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Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Waiting for Godot

It's been a long, long time since I posted about the Mamborama Greatest Hits CD with the new song Dame Un Dia Sin Luchar, and some other unreleased tracks. It's still on, it's just that I'm waiting for someone to complete the new song, and I can be patient. No track shall be released before its time.

The new tune has Carlos Manuel Kalunga on lead vocals, and I was thinking that it's a shame that I have NO fucking offers to tour Europe now, because I could easily put together a band that would even exceed the group I took there in 2005. El Indio is at libery, as is Kalunga, and Pepito has told me a million times that he would love to tour with Mamborama. That might be harder to pull off from Miami than Havana, but neither one is easy, but worth the trouble. The 2005 tour was the hardest thing I ever pulled off. The bureaucracy was crazy, the visas were a nightmare, and the agent ripped me off, but in the end, it was worth it, both for me, the musicos, and everyone that came to the gigs. It's a shame that no one has the foresight to bring us back. Whatever.

Point is, though, I am waiting for someone to play something on the new tune, and I can wait a bit more. It probably won't be important to you, but it's important to me.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
And the winner is...

Elito Revé! Felicidades! I'm talking about Cubadisco, of course. I'm happy for Revé, and can honestly tell you that I had no expectations of winning. I won with the nomination. As far as I know, there has never been another Yuma to get TWO nominations for Cubadisco. It tells me that the Cubans get what I am doing, and I could have no better compliment in the world. Thank you, Ciro, y todo el mundo de Cubadisco!
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Who Am I?

Well, I know this much: I was born a white boy to a middle-class family in Wyoming. But, that wasn't enough. I migrated to LA in the late seventies, and was lucky enough to work with my heroes in R&B. Black people. I didn't even really think about it at the time.

It was on the Jacksons' tour that it was brought to my attention that I was the only white person in the group. But Funt, trombonist and leader of the horn section, appointed me an "honorary negro" one day on the bus as we were traveling in the south of this great country. No shit, no bullshit, I was HONORED. I bowed down to my colleagues on that bus, because somewhere I knew that it was weird for me to be there, even though moment to moment, it was normal. What a blessing it was to feel accepted by them, Michael and his brothers, and before that, my hero Stevie Wonder.

Can you imagine having an idol, a hero, and then you find yourself working for them? Yes, it's a dream come true. What a lucky bastard I have been, a nothing from Wyoming.

I still think of myself as that nothing from Wyoming, because I am cursed with the burden of reality. I have no Wikipedia article, and will not allow my brother to write one for me. If I am worthy, one will appear. If not, it doesn't matter, everything is as it should be.

Here's a cliché: I digress. But, it's true. The point is not my experience with Stevie, or the fact that I am from Wyoming, the point is this: In all of this time, with all of the success that I have truly enjoyed, I still don't know who I am. I don't. I'm not Cuban, and will never be, no matter how much I love Cuban music. I'm not black, and honorary negro or not, it's not my world really, is it?

As much as I admire Michael McDonald, isn't there an irony in listening to him sing Ain't Nothing Like The Real thing? So what am I supposed to do with myself? By all rights, I should have stayed in Wyoming playing Hank Williams tunes. I like Hank Williams, but that wasn't what I wanted. Who the fuck am I? Stupid question. If I don't know, how can you?

At any rate, these thoughts are coming to you from an honest guy that isn't afraid to show his weakness, and it's on the day that I got nominated for the second time for Cubadisco, the Cuban equivalent of the Grammys. It's a tremendous honor for me, better than a Grammy, because it means that the Cubans get what I'm doing. It means a lot to me. OK, now I am an honorary Cuban. I am very proud of this. My wife already told me that I am as Cubano as she is.

But, I still wonder, after all of this time, who the fuck am I? I'm not Cuban any more than I am black. Just who the fuck is Bill Wolfer? Eso es mi maletin. Maybe it doesn't matter, It sure as hell didn't to the people that have accepted me into their worlds when I was so obviously from afar. But, I get confused. Maybe I shouldn't. I'm a lucky son-of-a-bitch. But people. sometimes it gets hard to tell that shit from shinola. I just always wanted to play music, ever since I was 14 years old. But it gets hard. I sure as hell don't want to come off like a whiner, no no no. Pero, no es fácil... pero tampco dificil.

I just got word that Mamborama's Directamente Al Mambo has been nominated for Cubadisco, the Cuban equivalent of the Grammys. For a Yuma like me, this is the ultimate compliment. At the very least, the Cubans get what I'm doing, and they like me, they really like me! OK, enough with the Sally Fields imitation, but it's true, I am very, very honored. Thank you, Cubadisco!
Sunday, April 06, 2008

I have come to the conclusion through much scholarly research and contemplation, that Los Van Van are the greatest band in the world, bar none. Faster than a speeding Led Zeppelin, able to leap Rolling Stones in a single bound, they kick ass harder than Count Basie or Earth Wind & Fire did in their best days. They can wake the dead just at a rehearsal, without even breaking a sweat. God Bless Juan Formell Y Los Van Van.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
I think I'm back...

