Wednesday, June 24, 2009

CARNAVALITO Open Air Dates This Thursday, Friday

Back-to-back FREE concerts by Carnavalito this week:

Mosaic Wine Lounge in Raleigh throws a patio party to celebrate their 3rd anniversary this THURSDAY (6/25). Live music by Carnavalito from 8-9 pm, followed by deejays. This should be a pleasant repeat of the band's gig there during the Mosaic Spring Music Fest earlier this month; view my video here.

Then, Carnavalito plays the Brightleaf Square concert series in Durham on FRIDAY (6/25), 7-9 pm.

Both events are outdoors and free of charge.

Monday, June 15, 2009

taco heard round the world

Durham taco culture is booming:

New York Times, "36 Hours in Research Triangle Park"
(See Item 6)

La Vaquita was also featured in Gourmet magazine a year or so ago. The mole is to die for; I've heard raves about the pollo de crema and the flan. I hope all that publicity means they will never close. Little known fact: you can call your order in.

ordene aqui
Photo credit: Lisa Brockmeier

I still mourn the de facto end of El Paraiso, on Alston Ave., which used to be run by that lady and her daughters who appear to have moved on. In the kitchen, she always had a giant bowl of masa dough from which she crafted all her various delicacies by hand. I've never had an empañada that was so light and crisp, so absent of dull, residual grease despite being fried. Heaven.

Last I was there, an interloper was selling only tacos, and those made with store-bought tortillas. Pirata! Someone has told me since that the wonderful, random murals on the bunker-like concrete structure have been painted over; no more floating Corona bottles on an electric lime-green background. I guess it's really over.

So, what's missing from your "36 Hours" list?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fiesta Latina Photos

More coverage coming on any photo to enlarge or to see more at my flickr page.

tom boy

Bravo Norteño backstage

happy fiesta folks

Saludos Compay


Friday, June 12, 2009

Sunday (6/14) Jazz Brunch with Rice and Beans

I'll be guest hosting WXDU 88.7 FM's Sunday Morning Jazz Show this week, from 10 am - 12 noon.

I'll be tinkering in the kitchen, but hope to feature some new jazz records by Latin artists as well as some of my favorite straight ahead jazz. So, tune in this Sunday at 10 am to WXDU (streaming at for jazz with a side of rice and beans!

Saturday 'Showers'

When it rains, it pours!

This Saturday (6/13) from noon to 7 pm, there's the Chatham County Hispanic Liason Fiesta Latina at Shakori Hills Farm.

Then from 11 pm on, The Latin Project plays live salsa at the Cobo Brothers' Summer Latin Jam in George's Garage.

The Latin Project performing at Carmen's in April
Latin Project (cropped)

Exclusively on Onda, here's your Fiesta Latina schedule (gracias a Hispanic Liason Executive Director Ronald Garcia-Forgarty!):

12:00 - Ballet Folklorico Guadalupano (1st show)
12:30 - Firehouse Rhythm Kings (eclectic local music)
1:45 - Ballet Folklorico Guadalupano (2nd show)
2:30 - WELCOME
3:00 - Saludos Compay (salsa/cumbia/Latin music)
4:15 - Bravo Norteño (nortena music)
6:00 - Galumpha (acrobats)
7:00 - RAFFLE of a 1994 Ford station wagon

Movement Tent:
1:15 - Ms. Suz the Storyweaver
2:00 - Bilingual Storytelling and Music with Alex Weiss
3:00 - Hula Hooping Workshop with Jacquie
4:00 - Acrobatics Workshop with Galumpha
5:00 - Rora the Clown / La Payasita Rora
5:30 - Baile Folklórico Magetzi

There will be a lot of children's activities, health and information fair, food vendors and the whole 9 yards. Admission is FREE, only a small parking fee of $2 per car which goes to Shakori for donating their space for this community outreach fair.


Read Dora Ragin's Indy review of Galumpha at the last Fiesta Latina held in 2007.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mambo Compañeros' Media High Jump

Good news: the small media campfire set here about the Sotomayor mambo is blowing back a few sparks toward Norway.

