MUSICAL TRIBUTE TO LOS DESAPARECIDOS
? Friday, March 23 at 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
This musical tribute features ALAS, Argentina’s most successful progressive group formed in 1974, the folkloric fusion sounds of VIVA QUETZAL and Roy Brown, the renowned activist singer from Puerto Rico.
Come early and see The Disappeared (Los Desaparecidos), galleries will be open until 7:00 pm .
Admission: Free with Ticket. Ticket Distribution at theatre box office between 5:00 and 7:00 pm. Seating is Limited to two tickets per person.
El Museo del Barrio’s Teatro Heckscher, 1230 5th Avenue (104th/105th Streets), New York
NOVEMBER 15 TRIBUTE: A non-stop, ongoing reading of Ed Vega’s “The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle” — Magical Realism comes to Loisaida (and now El Barrio)! Bring your copy!
September 9, 2008
Edgardo Vega Yunqué, Novelist of the Puerto Rican Experience in New York, Dies at 72
By BRUCE WEBER
Edgardo Vega Yunqué, whose novels and stories about life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan were picaresque, combustive and sometimes flamboyantly comic expressions of the Puerto Rican experience in New York’s multicultural maelstrom, died on Aug. 26 in Brooklyn. He was 72 and lived in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.
The cause was probably a blood clot, said his daughter, Alyson Vega, who said that he died suddenly during a visit to the emergency room at Lutheran Medical Center and that his family had not been immediately notified.
Mr. Vega Yunqué, who moved to New York from Puerto Rico at the age of 13 and spent his teenage years in a Puerto Rican and Irish neighborhood in the Bronx, resisted characterization both as a writer and as an individual. Angered by the expectation of Latin writers either to document ghetto life or to “dabble in magic realism,” as he put it, he was known as a contentious man with a philosophy founded on the sanctity of self-expression, and he wrote with a voice that was lyrical, insistent, irrepressible and often scathingly satiric.
In “The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow Into the Impenetrable Loisada Jungle,” (Overlook Press, 2004), he cast a comic, sardonic eye on the American response to the Sept. 11 attacks. His latest book, “Rachel Horowitz, Puerto Rican Sex Freak,” an earthy send-up of sexual politics, was scheduled for publication this summer but Overlook canceled it after a dispute with him.
“He was an iconoclast of the first order,” said his agent, Tom Colchie. “Ed was always cantankerous about editing. He would say, ‘I’m not going to be any publisher’s fuzzy-wuzzy.’ ”
With a counterculture-ish perspective and a penchant for florid turns of phrase and hyper-punctuated sentences, he had a literary relative in Tom Robbins, though his work often had a political fierceness about it as well.
His best-known book, “No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew It Cauze Bill Bailey Ain’t Never Coming Home Again” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), is a sprawling tale of two families, one Puerto Rican and one Irish, and their intertwining over several generations. The Vietnam War plays a central role and so does American jazz, not only thematically — one main character is a pianist who walks away from the chance to play with Miles Davis when he joins the Marines — but stylistically as well, with narrative strains wandering improvisatorily away from the main tale and finding intricate paths that bring them back again. Julia Livshin, writing in The New York Times Book Review, said it was a “powerhouse of a novel” that “brings vividly to life, with its polyphony of voices, the simmering ethnic stew of the great American city.”
Edgardo Alberto Vega Yunqué was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on May 20, 1936, but he was raised in the town of Cidra. His father, a Baptist minister, moved the family to New York in 1949 when he took over a Spanish-speaking congregation in the South Bronx. Mr. Vega Yunqué was a radio operator in the Air Force, and during one home leave, he was asked by his sister to help clean out an estate in central New York. In the attic he found hundreds of paperback novels — by Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemingway and others — and he began reading them voraciously. That spurred him to write novels.
Mr. Vega Yunqué attended New York University and worked as a community organizer before publishing his first novel, “The Comeback,” in 1985. His other works include two collections of stories and the novel “Blood Fugues.” (HarperCollins, 2006.) In 1994, he founded the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center on the Lower East Side as a home for theater artists, dancers and visual artists, and he ran it until 2000, when he stepped down, his tenure marred by fierce disputes between the mostly Hispanic theater artists and the mostly white visual artists over the center’s management.