I'm sorry that I haven't followed through with the new tune like I said I was going to. I've been lost. Discouraged. Wondering what was the point. Reluctant to spend the money to finish one fucking song. I think I'm past that now, at least I hope so.

What changed? My good friend Lary Barrileau, percussionist supreme, and batá player on the second album was in town this week. Lary lives in Seattle now, and we hadn't seen each other for over two years, but we hooked up, and he came over to the house, and he wanted to hear the new tune.

Well, look, I'm not right in the head. I lack self esteem. I haven't really written about this, because it's very personal, obviously, but it's true. I get discouraged very easily. I have taken the whole change in the music business very personally, and it has become an obstacle for me, to the extent that I have turned away from music. I don't listen to it. I don't practice. I don't write. I abandoned an unfinished song that I knew was going to be the last Mamborama song, and my plan was to tack it to the popular tunes and make a greatest hits record with new songs.

Well, long story short, I hadn't heard the song since December. I've felt guilty for not completing it, but I've been depressed. That's my confession. I ask for nothing, especially not sympathy, the last thing I want to seem to be is some one whining about how things have changed like an old fart. It's just what it is. We all go through changes in this life, and why should I be any different?

But: point of the story is this: (is it allowed to have two colons in the same sentence?), After having left the tune alone for four months, and only returning to it at Lary's insistence, it sounded good. No, better than good, and I have been remiss in letting it sleep all this time. Not that it will sound dated; no, that is the beauty of modern Cuban salsa; it is not dependent on the immediate date of recording if you are not chasing fads like reggaetón, it just is. It has a shelf life.

LONG STORY SHORT: I apologize for the late delivery of this one song, Dame un dia sin luchar. I promise to finish it now. I have let it slide long enough. All I need to do is record the metales, a solo, and mix it. Then, you will hear it. No es fácil, pero tampoco difícil.

I'll do it. That's why I wrote this post. Not for sympathy, but just for me, to make a public commitment that I will follow through on. And I don't know who cares, but I'm not going to worry about that, this is for me. You try doing this shit. It's not easy. It's not easy for the Cubans, imagine what it's like for a Yuma.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Listen to Mamborama on

You can stream all three Mamborama albums here on No thirty second clips, but every tune in its entirety. You're welcome!

There's also a bunch of other Cuban music available. It's a great site.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Enough Already...

I think I've been bitching too much here about the sorry state of the music business, so I started a new blog that no one will read where I can vent about it and thus feel better. It's cheaper than a therapist. If anyone is interested, my personal blog (how 21st century is that?) can be found here. I promise to rant and spew about the dreadful mess the music biz is in there, but occasionally, I will also share a recipe or two. This new blog has comments enabled, so you are free to anonymously tell me that I am full of shit. Be an internet warrior, and come over there and tell me that my music sucks!

Meanwhile, I'll try to stay on topic here at The new stuff is coming along nicely, I only need to record the horns and mix. I think it's going to be good, one of the best I've done so far. It's going to go out to DJs in Europe after the first of the year. ¡A bailar!
Friday, October 26, 2007
It's Hard Out Here...

I saw this post on an independent record label's blog the other day. The author tries to make a case against the entitlement mentality most people have today regarding downloading music for free, and gets ripped a new hole in the process. For years, I've watched people justifying their music piracy by demonising the major labels and the RIAA. All too often, they state that they just want to eliminate the middle man, especially the RIAA labels. They proudly proclaim to support indie acts, and will never again buy an album from a major. I can understand that, given that the RIAA unwisely chose the path of suing their customers, but check out the comments this post received. Now, the hostility not only is extended to small indie labels, but the artists themselves. I've excerpted some of the vitriol below. None of this makes me want to make music. It reminds me of a post I once saw on a Salsa dance forum: "Who cares what the musicians think?" From the comments:

"While I was reading the article I was thinking something on the lines of “f u, loser” but I think I should rephrase it to “f u, clueless loser”, just to be more accurate."

"Good luck with your plan to make a living out of selling records. Have you heard of wax cylinders? I heard they are all the rage now!"

"...crying about it on a blog is pathetic. Get a real job like the people who don’t feel like spending money on your “art”."

"Intellectual property is not a commodity. Although technology allowed us to enjoy a brief period of monetization of such properties, it has now freed intellectual property once again. …The party’s over and the talentless will be given their due. …Music has always been free, the suits just held it captive for a short period of time."