Mambo Compañeros saxophonist Kåre Kolve managed to get both our names in lights today in the Norwegian national daily!

I think one of my wildest dreams just came true. Not only that, I learned the word for "high jumper" in Norsk (= høydehopperen).

Shout out to all my mambo-loving, Dagbladet-reading brothers and sisters! Velkommen til Onda Carolina, and keep supporting Latin music in your Scandinavian wonderland...un cariño especial a los caribeños allí.

What's next? Will Judge Sonia Sotomayor herself check in with an opinion? You never know...


All things Sotomayor on Onda Carolina

Dance Date with The Latin Project SATURDAY

The Cobo Brothers are turning their monthly social into a Summer Latin Jam in June, with live salsa by The Latin Project. Dressy attire is requested for this party at Durham's George's Garage this Saturday (6/13).

Admission is $20 at the door, so now is the time to jump on early ticket sales for discounts:

$10 if purchased before June 10
$15 if purchased before June 13

Keep in mind that only a LIMITED NUMBER of discounted tickets are available in each price category, so when they sell out, they are gone (which could happen before the closeout date).
Mambo Dinamico dancers will perform between live sets:

SCHEDULE - 11:00pm - 3:00am:

Latin Project's 1st set @ 11:30pm
Mambo Dinamico Dance Company performance @ 12:30am
Latin Project's 2nd set @ 1:30am

I've heard The Latin Project recently and they're an old school salsa band in the Puerto Rican mold, with seasoned musicians from Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham area, and South Carolina. These are the guys who came up with the parking lot plenazo (view video here) in their spare time between sets at Carmen's in April.

At George's this Saturday, salseros and mamboniks can expect to get their money's worth; this will be a solid dance date.

Tickets and info at Cobo Brothers Dance Company,

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Urban Bachata in NYT

It's an interesting phenomenon how Latino markets often run completely parallel to the mainstream Anglo music industry, united (and divided) by language demographics rather than geography.

Jody Rosen explores it in this recent New York Times profile of Anthony Santos, the Bronx-born urban bachata star of Aventura. I first heard his name about 10 years ago from my friend Milli, who said that all the jukeboxes in her Brooklyn neighborhood were playing Anthony Santos.
"As the hits have piled up, the band’s critics have been replaced by followers — American-based, pop-oriented bachata acts like Xtreme and Toby Love, a former Aventura backup singer."

[Source: "Crossover Dreams of a Bronx Bachatero," New York Times, 6/3/09]

Love onstage
Click here to see my coverage of Toby Love at the Lincoln Theatre this past February.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Nuyorican Party @ Mosaic Saturday

The forecast is for sun and low 80s tomorrow in Raleigh, perfect patio weather for Carnavalito's outdoor concert, 3-5 pm Saturday afternoon at the Mosaic Wine Lounge.

It's part of a whole day dedicated to Nuyorican Discotheque and Latin Jazz, as the Mosaic Spring Music Fest nears its close on Sunday.

UPDATE added Sunday, 6/7:

Fun, fun, fun dancing on the Mosaic patio Saturday afternoon. Here pianist Phil Merritt rises to the occasion for his solo cameo:

This tune "Dear Old Stockholm," which has well-known versions by Stan Getz and Miles Davis, has been a Carnavalito standard since their 1999 Tu y Yo CD.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Theremin Tonight! NASHER Museum 6 pm

The Nasher Museum at Duke University is free on Thursdays, with a cash bar open from 5:30 pm.

Tonight (6/4) theremin player Steve Burnett will give a free talk and performance at the museum. Burnett will elucidate on the history and workings of the theremin at 6 pm, followed by live music from 6:30-7:30.

The event is sponsored in conjunction with the new installation "Video Quartet" by Christian Marclay (which features a theremin).

Thanks to WXDU deejays Jay Caldwell and Steve Burnett for this tip!

