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The Music of the López Family

Musicians of tambor Aña Oba Tola: X, Eliade, Piri, Fredy (singer), Reynaldo, Berto, Osniel, X

Pedro López's father and uncle (Pedro is Manley's father), used to lead in the 1940ies a conjunto de Son (popular music), that played on catholic feasts. At the end of every concert, people used to play Rumba, hybrid music between afro-cuban and popular music. The rumba "peñas" (popular feasts) of the López family became famous in whole Havana, soon attracting famous musicians such as "Los Aspirina" (most famous rumberos family in Havana), from neighbour-municipio Guanabacoa, or Juan De Dios Rámos "El Colo" or Maximino Duquesne Francis.

(Pablo Roche "Akilakuá" in the 1950ies, Photo credits: John Mason)

The "Aspirina" family was well-known for being close to famous Pablo Roche Cañal "Akilakuá", the greatest bata drum player from Cuba ever. Mario Aspirina Jáuregui is one of the few ancient students of Pablo Roche still alive. Despite evolution of bata drums playing style, Pedro and Mario Aspirina are known as the keepers of Pablo Roche's original style.
They were those who, helping the López brothers, taught them how to play the sacred drums of yoruba cults from Cuba, or: "tambores batá".
They allowed the Chinitos to be part of their rumba group: Aspirina Guaguancó.
So, being considered as the most inventive family in whole Cuba in the world of afro-cuban music, for last twenty years, the López family took part to yoruba rituals with the most authentic and conservative bata drummers in Havana.

Manley's father and uncles:

Pedro López is Manley's father. He worked as a carpenter with a man who - says him - has been the very first to create a "pyramidal" cajón in Cuba: Ifraín Kofa Frioles. Pedro has been recently contacted to be part of a rumba project similar to "Buena Vista Social Club".

"Bertico" López is a drummer, too, and integrated famous rumba group "Grupo Yoruba Andabó", that before that was named (since 1961) "Guaguancó Maritimo Portuario". He brought guarapachangueo within the group, and influenced famous Pancho Quinto Mora, one of the greatest drummers in Cuba, who died last year.

Irián López, Manley's uncle, was a member of the great Conjunto Foklórico Nacional de Cuba, gathering folklore specialists of the whole island, in the 1980ies. He appears with the CFN in the film "El País de los Orichas".

Reynaldo is the fourth brother of the family. He is a drummer and a singer. His rumba repertoire is endless.

During the 1970ies, the Chinitos invented a rumba style named "Guarapachangueo"
(or, like themselves say, "Guarapachanguero") that afterwards created a revolution in the worl of rumba. The "modern" styles of groups like:
"Conjunto de Clave y Guaguancó" or
"Grupo Yoruba Andabó" are born from elements caught from Chinitos.
Rumba is a non-ritual feast, where anybody can express his state of mind by singing. The rumba musical system contains a strong relationship between lead singers ans chorus.
The instruments of this music are percussions, using very syncopated rhythms and phrases. It is all about accompanying the singer. Lead singing is the main element until comes the refrain or "estribillo", from which main element becomes dancing.

(Foto: ©Rebecca Bodenheimer)
Three main rhythms are used, corresponding to three different styles of singing and dancing:
Yambú, Columbia and very popular Guaguancó.
Rumba was born in both harbours (La Havane, Matanzas and Cárdenas) and countryside (Sabanilla, provincia de Matanzas, where Columbia was born).
Rumba is nowadays played in whole Cuba, in cities and in the country, it is a great part of cuban identity.
The original rumba drums were cajones (wooden boxes), then congas. The "Chinitos" invented their own "cajón" style, created by Pedro, and adapted to "Rumba Guarapachanguero" style.

(Manley, his uncles, and the musicians of their yoruba rituals group with the banner of their "tambor de fundamento" Aña Oba Tola)

The four López brothers began to play bata drums in the 1980ies and now have their own ritual drums (or "tambor de fundamento"), named "Aña Obba Tola", now recognized - though recent - as one of the greatest tambor in Havana.
Manley is born within this boiling nucleus, and always showed big interest in music. He studied since very young with his uncle Irián. He now is the soloist of the family, and is told in Havana to be part of the "gifted youth" of afro-cuban folkloric world.