"This whole pissing-and-moaning letter seems like a big fat contrivance by a record label who happen to be scared shitless by the latest developments of a new business model championed by Radiohead and many others."

"...In conclusion, fuck you. Go back to the 80s. I’m sure your music sucks too."

"Welcome to the future, buddy. Distribute online exclusively or shut up. And seriously, don’t cry about it like it’s someone else’s fault."

"Stop giving us crap and we’ll start paying."

"I am at the age now, that I no longer buy new music. I only listen to new music if I have downloaded it for free."

"I wish I could work for a day, and copy and paste it for the rest of my life and make money. You want money? go to work, play your friggin music in a club. The idea that you think that people should support someone who works for a couple of weeks and they should get paid for the rest of their lives is stupid. work like the rest of us. it doesnt pay? then get a second job like me. what you provide is not a necessity."

"You see we have a problem in this situation where its NOT artists rights we are dealing with. YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS AT ALL. you signed them all over to the LABEL you contracted with…"

"I mean, it’s just pop music! It’s not gonna change anyone’s lives. What’s next? Should we expect to be charged everytime we enter an architiect’s (sic) building? Or view a painting?"

"Not only should we have full access to music, but we should be able to distribute it infinitely and modify it to our own personal liking."

"Plays very, very tiny violin."

"These so-called artists can eat shit. To loosely quote Dr. Zhivago, [art] is no more a profession than breathing."

"Maybe the problem is just that you're not good enough. Sorry, you're not entitled to success."

"Look! Another buggy whip maker complaining about automobiles killing his business!"

"I don't give a shit about artists problems."


"WE, THE PEOPLE OWN THE MUSIC!!!! We ALLOW the ARTIST/AUTHOR/INVENTOR a Copy PRIVILEGE, FOR A LIMITED TIME as an incentive to create for OUR PUBLIC DOMAIN as per Article I Section 8 Line 7 of the Constitution."

"…Ultimately, my point is that piracy needs to be accepted and planned for. It's not going away. Ever. Deal with it."

"So if your hot album is not selling yet people are downloading it willingly, then hotshot, it's most likely a crock of shit that no one wants to buy."

"The only "entitlement mentality" I see here is the artists' and record companies' belief that they are entitled to make money from an obsolete business model."
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Mamborama Comes To MySpace

Thanks to the efforts of DJ Carlotta, of Manchester, England, Mamborama finally has a presence on myspace. I had meant to get involved with myspace ages ago, but I was living in my secure bunker in an undisclosed tropical location, and internet access was difícil, to say the least.

So, check out the page here, and give DJ Carlotta a shout as well. Mil gracias, Carlotta!
Monday, October 08, 2007
Ave Maria, por Dios...

I notice with equal parts chagrin, amusement and annoyance that Mamborama is part of a poll on Top U.S. Timba Band. Chagrin, because it's embarrassing to only be pulling 2%. Amusement because Mamborama hasn't played a gig in the US since 2002. Annoyance because of the perception that Mamborama IS a US band. All of the other acts in the poll are gigging in the States regularly. I won't ever gig here again until I can bring my guys from La Habana, and that ain't gonna happen anytime soon.

Why do people think that Mamborama is a US band? Because *I* happen to be a Yuma. It doesn't matter that I paid serious dues and lived in La Habana for over two and a half years. It doesn't matter that the bulk of the last two records were recorded there with all Cuban musicians. No, what matters in the end is that the director and producer is a white boy from Wyoming, so therefore, it can't REALLY be Cuban, now can it?

But I'm going to let amusement take priority here. Timba freaks outside of cuba have never taken the band seriously, just because there is a Yuma involved. I take consolation in the respect I have from the sources of the music, my collaborations with the cream of the crop, the reactions of the dancers in Casa De La Musica when the DJ plays our stuff, and the nomination for Cubadisco, the first for a Yuma.

Isn't it ironic that Mamborama has more acceptance in Cuba than with the die-hard Timba geeks? Now I know what racism feels like, only this is nationalism. Thank God the Cubans are more open-minded.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Yeah, yeah, yeah

Yes, I have neglected the blog. Lo siento. Business is not good, but this isn't going to be one of my music biz rants, I want to tell you what is happening now with Mamborama.

I am painstakingly recording a new song that I wrote while I was in Cuba. In fact, I started recording it while I was in La Habana the last time. It's called Dame Un Dia Sin Luchar, and it features one of my favorite singers, Kalunga (Carlos Manuel Kalunga, and yes, he uses a "K" to spell his name).