"Who's On First?" Mambo

Here is my interview with Kåre Kolve, who wrote the "Sotomayor" mambo being passed around the 'net since Judge Sotomayor's nomination.

Read his story--an Onda Carolina exclusive!--of how the song was written in 1998 about Cuban Olympian Javier Sotomayor, and how Kolve's band Mambo Compañeros developed from its beginnings on Norwegian television and remains one of Norway's leading salsa bands.

The first part of our conversation reads like an Abbot and Costello routine, so I've left the comedy of errors intact, as we both try to understand why we seem to be talking about completely different songs! In a sense, we were...

Kåre was just bidding dinner guests farewell in Trondheim as I called him Wednesday morning at 10:30 am Eastern Time (US):

Sylvia Pfeiffenberger: You’re on your way to a rehearsal, is it for Mambo Compañeros?

Kåre Kolve: Yes.

SP: How did you produce this song so quickly, and when did you start writing the Sotomayor Mambo?

KK: Why?

SP: When. Like how soon after this nomination?

KK: Oh. I wrote it way back in 1998.

SP: The song? But not the lyrics?

KK: What?

SP: Did you add these lyrics for the occasion?

KK: Well some of them, yes. I got a little help with the Spanish and also had some contribution from the lead singer, he’s a Cuban guy.

SP: Which one is it, Alexander [Fernández] or Luison [Medina]?

KK: Yeah, Alexander.

SP: Ok. So he added some lyrics to a tune you had previously written.

Yes and there’s other guy that is called…uh…uh…he helped me to translate into Spanish some of the words there…

SP: Not Luison but someone else?

KK: Cortes!

SP: I don’t know this name.

KK: I think he’s written on the record somewhere.

SP: Cortes?

KK: He’s called uh, Cortes, is his last name. His surname is…oh, I can’t remember…

SP: That’s ok. Is he a member of your band?

KK: No, no, he was just a friend.

SP: What do you do in the band, what’s your instrument?

KK: Saxophone player.

SP: Do you normally write tunes?

KK: Yeah, I do a lot of writing.

SP: Ok. 1998, what was this track originally called? Was it on your album in a different form, in a different version?

KK: Ehh, excuse me, one more time?

SP: Was this tune on your earlier album in a different version? Did it have a different name? Have you recorded this song before?

KK: Ehh, no, it was just during the uh, the first time we uh, played it was actually on a Norwegian TV show…

SP: Oh really?

KK: Which was hosted as an athlete's show. And Sotomayor was one of the guests.

SP: You’re kidding me. So she was a guest on the show, back then, and you wrote the song for her?

KK: Well, I think you misunderstand a little bit.

SP: Ok. I’m trying to get the picture…

KK: Are you talking about the…

SP: Sotomayor Mambo…

KK: …the minister of the…?

SP: Well, she’s the nominee for um…well, I don’t know who you wrote the song for. But over here, they’re playing this song for Sonia Sotomayor, the...


SP: …nominee for Supreme Court Judge.

KK: Oh! Well, the song is, originally I wrote it for the high jumper, the Cuban high jumper—

SP: No kidding!

KK:Javier Sotomayor.

SP: Laughs. Ok, well, I knew there was going to be some story here, I was trying to get to the bottom of it!

KK: Laughs. I was thinking a little bit about it because I thought it was a little bit strange that you uh…

SP: Why am I calling now for this song…

KK: Yeah, because, yeah, I mean, it was released in 2002-2003. I was thinking something maybe happened with Javier Sotomayor, or something like that. But I was thinking also about the new minister, or no, this is a court…

SP: Yes. Who’s the new minister that you mentioned?

KK: Yeah.

SP: Who is that?

KK: Didn’t you uh…?

SP: Oh you mean our, in the US.

KK: In the US, yeah.

SP: Well she’s the nominee for our Supreme Court, so she’s a judge.

KK: Yeah.

SP: Ok. All right. This, you didn’t re-record it with different lyrics or anything?

