Noisy Toys interviews:
Multi-percussionist, recording artist, and World Percussion Division Manager at Remo, Inc.
NT: When did you start playing drums? Were you always interested in hand drums and Latin percussion?
Chalo: It all started when I was about 13 years old. I grew up in the Mission District in San Fransisco and my Dad was a musician from Mexico. He played guitar and sang. In the neighborhood at the time Santana came on the scene and that was a big hoopla for all the kids. So we all had our Santana bands at 13 and 14 years old. Carlos Santana rehearsed very close to where we all lived, so wed run up to the garage and check it out. Thats when I started playing that style...anything Latin-rock or Latin-jazz.
My early influences started in the street. The older drummers would gather at Delores Park or Aquatic Park or in the schoolyards where wed hang out and play. I played in several bands as a kid, then when I was 16 or 17 years old I started venturing into other styles of music, particularly Brazilian music. I started listening more and getting turned on to jazz music... where you werent just playing a mambo, you would incorporate all different styles of drumming in what we called fusion music.
Thats when I started playing the shakers and hitting other instruments with my other hand simultaneously. Somebody told me Hey,theres this guy at the Keystone Corner, a famous jazz club at the time, where people like Miles Davis and Rashaan Roland Kirk and other innovated jazz musicians played. The guy was Airto. I snuck in and sat in the front row and I saw him playing what I was trying to
play. Other people in the neighborhood were playing mambos, rumbas and cha chas so this legitimized what I was doing. He played the pandeiro and my mouth dropped. Its ironic that 10 years later I performed with Airto and did a show at that same club.
NT: Who was most responsible for influencing your flamboyant performance style?
Chalo: I think it was the Brazilian music. When I was around 20 years old, I realized that Brazilian music was liberating. I was able to incorporate things that were natural for me...similar to other things I did like playing sports. Samba is something like soccer, where you dance. Instead of juggling a basketball, for me it was a pandeiro. Dancing and playing is the entertainment part of the music that attracted me.
NT: What was touring with Sergio Mendes like?
Chalo: I started my Samba school in the Bay area in 1984 and we always played the carnivals. I was spinning the pandeiro and dancing while playing. A Brazilian saxophone player was headlining at one of the carnivals. Somebody in his band was spinning the pandeiro and it turned out to be percussionist Ron Powell. We became friends and he was playing with Sergio Mendes at the time. He asked me if Id like to play with Sergio Mendes because I could play Cuban music, Brazilian music, dance, play cuica and juggle the pandeiro. I said, Sure! That was in 1987 and I stayed with Sergio Mendes for 10 years.
NT: At what point did you get to perform with your early hero, Santana?
Chalo: If I were to list my 3 heroes in the music business they would be Santana, Airto and Sergio Mendes. So, I fulfilled my expectations with the people Ive worked with throughout the years.
Ive had the pleasure of working with all of them. Santana called me up around 1995. I was doing a large New Years performance involving 100 drummers and dancers. He heard a soundtrack I did called The Baionco. It was a rhythm I created based on influences from Cuba and Brazil. He said That sounds great! I want to do something with that! And thats how it started. He created a song about that. We also performed together at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The song The Baionco is on my cd Samba Nova.
NT: Why do you think Latin music is so popular right now and do you think it will continue to move into the mainstream?
Chalo: I think Latin music covers a broad spectrum of styles from Latin-speaking countries, including Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico and many others. I think Latin music from the mambo craze of the 1920s until today has been popular right along, especially mambo and salsa. What happened recently is the fruits of the labor of people like Santana, Pancho Sanchez, Cal Tjader, and Tito Puente. They laid the groundwork for Ricky Martin and Mark Anthony to come in. If you really listened to the Grammy Awards youd notice its a mixture of Latin music that is American pop with influences of those rhythms from Brazil or from Cuba.
When I did the Grammy Awards with Ricky Martin, when he really hit it big and everybody discovered him, they asked me to put 28 drummers on the stage. I was playing rhythms like the Baionco, a mixture of Brazilian and Cuban. We paraded down the isle at the Shrine Auditorium and the rest is history. But the energy that Latin music brings really is the rhythm of the drum. (Chalo performed and choreographed the drummers and dancers for the 1999 and 2000 Grammy Awards.)
NT: Can anyone learn the basic Latin rhythms that you play?
Chalo: Along with performing, Ive always been an educator. Ive learned from my students throughout the years how to teach at different levels. Anybody, even if they say I have no rhythm, their rhythm is inside...even if they have to dig for it. You just have to want to move your hands on a drum and open your ears to listen.
You can play culturally-specific rhythms like samba or mambo, which require some technique at the beginning level. But, you also have rhythms of the heart, where you can play what you feel. A facilitator can help you get some direction, and then you can find your own beat.
Chalo Eduardos most recent recordings, Samba Nova and Brazilian Beat (Carnaval Records) are both available at Noisy Toys drums & percussion. Samba Nova is available on cd and Brazilian Beat is available on cassette.
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