Sunday, June 29, 2008

Julian Ávalos y Su "Grupo Afro Andes" in the Subway N.Y.C.

From 1991 to 2000 I played bongoes with a small group here in N.Y.C. called Julian Ávalos y 'Grupo Afro Andes'.
All the musicians in the band were from Peru, except me.
We played clubs, however my my favorite gigs I played with the band were often "underground" down in the metro N.Y.C. Subway system.

Once a year, the 'New York City Transit Authority' holds auditions for individual musicians and bands who after being chosen, then take part all year long in what is called "Music Under New York". Every type of music from Classical, rap, Chinese, Arabian, country music, opera, Peruvian, jazz, string quartets, Cuban Son and anything else you can imagine.
There was a guy who played a "wash tub bass" and sang 1950's "doo wop" who was amazing.

If you are chosen by the judges, you get a "permit" to play down in the Subway for a year, usually at major stations like Times Square 42nd street, or Herald Square 34th street, my favorite station. The "favored" bands get to play at the best stations, meaning lots of people passing by and listening. You are only allowed to play for 2-3 hours. The leader of the band receives a letter every month telling which stations and the times to play at.
If you play at really busy prime stations.... and also sell your bands CD's .... you can make mucho $.

The members of the band were the leader 'Julian Ávalos' singing & playing an electric "Steinberger 12 string" guitar, his brother 'Pedro Avalos' playing a "Peruvian Cajón" (wooden box), another brother 'Julio' who walked around in the crowd and sold the bands CD's and once in a while played a "shaker", 'Hugo' singing & playing electric Fender bass and
Arturo Flores.... who came from a Peruvian family of MASTER flute makers and played two or three different single "Queña" flutes he made himself.

Very sadly..... Arturo Flores died Nov. 2008.... he was riding his bicycle in Queens, N.Y...
a car hit him.... he fell off and hit his head on a parked car... he is very much missed by his family and all of us who had the good fortune to play music with him.

These Peruvian musicians while totally capable of playing indigenous music of Peru, were really into Cuban Son and Guaracha, especially being influenced by the Cuban duo 'Los Compadres'. ('Los Compadres' recorded several LPs in Peru)

We always had so much fun.
Down in the N.Y.C. Subway system is literally the "crossroads of the world", a microcosm of every single ethnicity you can think of. As well as rich people, poor people, college professors, fat people, skinny people, crazy people, sane people, sexy hot secretary's on their way to, or coming from work, other musicians, people in wheelchairs, famous athletes, dancers, actors, politicians, undercover police, hookers, drag queens, young, old, children, tourists, native New Yorkers, booking agents, famous haute couture designers, I have even seen the Mayor of N.Y.C. and Governor of N.Y. down there while we played.
All experiences I'll never forget.

I took a video camera down there one day, put it on a tripod and pressed record.
This is not rocket science.. simply gritty street music. Or should I say, subway music?

El fallecido Arturo Flores en la flauta
Descanso en paz mi hermano musico.

1 comment:

Geordie said...

Sweet! Cool post.