Mr. Vega’s marriage to Pat Vega ended in divorce, the culmination of what his daughter, Alyson, and his stepdaughter, the singer Suzanne Vega, described as a tempestuous home life. Her stepfather was passionate about knowledge and passed that zeal on, Suzanne Vega said. “But the thing that made him a great writer was the thing that also made him dangerous,” she added. “Any boundary or restriction he took as a red flag.”
In addition to Suzanne and Alyson Vega, both of Manhattan, Mr. Vega Yunqué is survived by a son, Matthew, of Amagansett, New York; a brother, Jay Vega, of Cape May, N.J.; a sister, Abigail McGlynn, of Queens; and a granddaughter.
Edgardo Vega Yunqué
He was born May 20, 1936, a date to be commemorated because he was truly a great writer and contributed to a transnational, transcultural body of literature that is so much a part of what New York City really is all about.
(excerpted from The Daily News) The author of 17 novels, who was born in Cidra, Puerto Rico, and lived alone in Brooklyn, died at Lutheran Hospital on Aug. 25, said his agent Tom Colchie. Ed Vega Yunqué was “a great American writer as well as a great Puerto Rican writer,” he added. Vega Yunqué’s novels, such as ‘Blood Fugues’ and ‘Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow Into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle,’ are modern classics.” His first novel ‘The Comeback’ was published in 1985.
Ed Vega Yunqué moved to New York from Puerto Rico in the mid 1940s. He was the stepfather of singer Suzanne Vega. The feisty writer was the director of the Clemente Soto Velez from 1993 to 2000.
His last novel was a comic false memoir about a Jewish woman who meets a Puerto Rican Romeo and falls in love. It had been tentatively titled “Rebecca Horowitz, Puerto Rican Sex Freak” but publication was cancelled by the publisher recently, said Colchie, who’d been trying to find another publisher.
FUNERAL SERVICES for Edgardo Vega Yunqué, 1936-2008
Monday, Sept 15, 2008
Soka Gakkai International-USA
7 East 15th Street
New York, NY 10003
A TRIBUTE TO EDGARDO VEGA YUNQUE
Saturday, November 15, 3PM – 7PM
1355 Park Avenue, Corner Store
at East 102nd Street in Manhattan
A non-stop, ongoing reading of Ed Vega’s “The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle” — Magical Realism comes to Loisaida (and now El Barrio)! Bring your copy!
We are looking for readers who would like to sign up to seriously work on reading for ten to fifteen minutes. Please contact Judy at email@example.com.
January 1, 1931 – March 25, 2009
Bandleader, percussionist Manny Oquendo passed away March 25, 2009 of a heart attack. A self-taught musician, Oquendo was a senior statesman of the Latin percussion instruments of timbales and bongos before founding and co-directing the critically acclaimed Latin music band, Conjunto Libre for more than 35 years.
A member of the seminal recording “Grupo Folklorico Experimental Nuevayorquino” Parts I & II, Manny Oquendo was known for his understated yet aggressive solo improvisations on both the timbal and bongos. His was not a race as to who could play the fastest, or who could do the most paradiddles, excessive drum rolls or “contra-clave,” Manny Oquendo’s style was a school in and of itself. “The Timbalero must always keep the beat,” he emphasized in interviews. “Never overplay,” was his most consistent rule.
His style was found in the roots of Cuban bands such as Arcaño’s or Orquesta Aragon, never flashy, never overstated. For influence and inspiration he looked to the drummers of the vintage Cuban bands such as bongocero, Ramón Castro, who played with the Orquesta Casino de la Playa and later with Pérez Prado or Conjunto Casino’s Yeyito Iglesias or Papa Kila (Antolín Suárez) who played with Arsenio Rodríguez or Sonora Matancera’s Manteca (José Rosario Chávez). Manny Oquendo was known by what he said on the timbal, not how many things he could do to it.
For more than 60 years, Manny Oquendo’s said many things through his percussive strength and musical vision. His profound yet understated sounds were part of the Latin New York music scene from the ‘40s until today.
