Category Archives: Music

Straight No Chaser


A few years ago (I want to say three, but it was probably more like four or five), my friend Marc Masferrer posted this video on Facebook.

I was instantly in love. Perhaps it had to do with my inner Afro-Cuban (because one look at my ASSets and you’ll be convinced there’s African in me) or the Kenyans I was so completely at home with. Whatever the reason, this song and this group became something very special for me.

And I wished that one day I might get the chance to see them live.

Every year Mami always takes my sister and I to a live show. Usually it’s a musical of some kind. This year, I asked if we could see Straight No Chaser.

Today is the day.

Can I tell you? I’m out of my skin excited.

And one day, I am totally going to celebrate Christmas in Africa (and when I say “Africa,” I mean mean Kenya.)

What I was Thinking


Now that I am the proud owner of bad ass timbales, I pity my neighbors.

I spent every spare moment practicing.

But, I’m kind of like State Farm… I’m a good neighbor. I won’t practice after 8:30 pm (ok, sometimes 9 pm) on a school night.

And I try to practice in the middle of the day on weekends.

But I’m practicing.

And my instructor could tell. Again, his face said more than his words….

Him: You’re doing REALLY good! You’re already doing better than my congas guy, and I’ve been teaching him longer!

His Face: DAAAAAAAAYYYYYUUUMMM!! Girl’s got skills! WAAAAAAY BETTER than last week!


Look out, Sheila E!

(Really, it is more like “Look our, Armand Assante!” because THIS SCENE – 11:51 – is my inspiration)

Finding My Voice


Wednesday night I thought to myself “Maybe I want to take voice lessons…”
Thursday morning there is a Living Social deal for voice lessons.

I made an appointment with the coolest sounding Russian lady ever.

I knew I was shy about certain things… Me? Shy? I know, right? But it’s true!
Like the drums. I’m SUPER shy about them! I’ve only shared that secret with a couple of people.

And this one? I haven’t told ANYONE.

I knew I was extra shy about my singing voice and that taking voice lessons would stretch me (and I’m talking about more than just my vocal chords), but I still wanted to try it.

Stella, the Russian voice teacher, was SUPER cool. She asked e to sing something so she could get an idea of what she was working with and I did, but I hated the way it sounded. I was only supposed to have an hour lesson, but she spent two hours on me and then a third just chatting.

She had wild, red curly hair and bright blue eyes and a devil-may-care attitude. She was intoxicating to be around. She had been through some incredibly rough times, but she was happy. She inspired me.

She also gave me homework.

Homework for drumming AND homework for singing when I get home between 9-10pm every night and have to be quiet makes practicing for both really difficult.

Thank God for my car. I could practicing drumming on my dashboard (oh yes I did) and I could listen to a song on my phone and sing along as loud as I liked. And I did. And I still do, but only when I’m alone in the car. I haven’t quite gotten over that shyness.

I knew the voice lessons would stretch me, but I didn’t realize how far or how much. Or that it might be too much.
But after both lessons, I left crying.
See, to get the right sound, everything has to be open.
That was the word of the hour “Open up! Open your mouth! Your throat! Your chest! Your stomach! Open everything! It all has to be open!”

I’m not quite ready to be that open yet.

Guitar Center


Not fully recovered from being sick in that I am not eating much, but I feel fine so I am ready to start November.
And what a start!
Last Friday I stopped by the Guitar Center. I couldn’t think of any other store that sold instruments and I wanted to hold a saxophone. I had been leaning towards wanting to play that one, but how could I know for sure if I never held one?

Despite carrying saxophones online, Guitar Center does NOT carry anything but guitars and drums in their store. Or, at least, in my local store. As I walked in and saw wall to wall guitars I became super intimidated and thought about turning around and walking out, but that’s not who I want to be so I pressed on.

I saw timbales at the front of the drum secton. Then I saw congas a little further in. I was like a moth to a flame. And then the guy asked if he could help me. He ended up giving me a brochure for a place called “The Drum Factory” and sent me on my way. The gal at the front gave me a couple of numbers for nearby stores that sell and rent out other instruments.

I called the place and got information on saxophone lessons. I left my number and asked that the teacher call me. If he wasn’t available to teach me in the times I would need, then I’d pick a different instrument, simple as that.
I also registered at The Drum Factory for a free lesson.
The guy emailed me that same night and then called me the next day. He got me set up with a lesson for congas.

Tonight when I got to my lesson, the teacher hadn’t heard that he was supposed to bring congas to teach me on. I explained to him that I was still not sure what I wanted to play and did he think I would be a better conguera or timbalera?
He said that he thought timbales might be a better starting point and that we could turn me into the next Sheila E.

He taught me a pattern, wrote it down, and told me to practice it. A. LOT. He expected me to have it down by our next lesson.
I signed up, but I’m not sure I’m convinced on my timbales ability yet. The pattern is kind of daunting.
I go back next Wednesday, so I had better get practicing!

Besides, I haven’t heard back from the saxophone teacher, so maybe this was “meant to be.”

I Want to Play the …


I’ve decided I want to play an instrument.

But which one?

  • Guitar? Blech. Everyone plays guitar. YAWN.
  • Piano? Hmph. I hear it’s a great starting point and a good way to learn to read music…
  • Trumpet? I’m not sure I can blow that hard. Plus, I think making that buzzing sound would tickle my lips too much.
  • Saxophone? Maybe… I really love how it sounds.
  • Violin? I did it once when I was in 4th grade, but I couldn’t wait to get to 6th grade and learn the sax (which never happened).
  • Congas? Who doesn’t want to bang on their drums all day?
  • Timbales? Because banging with sticks is more fun than just using your hands?

