Valentine’s Day

It’s all a combination of luck and patience. I’ve been waiting to play my music with a group of musicians since I left Boston and Congratulatinos behind. This is the story of how Matt, Virgilio and I came together just in time for Valentine’s day.

A Hurricane of Bikes and Cumbia

It starts back in November with my first performance in the bay area at Hurricane of Bikes, a co-op and musical hub that was hosting a triple birthday party. When I played “La Gota Fria”, the crowd was singing every line back to me and even grabbing instruments to join in and play. There was a sense of belonging and excitement that I hadn’t felt before. It was crazy to so quickly stumble into a community where Colombian music was so important. We stayed up until 6 in the morning playing traditional Colombian percussion (amongst other jams).

Through this performance I met Diana, the singer from Aluna who invited me to play a show with them, opening for the incredible Buyepongo.

Virgilio

Virgilio is the musical director of Aluna, a Cumbia band that has been around for almost 10 years now. I really respect Diana and Virgilio for keeping the sound of traditional Colombian Cumbia in the air so that I would get to hear it in person. I have always strived to break ground with music, but you can’t do that without first getting in touch with roots and understanding where ground is.

Virgilio seemed interested in what I was doing but I knew that I would need other musicians up to speed with the songs in order for things to click. It was not until a few months later that things would align on this front thanks to Matt.

Matt

The universe sometimes has strange rhyming patterns in it. Case in point: James, the bassist in Congratulatinos, was a neuroscience postdoc who had just moved from San Diego and was studying auditory perception. So it was really strange to meet a bass player named Matt and hear him tell me all of the same things about himself. I naturally felt an affinity towards him, having myself studied neuroscience in order to scientifically understand perception.

Matt and I first musically clicked when at a jam where he started playing what he referred to as Cumbia and I started playing some of the Senegalese rhythms that I had been studying over the past few years. We chased this spark with some success over several sessions where Matt graciously took the time to learn the tricky and perhaps even excessive chord changes in my songs.

Rounding up the squad

It seemed Matt and I were finally ready to play our first set together: once again at the Hurricane of Bikes. Virgilio also happened to be at the show, and so I asked both of them if they wanted to play again on Sunday, where I would be opening for La Gente.

When we rehearsed the following day, there was a ton of energy in the room as we roared through the 6 songs we would play at the show. We were all bringing something different to the puzzle, and it felt like there was a lot of potential in the air.

When the time came to play on Sunday, it was the most beautiful day I’d seen in weeks and we were welcomed by Jessica and some ridiculously delicious treats. Our set seemed to go over well and I don’t think anyone could tell we’d only been playing together for a couple of hours.

La Gente were fantastic as usual. They played with only three people but still channeled the energy of the full band. I’m still blown away by how much presence and personality Rafa has. It seems to come from being a generous spirit, with a touch of recklessness thrown in.

Tumbledown House closed out the night with some incredible guitar sounds and hands down the best kazoo playing I’ve ever heard. As a duo, they sounded like stripped down swing music and they were pretty sharp dressers too. They were at their most captivating when they played up the mystery and menace that is underneath their smooth sound.


I will be taking a few weeks to focus on bringing something fresh for the next show. Until then, enjoy this video that was made kind of on a whim:

— From Diego, with love.