KK: No no no. This was actually, if you catch the lyrics, you know, it’s all about the high jumper. He’s still got the world record in high jump.

SP: There was a couple words in [the song] I didn’t get, that didn’t make sense to me, and now I’m understanding why.

Both: Laughter.

KK: Oh, yeah yeah yeah. So this is a kind of contribution then to uh, because he’s one of the most famous athletes from Cuba, and uh, since we were playing on this show and he was a guest, you know, and so I wrote this song as a tribute to him.

SP: How interesting!

KK: And actually, after he returned to Cuba, and some years later, he started his own salsa band, which he called Salsa Mayor.

SP: Oh, no wait a minute! No way! Because I know that band, but I didn’t know this guy’s name or that a guy in the band was an athlete…

KK: Oh really? Laughs. Yeah I think he’s got a record in high jump, you know, I think it’s like 2.45 meters.

SP: So he’s got records and records.

Yeah I think he’s still got it, he’s had that record for 15 years or something.

SP: Ok. And Salsa Mayor, is that the same band, with you know, Maikel Blanco? That band?

KK: No, no.

SP: Oh, it’s a different one.

KK: Yeah this is a Cuban band.

SP: Yeah, but this is a Cuban band I’m thinking of…

KK: Oh really? Oh maybe, maybe, I’m not sure actually. But he’s not playing in it, he’s just using his name on it in some way. You know, like a brand.

SP: All right. Now this took place in Norway, this was in Norway, he was a guest.

KK: Yes.

SP: And you guys are in Trondheim?

KK: Yes.

SP: And you have a couple Cuban guys who are based in Oslo, is that right?

KK: Yes, they are part of the band.

SP: All right, so they travel—how far is it from Oslo, to Trondheim?

KK: It’s about one hour with plane. We’re one of the leading salsa bands in Norway, so we are used to travel, so I mean, if you live in Oslo it’s not far actually. We don’t feel that way at all.

SP: All right. So if I want to find your version of "Sotomayor" on an album, is that on the [2004] Viva Salsa album? [follow link to Amazon download]

Yes, it’s on the Viva Salsa album.

SP: It is. Ok. Well this is explaining a lot! Because I wondered how you got the song out so quickly. They started emailing it around to people. Various Latino policy organizations have mailed it around and asked people to play it in support of the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. Did you know that?

KK: I didn’t know. I’ve read [about the nomination] in the paper, yes.

SP: How do you feel about that?

KK: I think it’s really great. It’s about time that the Latin people are finally getting some important position, and especially a woman, because it’s such a macho, Latin people are so macho you know. A lot of man thing.

SP: Laughs. Interesting to get your Norwegian perspective. Have you spent time in the Latin American world yourself?

KK: Yeah, I’ve been a couple of times in Cuba.

SP: Yeah, I thought maybe, so, you have a lot closer ties to Cuba than we do, lucky for you.

KK: Yeah, we are. It’s no big deal for us to go there. Laughs. It’s more difficult to get from the States to Cuba actually than for us.

SP: Yeah, that’s definitely a fact, that’s a fact. Ok. So, the sonero on this song is Alexander Fernandez, and Luison plays conga, does he sing backup, does he also sing as a sonero?

KK: No, he’s the conga player. He sings on some of the songs but not that song, yeah. Alexander is our lead singer of that song.

Dale Harmon: Mambo Compañeros first time w Alexander Fernandez

SP: So, you didn’t make any effort to get this song out to US markets [after the nomination]? Like I didn’t know if you had any contacts over here that you know, maybe you sent the song over here to somebody and said, hey, check this out...

KK: No, no. It’s just a coincidence. There was just a review for an album [in 2004, by Rudy Mangual] in the Latin Beat music magazine in L.A. which is the biggest Latin newspaper about Latin music. That is actually the only contact we have had with the United States about anything.

SP: And no one’s contacted you now, since this happened? Am I the first person to call you about this, in relation to the judge?

KK: Definitely. If you can get us a tour over there, I’d be happy to.

