by Kim Haas
Cory Wong and Eric Foss are long-time friends and fellow musicians from small town Fridley, Minnesota. They first met when they were six years old. Cory plays the guitar and Eric enjoys drums and percussion. Growing up, the duo’s musical tastes would not suggest an eventual interest in Afro-Peruvian music. Eric recalled, “We grew up (listening to)….whatever you’d expect white kids from Minnesota to listen to…Metallica, Rage Against The Machine and other hard rock bands.”
As adults, the two friends formed the Secret Stash Record Label in 2009, releasing funk, jazz, and world music. To some degree, Secret Stash, was formed out of the many frustrations Eric experienced, working at several large record labels, “….I found myself disgusted with the industry; the way (large) retailers and distributors …. treat artists. ….walk into a retail store and you see a new album advertised (taking up lots of space)…like a whole wall (of the store). The retailer did not put it there because they love the artist. It is there because the distributor paid the retailer hundreds of thousands of dollars… It’s called Co-Op Advertising.”
Not only does Secret Stash approach the business of music differently but its sounds and recordings are decidedly unique for the 21st century. Nearly all of Secret Stash’s releases are on vinyl (accompanied by mp3s). Cory said, vinyl records offered the most accurate, recreated sound compared to CDs and other musical recording formats. The two music aficionados are focused and selective about tracks released under their label. “We …operate outside normal record business (models). Anything we put out, (we) are in love with it… I always feel that Secret Stash… offers a service. We are a filter……We can’t let things sift through that filter that don’t fit the criteria…”
Now that the days of working for large labels and distributors is over for Eric, he finds great satisfaction in Secret Stash’s business model. He described their approach to collaborating with other businesses as an important aspect of the company’s brand, “In Minneapolis, Tree House Records and Electric Fetus will play your record because it’s about loving music (not) how to squeeze money out of labels.” Read more
Our April article for Being Latino features a Q&A with Afro-Rican Jazz Creator William Cepeda. This article was originally published on the Being Latino site.
Since 1992, William Cepeda has been bringing Afro-Rican Jazz to the world. The music he shares with us is a combination of world music, progressive jazz, and traditional Afro-Puerto Rican roots and folk music and dance.
A Grammy-nominated artist and composer, and the protégé of John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespsie, William continuously advocates for research and documentation of Puerto Rico’s musical, dance, and cultural history. This dedication has won him numerous awards, grants, and recognition around the world, but is also a part of his family history. The Cepeda family was recently featured on an episode of CNN’s Inside Africa about Bomba dance.
Born and raised in Loiza, known as the heart of little Africa in Puerto Rico, he was always surrounded by music and dance. His love of music led him to seek formal education at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, the Conservatory of Music in Puerto Rico, and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. He holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees (one in jazz composition and arranging and one in music education) and a master’s degree in jazz performance.
In 1997, William created his own record label, Casabe Records.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing him about his interest in music, why he decided to create his own label, and his latest project La Música de Puerto Rico: Raíces y Evolucíon (Races and Evolution). Read more
Our January article for Being Latino focuses on Elio Villafranca, a Grammy-nominated Afro-Cuban Jazz pianist.
To say that Elio Villafranca is a jazz pianist doesn’t quite capture the enormity of what the piano represents to him. For Elio, playing the piano is the embodiment of his soul. It lies at the core of who he is.
In his words, “It’s a liberation, piano is like my other half. It’s true, it’s not a cliché. When I get to play the piano, I feel one half already full, but if I do my things (daily routine) and I haven’t played the piano, I feel completely half empty, unbalanced.”
Elio is quite centered, disciplined and gracious. With years of classical piano training in his homeland, Cuba, and a daily practice routine of at least four hours, Elio Villafranca has earned the distinction of being at the vanguard of the current generation of Cuban pianists and musicians developing an international modern jazz sound.
His most recent album, Dos y Mas, is a piano and percussion collaboration with fellow Cuban musician Arturo Stable. Released last year to great critical acclaim, Dos y Mas honors the musical heritages of Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Spain and Cuba. Read more
We know that Hurricane Sandy has brought a great deal of devastation to so many communities. As a result, we hope that we can bring you a bit of sunshine through music. Even on the darkest days, music has the power to inspire, uplift and transport.
To help lift spirits, we are giving away – 4 copies of Multiverse, the latest release from Afro-Cuban Jazz Musician, Bobby Sanabria. Last month, Multiverse was nominated for a Grammy in Best Latin Jazz Album Category.
Soon, we will be sharing the interview with the masterful Bobby Sanabria. Until then, play a little music and send good thoughts to those in need.
1. Either follow/ subscribe to our blog here on WordPress or like us on Facebook.
2. Leave a comment below why you would like to win one of Bobby Sanabria’s CD’s.
This giveaway will end Thursday, November 8 at Midnight (EST), and the winners will be selected using random.org’s number generator and announced on Friday, November 9.
During a recent telephone conversation with my dad, he asked me, “What style music does Alex Cuba play?” I was stumped and had a really difficult time defining the sound. I stumbled around trying to answer the question, but really had no answer. Finally, he said, “That’s ok, I’ll look him up.”
Fast forward a few weeks and I’ve learned that Alex Cuba really doesn’t want to be defined by one particular sound or genre. So, when I asked him last week during our interview, “Who is Alex Cuba?” His answer made perfect sense, “Alex Cuba is the inventor but that’s a really big word, but I want to say that Alex Cuba is a genre bending artist who is really hard to pinpoint and box.”
As a singer/songwriter from Cuba, it’s hard to imagine Alex Cuba as anything other than an Afro-Cuban jazz or salsa singer due to the island’s rich musical history. But he’s not. He actually credits his style, which is a concoction of a variety of musical genres (rock, salsa, Latin pop, samba etc), in great extent to his father, Valentin Puentes, and his diverse musical interests and desire for his son to live completely free of limitations.
Cuba says his father has classic taste in music, loved old school Trova music and Cuban standout performers like pianist Compay Segundo, Conjunto Matamoros and the incomparable Beny Moré. Contrast these Cuban musical powerhouses with Puentes’ enjoyment of singing the Beatles in Spanish, listening to Elvis Presley and a year spent teaching music in Angola and it’s easy to understand how Alex Cuba would be so inspired to move freely between musical styles, feeling very at home and comfortable being quite unconventional. Read more
We’re excited to announce that we’ll be hosting our first live Twitter Chat.
Our guest will be Latin Grammy winner, singer-songwriter, Alex Cuba. Join us for a discussion on his music, life, career, and a chance to win a signed copy of his CD.
After interviewing Goyo, lead singer of the Afro-Colombian band, ChocQuibTown (CQT) for a guest post on Being Latino, we thought a giveaway was in order.
The Latin Grammy winning band was kind enough to give us six copies of ChocQuibTown: Live from Gurten. Here’s your chance to take CQT home!
Kim Haas sat down with Cuban musician Alejandro Mayor to talk about Cuban music, the African connection and his new CD “La Fusión” Read more