Havana, Cuba; March 28, 2016: Since 2002, KoSA has been bringing groups of drum and percussion lovers of all skill levels and of all ages to study with some of Cuba’s grand masters as well as school music groups. The trips are the brainchild of the two founders of KoSA Music: Aldo Mazza –a world-touring Canadian percussionist and his musician wife Dr. Jolán Kovács. For the past 14 years, KoSA not only has created an incredibly unique study program for music enthusiasts coming from all of the world, but also has played a key role in the music scene in Havana, and in particular with KoSA’s close collaboration with Giraldo Piloto, the Founder and Director of the Fiesta del Tambor ( Havana Rhythm and Dance Festival), which takes place annually at the same time as the KoSA Cuba workshops. In fact, KoSA is an important sponsor and collaborator of the Fiesta del Tambor bringing the instrument prizes given to the national contest winners in the categories of drumset, timbales, congas and bongos.
The KoSA Workshops week of study began with a lecture by one of Cuba’s leading ethnomusicologists, Dr. Olavo Rodriguez, who explained the social and historical context of a musical culture that for centuries has absorbed and forever altered every musical form arriving on its shores, from traditional African religious music to traditional/colonial Spanish (and French) dance music, Spanish ballads, jazz and contemporary pop of nearly every stripe. Morning and afternoon workshops were all held at the four-star Hotel Palco and featured leading names in Cuban and world music such as Tomas Ramos-“Panga” (studio conga artist); Julio Lopez and Jean Roberto (Klimax) ; Adel Gonzalez ( Afro-Cuban Allstars) ; Oliver Valdes (Studio drum set artist); Enrique Pla ( Irakere); Walfredo Reyes, Jr. (Chicago); and the talented drummer Juan Carlos Rojas "El Peje” (Chucho Valdes). Two special guests artists who joined us this year at the festival was the legendary drummer Alex Acuña (Weather Report) and Pete Lockett (master tabla artist from England). The daily classes were followed by later afternoon festival concerts in the casual atmosphere of one the city’s swankier hotels. After dinner, the participants of the KoSA Cuba workshops were treated as VIP guests of the Havana Rhythm and Dance Festival where they witnessed unforgettable concerts at the Teatro Mella in the Vedado district. Every night participants were dazzled by dance and music extravaganzas featuring some of Cuba’s leading traditional and popular dance troupes. After the show, the still buzzing crowd would spill out into the garden bar beside the theater to kick off a week-long series of rumba concert parties.
The last concert Saturday night (for those leaving Sunday) proved that just when you think the energy on a Cuban stage can’t possibly fly any higher, it can. The crowd cheered the young semi-finalists in the drumming contest, including a blind bongo player and a bata player, maybe the youngest of the lot, who, when asked by the judges to perform the one bata rhythm requiring singing, quickly popped his gum out of his mouth and put it in the pocket of his jeans. Festival director Piloto’s band, Klimax, lit up the stage with its flavor of salsa and then one of the island’s leading rumba ensembles, Osain del Monte, brought the audience to its feet and into a frenzy. As soon as the last beat was struck, Klimax, who had returned to the stage, took off again, soon joined by the resplendent Brenda Navarrete rapping to the beat, and then with a signal from Piloto, the rumba group jumped in, in what could have been the quintessential Cuban musical moment of the week: a seemingly effortless, utterly joyous combination of musical styles, at once planned and spontaneous, raw and refined –at once eternal and always, always, always in the moment.
“There’s nothing like hearing and seeing the music made in its birthplace,” says Mazza. “It’s easier to learn it when it’s in the air all around you.” “Along with the scent of the fresh grilled meats and fish and the mojitos!” his wife Jolán adds with a smile. And to top it all off, the participants do get in some recreational time in their musically jam-packed schedules, enjoying the architectural beauty of old Havana ,for example, a trip to the local market, and a heavenly outing to a white-sand beach within the city limits at a exclusive private beach club.
“There is no music like Cuban music and no place like Cuba,” Mazza says. “We love to introduce people to it. We also love to welcome back the people who’ve come year after year (one participant in particular has been coming for ten years straight from Switzerland!) to keep improving their skills in Cuban drumming and see what the incredible musicians of this incredible island will do next.”
In addition to its Cuba programs, and special group custom Cuba trips, KoSA has been long known for its annual summer workshop in Vermont, intensive weekends in major cities such as New York and Miami, plus trips to China, and in July 2016, KoSA will offer a program in Italy – in Calabria, where Mazza was born. “There is great music everywhere,” Mazza says. “And I’ll be so happy to be doing what I do close to my own roots.”
KoSA Cuba Workshop & Fiesta del Tambor sponsors include Sabian, Gon Bops, Evans, Regal Tip, KoSA Music
For more information on all of their programs, visit www.kosamusic.com.