The story of Cuban music is also the story of the Havana-New York connection.

And look, you can’t talk about New York without talking about the beautiful Bronx.

And you can’t talk about the Bronx without talking about the beautiful Puerto Rican community and its incalculable contribution to American music.

Today we leave the bandstand and visit the workshop of a great artisan of Latin musical instruments Jorge Calixto Rivera.

We borrowed this from a 2006 article about Don Cali.

A native of Puerto Rico, Mr. Rivera was a musician “when I was born,” he said. His father was a carpenter and a guitar maker.

“Everybody in my house was playing guitars,” he added. “I made my own drums with pieces of wood I stole from my father.”

Arriving in Highbridge (Bronx) in 1958, he began working as an auto mechanic and performing as a percussionist. “My first bells, I made them in my apartment,” he said.

Mr. Rivera opened the shop soon after, when he was kicked out of his apartment because of the noise late at night. “A jigsaw and brrrm-brrrm, metal tools,” Mr. Rivera said, laughing. “The neighbors, they called the police at least three times on me.”

Before retiring from performing last year (2005), Mr. Rivera had toured the United States and Europe and played in places all over New York, including Carnegie Hall, and had played off and on for more than 40 years with the guitar virtuoso Yomo Toro. He speaks in musical onomatopoeia, replacing nouns, verbs and adjectives with “Bang!” “Boom!” and “A bangiddy-boom!”

Why these bells are so important to the music

Click here: The emergency in Puerto Rico is not over: How to help

– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube

Go to Cuba with Jazz on the Tube as your guide:
Click here for details


Latin Jazz Camp
All about the bongo

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