Born José Manuel Oquendo on South Fourth St. Brooklyn, he was called “Manolo” before he became “Manny” in his teens. The family later moved to East Harlem in 1939 where Oquendo was captivated by the sounds of music. “Music was everywhere,” he recalled.
East Barrio’s first Latin music record store “Almacenes Hernandez” (originally located at 1600 Madison Avenue and opened in 1927) was just one flight down from the Oquendo family’s apartment. The swinging big bands of Machito, Jose Fajardo and Orquesta Aragon became the soundtrack of his childhood. “There was music constantly coming out of that store, and that was my education,” he recalled.
His first set of drums were a pair of “tom toms” with the skin on both ends. Played with sticks from a wooden hanger, Manny played along to records from his parents’ victrola. Spanish language radio stations were always on in his home. Later, when Oquendo visited his parent’s roots in Ponce, he discovered the cuatro through his grandfather.
After the “tom toms,” Oquendo got a pair of wooden timbales and began playing with Sexteto Sanabria but not before taking a few drum lessons at a school on 125th Street at 25 cents per lesson. Later on, he studied privately with Sam Ulano, a well-known percussion teacher. Jazz drummer Max Roach also studied with Ulano alongside Manny. Whenever they’d run into each other they’d reminisce on their school days. Oquendo always kept his set of trap drums.
By the 1940s, the Oquendos moved to Kelly Street in the South Bronx unknowingly joining a community of likeminded musicians. Pianist, Noro Morales lived down the street from Manny on Stebbins Ave.; Joe Loco was by Horseshoe Park; Tito Rodríguez was on Rogers Place; Tito Puente on 163rd Street, while Arsenio Rodríguez and Ray Coén both lived on Kelly Street.
Oquendo began playing with New York’s top orchestras. He played with the Carlos Medina Orchestra, the Charlie Valero Band and Xavier Cugat’s former singer Luis del Campo before playing with the legendary Marcelino Guerra Band.
From here Oquendo played with trumpeter Frank Garcia and his vocalist, El Boy, where he met Chano Pozo who performed with Miguelito Valdes at a local show and stayed to play with the fledging timbalero. Chano remained with the small group until he got a better paying job. Oquendo moved on as well, joining pianist Jose Curbelo’s orchestra where he performed on a full array of drums owing to their diverse repertoire that included tangos, sambas and American swing music. “It gave me the feeling of being a complete drummer.” He mentioned in an interview to Frank Figueroa over Latin Beat.
From here, Manny Oquendo joined Pupi Campos’ band playing many venues on Long Island alongside Tito Puente and his Picadilly Boys. Since they were both working in the same area, Tito and Manny would ride together to their respective gigs with Manny playing in Tito’s band as he waited for his own show to begin. When Tito’s regular bongocero Chino Pozo left to tour with Katherine Dunham, Tito asked Manny to take over that chair. When Little Ray Romero took a job with Eartha Kit, it was Manny Oquendo who Tito Rodriguez called to fill his bongo chair.
Manny had his Afro-Antillian chops chiseled under the bands of Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, Johnny Pacheco and others. He had hung with the legendary Chano Pozo, taking the Musician’s Union cabaret license test for him enabling Pozo to work in New York clubs during his stay between 1946 –’48.
By the 1960s, everything Cuban was forbidden. Manny listened to the Mozambique sounds of Pello El Afrokan over short wave radio and on pirated records. Back in his apartment on Kelly Street in the Bronx, he’d practice hitting the timbal with the left and playing the rhythm on the right until he nailed the Cuban genre so well he made it his own.
In 1963, Manny Oquendo joined “La Perfecta,” the conjunto organized by pianist Eddie Palmieri. Alongside congüero, Tommy Lopez, Manny crystallized the Mozambique sound creating a powerhouse rhythm section alongside Palmieri’s improvisational infrastructure.
In 1974 Oquendo and bassist Andy Gonzalez left Palmieri to move in their own direction. Leaving the traditional structures behind, the duo incorporated jazz, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Puerto Rican rhythms while exploring alternatives. The goal was to “free” the music from restrictive content and Libre was born. During 1976 to 1981, Oquendo became a musical historian of the tipico sound he’d perfected with Palmieri. Libre’s first albums included classics by composers Ignacio Pineiro, Rafael Hernandez and Nico Saquito, as well as a traditional Puerto Rican plena by Manuel “Canario” Jimenez.