I was all set to record the basic tracks with Samuel Formell and Robertón de Van Van on drums and congas, along with el maestro Feliciano Arango on bass, but as always en cuba, shit happens. Time ran out, schedules didn't align, and at the end, I had Kalunga, El Indio and David Bencomo sing to the demo track that I had recorded with my synth. Not the most ideal circumstances, but if I didn't tell you, you would never be able to tell, because Kalunga and company kicked ass, big time.

After I rotated back to the Yuma, I enlisted Mamborama alumni Jimmy Branly and Rigoberto Lopéz (drums, timbales and bass) along with monstro Joey DeLeon on congas and hand percussion. Next comes the metales, and one special guest (don't ask), and it's ready to mix.

This is going to be an estreno on the forthcoming greatest hits album, Chao Pesca'o: Grandes Exitos De Mamborama, which will include tunes from the first three albums along with some unreleased gems and a few remixes. Look for it first quarter 2008 on Ahinama Music.

If you're nice to me, I might be persuaded to post an excerpt as it is in progress. If you're not, you'll have to wait. Until then, here's the lyrics to the coro:

Dame un dia sin luchar
Dame un dia solamente pa' gozar
Quiero irme con Van Van pa' la playa pa' bailar
Dame un dia sin luchar.
Ay! por Dios!
Thursday, May 24, 2007
  Q & A with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails | Herald Sun
I'm not the only one.

Yesterday, the tubes of the internets were clogged with people talking about this interview with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Reading the comments on Digg and reddit was amazing. Everyone missed the point. Yes, Reznor is disgusted with his record label, and feels that they overcharge for his products. But no one commented on the fact that he is very disappointed in the low sales of his latest album, Year Zero. He waged a brilliant guerrilla marketing campaign on his own, with multiple web sites and alternative reality games. He paid for it out of his pocket. He mysteriously placed flash drives with mp3s of the new songs in the restrooms of concert halls where Nine Inch Nails was performing. He spent extra money that comes out of his royalties on the packaging, but basically gave away the music online for free, in the hopes that people would value it enough to buy the physical product. They didn't.

He admits that he too steals music, I do too. Now he wants to distribute his music himself, allowing people to download a new album the day it is finished, at whatever bitrate they choose, for four bucks, payable by PayPal. Guess what, Trent? It won't work. A handful of people will show you some loyalty, and then the thing will be all over the bit torrent and P2P sites.

The problem is that people not only steal the music, there's this whole "pirate" mentality that encourages people to feel as though they're done something extremely clever to get something for nothing. The "free culture" movement is going to be a disaster.

At least you're still gigging.

Q & A with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails | Herald Sun
Monday, May 14, 2007
Remembering Eduardo Mora

The last time I was in La Habana, a musician friend was visiting David Bencomo. He lives in France now, but was originally from Camaguey, and has known all the guys from Manolito Y Su Trabuco from way back in the days when most of them were playing with Maravillas de Florida. He wanted to visit Eduardo Mora's grave, because Mora had been one of his best friends from Camaguey.

Mora died on September 20, 2005 from alcohol-related illnesses. I was stuck in Cancun, because a hurricane has shut down all flights. A few days after arriving, I learned what had happened. No one went to the funeral because of the hurricane. He was 52 years old when he died.

We made plans to meet at ten o'clock Sunday morning at my office, the cantina on 25 y 12. It's right across the street from Cemetario Colón, where I presumed Mora was buried. The guys showed up, bought flowers, and we piled into the ancient Lada of Jesus, David's neighbor. As we drove away, I asked David why we weren't going to Colón, and David replied that Mora was buried in Mariano, a suburb of Havana where Mora had been living for the last couple of years, after his wife couldn't put up with the drinking anymore.

When we arrived, we went into the cemetary office to get the location of Mora's tomb. All bodies are buried above ground in Havana, due to the high water table in the ground. The groundskeeper looked up the location, wrote it down on a scrap of paper, and led us to the tomb. Mora is buried in a tumba colectiva along with three other bodies. There is no name or stone to commemorate him. Seeing this, his friend from Camaguey filled up with tears, as did I. It didn't seem right.

They laid their flowers on the tomb, and I placed my offering: a cajita of Mora's favorite rum, Planchao. I remember the first time I saw Mora drinking this stuff I thought it was juice, because it's sold in the same sort of cardboard box that children's juice drinks are sold in. It was the stuff that did him in at the end, but I knew that if there was any part of his spirit in there, third down of four bodies, he could probably use a drink.

Of course I wasn't the only one to bring rum. The percussionist from Camaguey produced a bottle of Habana Club from his backpack, and one by one, we toasted Mora by drinking a big gulp from the bottle and then spraying it from our mouths over the flowers and the tomb.