Or maybe I should just take singing lessons?

Oye, Rumberito!


My buddy, Adonis Puentes, was playing at this cool little Cuban restaurant (called Mambos Cafe) in Glendale last night.

Aside from it being in Glendale and tiny, it is the best place ever. The food is amazing. The service is great. Everyone is super friendly.

I love it.

If it weren’t so far away from me, I’d go there every Tuesday. (Because every Tuesday they have a live Latin jazz band playing and it is a total party.)

And that is why my buddy Adonis Puentes was there.

His voice can melt ice.

And everyone that plays in his band is so accomplished!

If you ever get the chance to see him play, don’t hesitate. Just go. You won’t regret it.

Be friends with him on Facebook.

Listen to his stuff.

I hear he has a new cd coming out in January or February and I already know it’s going to be fantastic.

Cartaya’s Enclave is playing at Mambo’s Cafe in a couple of weeks. I hear they do an amazing show, too so I’ve already got a table reserved.

Mambo’s Cafe. Get into it.

I had so much fun and was in such a great mood that, on my way home, I stopped by Tia Juana’s in Irvine and caught Johnny Polanco’s last set. (Why not?)

I made it just in time and he ended with one of my favorite songs.

It was nearly the perfect night. The only thing missing was someone to dance with, but that didn’t stop me from kikitiando to my heart’s content.

Ok, ok. And a good Cuban cigar. 😉

La Vida es una Rueda


If Kikitiando had a theme song it would be the Willy Chirino song, “Lo Que ‘sta Pa’ Ti

The first line is:  “La Vida es una ruleta”!

Pero, the way I did New Year’s Eve, it was much more a Rueda.

New Year’s Eve has always been very special to me. My abuelos were married NYE so I have many happy childhood memories of the big anniversary parties we would throw for them. When I eventually get married, I plan on doing so on NYE and so I’ve always been very protective of my plans and how I bring in the new year.

I have never kissed anyone at midnight. I’ve had some after midnight kisses, but not any midnight kisses and I have worked hard to keep it that way.

I am all for traditions, especially Cuban New Year’s Eve Traditions, and have found it rather difficult to kikitiar at  midnight if I’m out and about. Plus, the idea of being out while so many drunk people are out just doesn’t sound like fun to me. I never liked the 200 Cigarettes type of pressure that seems to follow New Year’s Eve. So I like to stay home, alone. I make sure the house is clean. I get all dressed up, and I enjoy hours of tv. I like to pick a tv show and just watch as many episodes as I can… it’s gloriously decadent. In the minutes leading up to midnight, I’ll pour myself a glass of champagne and drop a sugar cube in it (a trick I learned on Moonstruck and it makes me smile). I’ll have a bowl of 12 grapes sitting on the table by the door, right next to the suitcase and the bucket of water and the money.

At midnight, the minute of madness ensues. While wearing my yellow underwear, I’ll toast the New Year saying, “El ano que viene, en Cuba” while dumping the bucket of water out the door, eating the grapes, walking outside with the suitcase and putting the money into the mailbox … and laughing hysterically.

It’s special to me and I just love it. These past couple of years, though, my antics have been somewhat thwarted and I’ve had to modify my traditions… seemingly, for the better because now I consider myself kikitiando through the new year. It started last year, I found myself with a driving need to go out dancing. Pero HOW could I GO OUT if I was going to accomplish all my Cuban New Year’s Eve silliness? Simple…

I now celebrate New Year’s Eve on Cuban Time.

So last year, when 9 PM rolled around, I was dressed up, wearing my yellow underwear for good luck, eating 12 grapes for prosperity, toasting* and saying “Next year, in Cuba,” dumping a bucket of water outside and then running (in my high heels) with my suitcase to the mailbox to put in my money.

An hour later, I was out dancing, so when midnight California time came around, I was dancing. It was THE. BEST. NEW YEAR’S EVE. EVER!

This year… was different.

My brother’s birthday happens to fall on December 30th which means that he tends to get lost in the Christmas shuffle, unless he does what he did this year… have a party on New Year’s Eve. Not just any party, a murder mystery dinner party. That’s great… for him and his friends. His friends are not my friends, though. And how was I going to succeed at being alone with a house-full of partiers? As I was resigning myself to my fate and the bad luck I’d have in 2011 for skipping out on my NYE Kikitiando, I received an invitation to a Salsa Party.

Some new friends who love salsa dancing as much as I do were having a house party. Problem solved, sort of… The party started at 3 in the afternoon.

I rose to the occasion. Forget the grapes! Forget toasting! It isn’t truly kikitiando if it can’t evolve, right? Of course right!

Instead of wearing yellow underwear I WENT CRAZY! I wore HOT PINK & ORANGE with WHITE POLKA DOTS!

I still dressed up and I decided when I arrived at the party at 6 PM that I would still celebrate “on Cuban time.” I know that it was the right choice and that God loves me because at 9 PM I was smiling and dancing in a Rueda. When the dance was over, I grabbed my mojito, walked outside and whispered to the freezing night air “El ano que viene, en Cuba.”

It doesn’t get more Cuban than that!**

*I toasted with Martinelli’s because I knew I would be driving shortly thereafter.

**I may or may not have knocked over a bucket of melted ice that was already outside and taken 12 bites of the pastelito I’d grabbed from the dessert spread in the kitchen… por si acaso… 😉