At the same time, the group attracted a creative crop of innovative young artists in Latin music. The Gonzalez brothers, Andy and Jerry Gonzalez are founding members; Alfredo de la Fe is featured on various incendiary violin solos with singer Herman Olivera making his recorded debut over a Libre recording while flautist Nestor Torres was also a featured guest. At various times, Barry Rogers, Jose Rodrigues, Angel “Papo” Vazquez, Jimmy Bosch, Reynaldo Jorge, Dan Reagan and Steve Turre held down the trombone line, while Oscar Hernandez, Joe Mannozzi, and Marc Diamond rocked the piano chair.
Last year, Puerto Rico’s Radio Station, Z93 dedicated its National Salsa Day to Manny Oquendo.
Manny Oquendo is survived by four sons and two sisters.
According to Manny Oquendo’s wishes, there will not be a viewing. We will post any information regarding a memorial in the future.
A video from Salsa Sunday’s Conversations with the Masters has been posted on our website at www.zondelbarrio.com/Press.php
About Aurora Flores:
Twenty-first century Renaissance woman Aurora Flores is the recipient of numerous awards and is included in Who’s Who in Hispanic America. Currently the President of Aurora Communications, she was the first Latina editor of Latin New York Magazine and the first female music correspondent for Billboard Magazine. While attending Columbia’s Journalism School, she broke into mainstream journalism and today has thousands of articles to her name.
A musician by training, Aurora founded her own septet, Zon del Barrio, bringing together modern music genres, Afro-Boricua folklore and Afro-Cuban salsa. She lectures on Latin music, has composed bilingual songs for Nickelodeon’s “Dora the Explorer,” and recently edited and wrote the foreword for ¡Salsa Talks! A Musical Heritage Uncovered. Aurora can be seen in BET’s Pasos Latinos; BRAVO’s “Palladium, When Mambo was King;” the Smithsonian’s “Latin jazz, La Combinación Perfecta;” and in Edward James Olmos’s “Americanos: Latino Life in the U.S.” alongside the late Tito Puente, playing a composition she co-wrote. She is a proud descendent of Puerto Rican visionary, Eugenio Maria de Hostos.
Rene Perez, right, and Eduardo Cabra of Calle 13, arrive at the “Los Premios MTV 2009″ on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009, at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
(AP) – 3 hours ago
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rican officials said Saturday they have canceled a concert featuring Grammy-winning band Calle 13 after the group’s lead singer insulted the governor and other Latin American politicians during an MTV awards show.
San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini said he was calling off the Halloween concert only because no contract had been signed for use of the city’s Roberto Clemente Coliseum — not because of the comments by singer Rene Perez, known as “Residente.”
But his announcement indicated the city did not want the concert, saying, “We are not interested in reaching the contract now or in the future.” The city allowed a similar concert by the same promoter last year.
“Mister Perez, of Calle 13, will not be bothered by the decision … because I don’t think he is interested in benefiting economically from an event that was going to be held in a facility administered by government personnel for whom he has no respect,” Santini said.
During Thursday’s MTV show, Perez used an offensive phrase referring to the mother of Gov. Luis Fortuno as he denounced the state’s layoff of 17,000 workers.
Perez also wore a black T-shirt with a message that appeared to criticize Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for a deal to allow U.S. bases in his country — and which could be read to suggest he has paramilitary links.
The Colombian government issued a statement saying it was “indignant” about the “slanderous” message. Fortuno made his first public comment about the incident while attending a political event Saturday.
“This individual disrespected all Puerto Rican women, all Puerto Rican mothers and the people of Puerto Rico in general,” Fortuno told reporters. “That is what I can tell you.”
Representatives of Calle 13 and production company Arco Publicidad did not immediately respond to requests for comment. City officials declined to elaborate on details of the concert contract.
Calle 13 won a Grammy for best Latin urban album last year and it has won several Latin Grammy awards.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Puerto Rico cancels Calle 13 concert after insult
The Associated Press – 3 hours ago
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