The next drinks were for us, we were all very emotional at that point. We spent the next hour passing the bottle around and reminiscing about Mora, trading stories, occasionally laughing. Mora was a simple man, he lived for just three things: music, rum and cigarettes. The rum got him in the end. Cigarettes take longer.

We said goodbye to Mora by Spraying three more tragos and pouring rum over the tomb. I took out a cigarette, tore the filter off, and placed it on top of the box of rum. Mora liked to smoke fuertes.

Driving back to Vedado, we made plans to each put up some money to buy a marker for Mora. A friend of mine did just that for a living. But like many well-intentioned plans, nothing came of it. Later I mentioned that to David, and he said it didn't really matter, because Mora only had about four more months to lie in the tumba colectiva. He would be cremated to make room for someone else. I don't know if anyone will collect the ashes. He had no family when he died.

Ay, la vida! I told Mora as I said goodbye, that he will always be with us through the recordings he made. David said that Mora could say more with just three notes than other bass players could with a thousand. It's true.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Que pasa cuando no vale la pena?

All across America, and increasingly, the world, people stand in line at their local Starbuck’s and happily pay anywhere from $1.70 for a shot of espresso to four bucks for the more complex caramel frappawhatever thingies. It’s not uncommon to fork out fifty bucks a month for high speed internet access, and around the same amount for cable TV. People pay four bucks to rent a new release DVD at the local Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. A pack of cigarettes can go anywhere from four to nine dollars, depending on where you live.

Yet, increasingly, no one wants to pay for music, especially the recorded kind. CDs are quickly becoming relics destined to join cassettes, eight-tracks and vinyl in the tech museum. I don’t listen to CDs much anymore, my iPod is much easier; everything is already there, ready to listen to on the slightest whim.

The big labels are reporting a 20 percent drop in sales this year. New artists are being asked to give up a percentage of their total revenue, including concert sales, merchandising, licensing fees, publishing, you name it. Just making records isn’t paying the bills these days. A major Latin label just signed a famous Argentinean chef to the company. No, he doesn’t sing. They are going to sell his recipes, maybe they plan to offer them as text messages to your cell phone, I don’t know, but does anyone besides me find it disturbing that a music company thinks that marketing a chef could be more lucrative than a music act?

Right now in Venezuela, there are no more record stores. Pirates ran them out of business. In Mexico, many top draw acts have been quietly dropped from artist rosters, because the companies could not recoup what they spent making the records. These acts still fill huge halls, and will still do well sell ing CDs at their concerts for awhile, but the alarming thing is that now extremely popular artists are not making money for the companies that put up the money for the recordings.

Here in the States, Tower records has gone belly up. They were once the leading record retailer in the States. The local Wherehouse has disappeared, I don’t know if the whole chain died, but it’s surely another sign of decline.

Top name acts still sell out big concert venues, and scalpers make big bucks selling tickets for sold-out events at exhorbatant prices. Clearly, people still want to see their favorite acts live, and place a value on the experience, shelling out a couple of hundred bucks to see the Stones or Elton John. That’s a good thing. But why is it that people don’t value the recordings that made these acts famous? Clearly, the big labels bear much of the blame, as CD prices can be ridiculous. But people show reluctance to pay 99 cents for a track on iTunes.

“Music should be free!,” is a common refrain voiced on the internet, and there is a movement to change the very laws that protect intellectual property and reward composers and artists for their efforts. The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and the popular blog Boing Boing wage a tireless campaign against copyrights, including a boycott against the heavy-handed tactics of the RIAA. I’m not going to try to defend what the RIAA has done in suing little kids and grandmothers, but at what point do we stop and recognize that music has a value, that it isn’t free to create recordings, and that it is, after all, a business?

Why are people so reluctant to spend a little money for music when they don’t think twice about spending two bucks for a bran muffin? No one argues that bran muffins want to be free. No expects that they should be. Clearly, someone has to pay for the ingredients, the labor to bake them, and the rent on the store where you buy them. Music is not created for free, instruments cost money, musicians expect to be paid to their work in the studio, as do the engineers and the owners of the studio. The arrangers want to be paid, the mastering engineer and the manufacturing facility. This is their job, and if they are any good at their jobs, they deserve to be paid, and paid well.

My music biz attorney and longtime mentor Johannan Vigoda told me way back in the eighties that the music business was the hardest in the world. Why? Because the goal is to get someone to buy something that they’ve already had for free. Back then, of course, he was talking about radio. You’ve heard the song, you’ve got to love it a lot to get off the couch and drive down to the record store to buy yourself a copy. Multiply that by about a billion these days. File sharing, CD burners, pirates selling two dollar copies of best selling artists have changed the equation drastically. The industry attempts to hamper copying (DRM, or Digital Rights Management) have been an utter failure, and have only poured fuel on the fire and made their products less useful.