SP: Laughs. Yeah, I wish I had that power. Sounds like a good band. I know there’s a hot Cuban music scene in Scandinavia. Michelle White, the timba specialist who covers it for, she’s in Sweden.

KK: Yeah yeah, that’s true.

SP: We had the Afro Cuban All Stars here recently and Calixto Oviedo [who lives in Sweden] was with them…

KK: Yeah Yeah, I know him, very good friend. Oh, that’s nice. Alexander played a lot with Calixto.

So uh, all these [Cuban] guys. Alexander, usually he was a regular member of Manolito [Simonet] y su Trabuco…and he, what do you call it, when you find a Norwegian girl and he, what do you call it when you’re leaving, and you’re jumping off…you’re coming from an isolated country…

SP: You mean like…he married a girl there?

KK: Yeah, yeah, I mean he’s like the old Soviet people…

SP: Defecting.

KK: Yes, yes. He did that on a tour actually with Manolito and he stayed here in Norway. He’s been here ever after, but you know, both of these guys have Norwegian passports now so they can go wherever they like, and can go back to Cuba also.

SP: That’s nice for them.

The people who sent me this file of your song are from the National Institute for Latino Policy. I have a blog post about this, I’m going to supplement it now with our interview, because this information changes the picture considerably!

Both: Laughter.

KK: Yes. You know I was mentioning this to my girlfriend just for a joke, when we saw news about Sonia Sotomayor, I said, well I wrote a song about this!

SP: And maybe someone will start paying attention to it!

KK: Yeah maybe, maybe, you never know. Well, Spanish people, they will probably recognize there’s something with the lyrics that doesn’t fit.

SP: So what’s the word for high jumper?

KK: In Spanish it’s salto alto.

SP: Oh, that’s what he’s saying! That’s why! You know at the end of the song he says El Rey…

KK: El Rey del Salto Alto.

SP: And I thought, maybe that’s the singer’s nickname. I just couldn’t make sense of that.

KK: Yeah. That’s the king of high jumping.

SP: Got it. And are they saying Bienvenido, something?

KK: Yes, Bienvenido al Noruega

SP: Al Noruega…[Welcome to Norway]

KK: Yeah, and this was broadcast on the TV show, so this was a like, a celebration for him. And he actually was dancing to our music on the Norwegian television.

SP: That's cool. What’s the name of that TV show, is it a well-known show?

KK: Well it was at that time, but it’s like 11 years ago since that was. But you know I think we still got a clip of it somewhere. In Norwegian it's called Ja Vi Elsker [translation: Yes We Love], the first line of the Norwegian national anthem. Maybe you can find it, it’s not more than 2 minutes or something. It’s very charming, and it’s very early in our career also. Because we didn’t have Cubans in the band at that time, so I was the lead singer, which I am not anymore! Laughs. I’m the saxophone player.

We talked to him [Javier Sotomayor] afterwards. He was surprised and he was extremely happy about this song. We sent it to him after we recorded and he really appreciated it, we got nice thanks from him.

SP: That’s pretty cool. You just started the band in that year, didn’t you?

KK: About the time, I think it was 1996.

SP: Ok. Well, that’s really cool, Kåre. I appreciate your time.

KK: That’s fine, I mean, it’s very funny, I mean it’s a small world so, it’s quite funny that you always find something here and there, with Myspace and YouTube and whatever. New music can pop up everywhere actually.

SP: That’s right, and I figured why not make it even smaller, I’ll just try and contact this guy and see what the story is!

KK: Laughs Thank you, that’s very nice of you.

SP: How do you describe the music you guys make, you call it Mambo Compañeros. It’s not exactly timba, right?

KK: I think, our style is more of a mix of traditional salsa and timba.

SP: Ok cool, what a pleasure speaking with you. Good luck, say hi to the guys in the band.

KK: I will do that.

SP: Ok, take care!

KK: Yeah, same to you, bye bye!


DOWNLOAD Mambo Compañeros' album Viva Salsa for $8.99 at Amazon.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Mystery of the Sotomayor Mambo

Breaking World News on Onda Carolina...

