookouts in the backyard, or a trip to the music store, where he would hum the latest popular music to salesmen so that he could buy a 45-inch for the children to play on the record player. No matter what, it was always fun.

Virgilio worked a variety of jobs, as a machinist, maintenance person, and lastly, a custodian in schools and the Teaneck Police Department, where he retired early due to his diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease in the late 1990s.

Parkinson’s is a tough neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most people. Most people’s symptoms take years to develop, and they live for years with the disease. Virgilio lived for nearly 20 years with Parkinson’s, and he was predeceased by his brother, Raul, who died due to complications related to the same disease in 2011.

If we could do one thing over, we would have had him start some type of an exercise regimen earlier, as opposed to telling him to rest more (something people tend to say to those who are ill) when the disease was “new” to us. Exercise has been shown to be very beneficial to those with the disease.

Virgilio was hopeful in medical advancements in the Parkinson’s world, as he underwent deep brain stimulation in the early 2000s, and while it took away the tremors, the one side-effect he had was the worsening of his speech. An ardent communicator (much like his daughter, Gina!), this often frustrated him.

Things he missed doing the most? Riding his bicycle and traveling to visit his family in Florida, Colombia, and others scattered throughout the world. He talked about them very often. He lives fondly in their memories.

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With grandson, RJ.
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With granddaugther, Bella.

There are many things he continued to enjoy up until he broke his hip in January 2015: watching the Colombian soccer teams, riding a recumbent bicycle, listening to music (while playing the maracas), and watching movies. Most of all, he was able to live many happy years in the home with the love of his life, Maria, and frequent visits from his grandson, RJ, and more recently, his granddaughter, Bella.

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Virgilio, in the top row, with the cool, gray hair and mustache!

We ask that you remember Virgilio’s fondness for life and celebration every time you hear Colombian music or funny stories. We ask that you consider making a donation to either the Micheal J. Fox Foundation for Research, which is working to find a cure, or the National Parkinson Foundation, which strives to improve the lives of those living with Parkinson’s disease.

Virgilio is survived by his wife, Maria, his sons Richard and David, daughter Gina, as well as brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, and other extended family, in Florida, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, and Spain.

A small service will take place at East Ridgelawn Cemetery in Clifton, N.J., at noon sharp on Saturday, August 13.

Colombia’s Monsieur Periné & L.A.’s Buyepongo to play free concert in Philly!

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Two of today’s most acclaimed Latin music groups, Monsieur Periné and Buyepongo, will play a free, all-ages concert on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 8pm at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

The concert, which will be webcast on xpn.org, kicks off the second year of the Latin Roots Live! concert series, featuring live performances inspired by Latin Roots, the bi-weekly series heard on World Cafe®. Latin Roots explores and exposes to American audiences the vast variety of music from Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries. World CafeⓇ, NPR’s syndicated popular music program, is produced by WXPN/Philadelphia. Latin Roots on World Cafe is made possible by the Wyncote Foundation. Latin Roots Live! is produced in partnership with AfroTaino Productions and made possible by the William Penn Foundation.

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Monsieur Perine

Monsieur Perinė is one of the leading bands in Colombia’s thriving new music scene, and is quickly becoming more popular worldwide since being voted “Best New Artist” in the 2015 Latin GRAMMYⓇ Awards. With its unique blend of sounds, the group has earned itself its own genre called “Suin a la Colombiana,” noting a cultural, artistic, and rhythmic fusion of traditional Latin American music, gypsy jazz, and a French adaptation of American swing music.

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Buyepongo

Afro-Latino Buyepongo’s sound was forged in the Compton area of Los Angeles in the 90s, reflecting the music of their culture and times. With deep roots in South and Central America, Buyepongo draw heavily from Latino musical culture, taking their cues from traditional roots music of Colombia, Haiti, Belize, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Buyepongo creates a vibrant, polyrhythmic sound by seamlessly fusing merengue, punta, and cumbia. The group’s pulse and power is built around the drum and guacharaca, giving them an upbeat, tropical flare.

“There is no language barrier to the party with Latin Roots Live,” said David Dye, host of World Cafe. “Our first year featured packed houses for every act and attracted a cosmopolitan slice of Philadelphia music lovers. 2016 starts off with a super bill to keep things moving.” In 2015, its inaugural year, the Latin Roots Live! concert series featured GRAMMY-nominated Chilean artist Ana Tijoux, high-powered cumbia band La Misa Negra, Latin folk star Gina Chavez, Philadelphia’s own Eco Del Sur, and percussion ensemble with Venezuelan and Argentinian roots, Timbalona, to name a few.

The Latin Roots Live! concert on Tues., January 19 will take place at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. Doors will open at 7 p.m. and showtime is 8 p.m.. To RSVP for free admission, click here (http://xpn.org/latin-roots-live).

Marimba music is Intangible Heritage of Colombia and Ecuador

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Herencia de Timbiqui

 

Marimba music from Colombia’s South Pacific region and Ecuador’s Esmeralda province have been declared “intangible heritage” by Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, a specialized agency of the United Nations system.

According to Colombian newspaper El Heraldo, Unesco stressed that these musical expressions are “part of the social fabric of the community of African descendants of the South Pacific region in Colombia and the province of Esmeraldas in Ecuador.”

This achievement comes on a day in which UNESCO also announced that vallenato, the traditional accordion music from Colombia, is an “Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.”

Via Colombia Reports:

According to the global cultural organization, Vallenato music “faces a number of risks to its viability … notably the armed conflict in Colombia fueled by drug trafficking.”

However, the organization also said that “a new wave of Vallenato is marginalizing traditional Vallenato music and diminishing its role in social cohesion.”

I must highlight a couple of musicians I am fans of to celebrate the addition of marimba music to UNESCO’s all too important cultural heritage designation, and to help preserve Colombia’s vallenato.

Herencia de Timbiquí’s “Amanecé” (Sunrise), which you can read more about via Sounds and Colours.

And to help keep the tradition Colombia’s vallenato alive, listen to fun artists, such as Latin Grammy winner (2014) Jorge Celedón and Silvestre Dangond.

Also listen to New York’s Gregorio Uribe, who puts a big band and jazz spin on things. Uribe will play in Bogotá’s Teatro Colon on the 12th and 13th of December.

His new video for “Cumbia Universal” (the title track off his album) is not a vallenato, but it features the accordion, and more importantly, Panamanian salsa legend, Rubén Blades.