What’s to be done? I predict that DRM will be a bad memory in a year or so, but then what? Why is that song you love worth less than a corn dog at Am-Pm Mini-Mart? The digital cat is out of the bag, and there is no putting it back, and the record industry is scrambling to find new ways to make a buck. It is, after all, the music business. If, at the end of the day, you are just losing money, it’s time to find a new way to make money.

Another trend is to ditch the musician or artist altogther in this narcissistic web 2.0 world of reality shows. The public wants to be the star now, and every computer is capable of creating music from loops with a few clicks of a mouse. People create “mash-ups” of two or three artists, they can amuse themselves to no end pushing around snippets of recorded music without needing any knowledge whatsoever of music itself. One of the most popular new video games is Guitar Hero. All you need is a guitar-like controller, and an Xbox, or Playstation, and you can pretend to be Eddie Van Halen without having to tune all those pesky strings, or bother with lessons.

One would think that considering all of this, that people are losing interest in music. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Who wants to live without music? And who wants to pay for something that you can get for free? How much of the music on your iPod did you actually pay for?

I have no solutions whatsoever. But as a record producer, it is increasingly disturbing to see that this sort of work has less intrinsic value everyday. Will the industry be turned over completely to hobbyists working with Garageband in their garage? I love the fact that recording technology have become more accessible to the general public, but will it be possible to make a living doing this?

Clearly, there will always be successful pop acts. But the niche markets are the ones most severely affected by turbulent times like this. Labels are reluctant to put money into any kind of music that has a limited audience when they are having trouble making money with the big names. Just marketing and distribution cost just as much if not more than the actual recordings, and that’s going to result in fewer professional recordings in genres other than pop to choose from.

In the end, to me, it isn’t all about money. It’s just not a good feeling to know that your work is not valued on the same level as a bottle of water. Music makes people feel good, but they no longer want to pay for it, while they still pay for many other products that serve to make day to day life a little easier to bear, whether it’s a good cup of coffee, or a sixpack., or something stronger. Turn off your iPod for a day or two, and think about it. Or not.

"Without music, life would be a mistake."
-- Friedrich Nietzsche
Monday, September 04, 2006
Abolutely FREE!

We are so cool here at that we are giving away a limited edition shiny new Mamborama ringtone for your celluar or mobile or whatever you want to call that little phone you carry around.

That's right dear friends, it's absolutely free, unlike those so-called Santeria ringtones I blogged about. No strings attached, no salesman will ever call.

It's the coro from Taca Toco from the new album, which if you've been paying attention, is a song about people who talk too much. Perfect for a ringtone, verdad? Now pay attention, read carefully, and follow the instructions below.

1. Be sure your cell can play an mp3 ringtone, because that's what this is.

2. Listen to the damn thing by clicking the link below to decide if you even want it.

3. Right-click the same link, and choose "save target as..." to download it to your computer.

4. Figure out all on your own how to get it to your phone. Unfortunately, although we are generous here at, we don't have the techno-savvy to download directly to your phone via a text message, that's for the big boys. If you are geeky enough, you'll be able to get it to your phone via bluetooth or USB.

5. Be the envy of your neighborhood as your cell blows up with the funky refrain of Taca Toco when your mom calls to talk your ear off.

Here's the link: Taca Toco Ringtone.

[Disclaimer] We are unable to offer individual technical assistance on this item, as we have outsourced our Technical Assistance Department to Buosolandia, and currently there is no internet access or phone service there. This may be why the Buosos work so cheap.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Ain't nothing in this world for free

Wow. I noticed this morning on this blog a Google-supplied ad for "Free Santeria Ringtones." Well, I have to admit, that got me curious, and I clicked on the link. What the hell is this, I thought, can you get a nifty Changó ringtone on your cell if you're an hijo de Changó? The link takes you to this page, which prompts you to enter your cell number to receive a "complimentary" ringtone. Scrolling down to the light grey small text at the bottom reveals that by doing so, you agree to be subscribed to the "Value Club 2" at a mere $19.99 a month. ¡Que Va! Privileges of this club include your receiving credits up to 14 Poly Ringtones per month. I don't know about you, but I really don't need 14 poly ringtones a month.