I just spoke by phone with Kaare Kolve [follow this link to read the full interview], saxophonist of the band Mambo Compañeros in Trondheim, Norway and solved The Mystery of the Sotomayor Mambo. (Sonia Sotomayor says she loved Nancy Drew as a girl, and so did I.)

Kaare (pronounced akin to "kawr-uh") was nice as pie, and surprised to get my call, his FIRST interview with the US press about "Sotomayor," a tune he wrote in 1998.

That's right, 1998. When Cuban high-jumper Javier Sotomayor visited Norway. That sure makes sense out of some of the lyrics I didn't understand, and what seemed like a vacuna of information about Judge Sotomayor!

"Bienvenido a Noruega" = Welcome to Norway: Javier was there making an appearance on a Norwegian TV program when the band premiered this song for him on live television.

"El Rey del Salto Alto" = King of the High Jump: Words that end the song, I couldn't make sense of it, thinking maybe that was the nickname of the sonero?

But of course.

Kaare was packing up to go to a Mambo Compañeros rehearsal, and he says that although the band had no knowledge of the use of their song in a viral publicity campaign* stateside, he's delighted that it's being played to celebrate Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court.

Developing...more of my exclusive interview soon!

*The NiLP sent out an Action Alert containing a free download of "The Mambo Companions' new song" [sic], which has been forwardly widely on the Internet, posted on sites soliciting donations as well as video hosts such as Myspace and YouTube without the band's knowledge.

To show your support for musicians AND Judge Sonia Sotomayor, legitimately download the mp3 "Sotomayor," from Mambo Compañeros' 2004 album Viva Salsa, for .99 cents at Amazon.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Message in the Mambo

Sotomayor. There's music in those syllables.

There is already a "Sotomayor Mambo." It's not really a mambo, it's modern Cuban salsa, and it's not from Da Boogie Down, South Bronx, where Judge Sotomayor hails from. It's from...Norway. Trondheim and Oslo to be precise, with a hand from Havana. 6 Norwegians and 2 Cuban expats make up the Mambo Compañeros, now test-marketing the cozy, anglicized name Mambo Companions.

This isn't a video, just an mp3 with still image. What's really interesting is that the National Institute for Latino Policy (that's US policy) has given it their endorsement, as you can see in the end credits. Reportedly, they were tipped to the song by Howard Jordán, host of WBAI's The Jordan Journal.

Now, the chorus is catchy enough, but as a national policy "response" to the right-wing attack media, it's a little thin. There's not much here about Judge Sotomayor's personal story or accomplishments, and I didn't hear one mention of her Nuyorican heritage. Cuba and the band, on the other hand, get numerous shoutouts. The Cubans in Compañeros are Alexander Fernández, who worked on some early albums of Cuban timba star Manolito Simonet, and Luison Medina, both active in various European bands. It's basically a party song, dedicated to the judge [Correction: See Update].

We'll see if the Mambo Compañeros' answer to Obamagirl goes viral. It's great to see musicians anywhere pay tribute to Sonia Sotomayor, who no doubt will continue to inspire her share of plenas, salsas, mambos, merengues and other ecstatic outbursts in song.

You gotta wonder, though, if Latin bands from the Bronx are not just a little bit peeved that NiLP, a think tank whose home address is Avenue of the Americas, New York City, has outsourced their national mambo policy to Norway.

I have a feeling I have entered a "no public comment" zone.


I just spoke with Kaare Kolve of the band Mambo Compañeros in Trondheim, Norway and solved "The Mystery of the Sotomayor Mambo"...

[Follow the link to read more]

Something Happening Every Night

Mosaic Wine Lounge in Raleigh is in the middle of its Mosaic Spring Music Fest, a celebration of international deejay culture and live music.

Our friends Carnavalito play Saturday afternoon on the patio from 3-5 pm. Check out the schedule to learn about the artists and see a full lineup. Continues through June 7.