Bwah. Be careful surfing the tubes of the internets, kids, things ain't always what they appear to be. For the record, does NOT endorse or encourage, nor is affiliated with any of these Google ads. I surrendered to Google, because when they take over the world, I want to be on their good side, but I'm enough of a rebelde to remove their ads if I find many more scams like this. In fairness to Google, they also are not responsible for the fine goods and services their advertisers may or may not be offering. After all, their corporate motto is, "Do no evil." It's a shame that there aren't more people out there with that ethic. I can personally vouch that Mamborama will do no evil, our motto is, "Ven a bailar."
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Mamborama goes nationwide

Yupi, a first for the little band that could, national press in the form of a review in the Los Angeles Times. WHEE! Here's an except:

"This pulsating dance album is enough to make you stop bemoaning the death of salsa. Pianist, composer and Cubanophile Bill Wolfer invites some of Havana's top timba musicians to join him on the third CD by his band, Mamborama...

It takes skill and swing to mix it up in this league. Wolfer has the chops; the Palm Springs resident is a former soul-music session musician (Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson) who travels often to Cuba. He produced, arranged and wrote or co-wrote all 11 songs on this CD, which is simultaneously cool and scorching, jazzy and funky, like the best Cuban dance music."

Here's the link, I think registration is required, but free.
A pleasant Saturday with El Benny

I've been sitting here fooling around at the computer, and listening to Benny Moré. I'm busting to see the new Cuban film "El Benny," word is that it's really good. I'm actually surprised that it's taken this long for a biopic of Benny to surface, but better late than never, and there is no danger that Cubans are going to forget Benny, he is revered as a God (A los Santos y Benny Moré is a common toast). My novia and her mom tried to take in a show of the flick at the Yara on La Rampa, but the line was overwhelming. I'll take her to see it when I get back in a few weeks.

Many hard core Timba fans who may think that modern Cuban music begins and ends with Paulo FG and Michel Maza might be surprised at the influence that Benny has on the music today, more than forty years after his death. In fact, if you are arguing about who is the best Cuban singer, you have to exclude singers that have passed on, because otherwise, it all begins and ends with Beny. There. I've used both spellings. No can seem to agree whether there should be two "n"s or not, Benny is hardly a Castilian name, and the double "n" isn't used in Spanish. Whatever.

You can hear El Benny every time Issac Delgado uses his high-pitched trademark call of "¡Ay! ¡Ay!" That is borrowed from Benny. El Indio's rapid fire scat singing, "Ven ven ven ve-de-be-de-be-de-be-be-de-be," originated with Benny.

What I've been listening to is the box set Grabaciones Completas, 91 songs and four and a half hours of brilliance, well worth the money. After that, I put on Tony Calá's solo album, Tony Calá canta a Beny Moré. Tony channels Beny perfectly, and somehow remains Tony, his vocals are superb, even though they are submerged in bad reverb. El Tosco arranged and produced the album, and the músicos of NG La Banda tear up Tosco's charts. It is badly recorded and mixed, and whoever mastered it should never be allowed within 100 meters of a recording studio again, but the performances overcome the technical shortcomings.

Here's a review of the film "El Benny" from the Hollywood reporter.

here's a pic from the film, the above is the real Beny.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Recording with El Tosco, pt. 2

After a few trips out to his house in Playa, we finally got down to the day of recording. Tosco has a studio in his house, and all my recording equipment is portable, so it finally was a simple matter of making a house call, and capturing Tosco's amazing flute in his own habitat. My daughter Lauren and I gathered up the equipment, and Tony, my landlord, volunteered to be roadie for the day.

We took a taxi out to Tosco's house in Playa, gave him a bottle of Havana Club Siete Años rum, and started setting up. As usual, there were people everywhere, the phone was ringing off the hook, and Tosco was doing seven things at once. We got the equipment set up and Tosco came in, ready to go. He put on the headphones, didn't ask to see a chart, didn't ask what key it was in, and just nailed it on the first take. Wait, not exactly, he didn't like the solo on the second half of the song, and insisted on doing it again. It sounded great to me, but in those situations, you listen to the maestro.

All, in all, it took about five minutes. Tosco asked if there was anything else I needed. "How about a shot of rum?" That was it. Tony headed out into the street to look for a taxi, and Lauren and I settled down in the living room to wait. Tosco was getting corn rows put in his hair, and Lauren asked if he minded if she took photos. No hay problema. Later, Lauren excused herself to go to the bathroom, where she was surprised to see a giant parrot perched on the shelves without a cage.

Tosco sat patiently drinking a giant mug of beer, tomato and lime juice with a dash of hot sauce while the girls did his corn rows. Gracias, Tosco, what a pleasure to work with a musician of your caliber.

This is Tony telling the story while we relaxed with a beer after the session. I love how Cubans talk with their hands, they do it more than the Italians.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Stories behind the songs, pt. 5

A tutorial: How to get El Tosco to play on your recording project.

The short version? Patience. Here's the longer version. I first met Tosco on my first trip to Habana in April of 2000. I saw NG La Banda at the tropical, and was knocked out, bwah, que rico! que musicos! After the show, I approached Tosco, and told him that I was an American musician and that I loved his group, that I was amazed. I effervesced, I praised mightily. Tosco just looked at me, and without even the hint of a smile, nodded his head in agreement, as if I was telling him that the sky was blue. That was the whole encounter. Tosco is NOT an easy guy to get to know, even on a superficial aquaintance level.

But, over time, Tosco's and my path crossed many times. Inadvertently. Lázarito Valdés (Bamboleo) and I went to a couple of his shows at Cafe Cantante and sat at the maestro's table and drank up all of his scotch. Afterwards, we went upstairs to Delerio Habanera, and sat with Tosco, and plates of sandwiches materialized, and when the scotch was finished, a bottle of Havana Club Siete Años filled in for Tosco's favorite beverage.

Over the last few years, we ran into each other at the Jazz Cafe, and many other clubs. For awhile, I was living in a building three floors above his brother's casa. His brother asked me for a Mamborama CD to give Tosco, and I happily obliged. So, poco a poco, Tosco got to know me and mi locura de Mamborama, heard me play at the jazz cafe sitting in with Pérez Pérez, on and on. Now he was more approachable then that first time where he reminded me of the horror stories I used to hear about Miles Davis (disclaimer: Miles was really cool when I got a chance to meet him in 1984, he was more mellow by then).

So, eventually, at Casa de la Musica, I just asked him if he would play a flute solo on the new CD. He said sure, and gave me his phone number. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

Getting it done was another story. To be continued...
Friday, August 04, 2006
Thank you, Bruce.

Bruce Polin of has written a great review of Directamente Al Mambo. It's especially gratifying, because Bruce gets exactly what I was going for with this CD.

Directamente Al Mambo (CD Ahi-Nama Records)
***EditorsPick: Finally here: Mamborama's long awaited third release. Their previous CD, "Entre La Habana Y El Yuma" (2003), was a huge hit, mixing up Cuban timba, salsa and jazzy dance numbers. Directamente Al Mambo continues in this vein, and raises the bar for its intensity, swing and soul. These guys are pumped. Leader and pianist Bill Wolfer composed the music and much of the lyrics, but he also collaborated heavily with Sixto Llorente on a good number of tracks here. Wolfer's most definitely an individual who likes to play with the tools he has, pushing - changing, but not entirely breaking the form: smoldering timba. Note his synthesized fuzz tone guitar riff on "La Mentirosa." It works. His dizzying keyboard work on "Señorita Pajarita" tangles with El Tosco's flutework in just the right way, pulling you in smiling the whole time. Surprise touches abound on Directamente. The band itself is known to change shape with each release, and on this one Wolfer hired some heavy hitters. On it you'll find Los Van Van's Roberto Hernandez "Robertón," Tony Calá, José Luis Cortés "El Tosco"(NG La banda), Cubanito 20.02 checks in, Carlos Manuel "Kalunga," Alexi Sanchez "El Nene," José Goméz "Pepito," Feliciano Arango, Alexander Abreu, David Bencomo, Amaury Pérez and others. The result is a fresh, invigorating and inviting Cuban music experience that will shake up your preconceptions of Cuban salsa. Way to go.
Very Highly Recommended. (BP)
Friday, July 21, 2006
Stories behind the songs, pt. 4

Taca Toco was inspired by a neighbor of mine that I shared many, many beers with at my office. The office is a little cafe that was just a few blocks away from where I was living at the time that I started frequenting it. I call it my office, because quite often, I do conduct business there, it's an easy place to find, and I have meetings there from time to time.

But, more often than not, the business at hand is just to kick back at the end of a hard day slaving over a hot keyboard, and shoot the breeze with my friends and neighbors. One of these guys was the inspiration for Taca Toco. Taca Toco is about people who talk too much. A universal theme, no doubt, we all know people who tend to babble, but while I hate to stereotype, it sometimes seems to me that that this particular tropical island has more than it's share of pontificators.

My friend always is complaining about people who talk too much, and he always illustrates his point by saying "taca taca taca toco toco toco toco," way faster than should be humanly possible (try it, it's not easy to say fast). Of course, the ironic thing, and what he doesn't know to this day, even though he's heard the tune, is that he is the subject of the first verse. jajajajaja! The guy never shuts up!

Un vecino mio, buen hombre, no pide na'
pero todo el dia hablando, bla bla bla bla bla bla bla
al final del dia, cuando ya no puedo más
grito, "Callate, hombre, ¡porque tu no sabes na!

The other two verses are fictional, and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Another story behind the songs, pt. 3

I was having lunch in La Habana with my two favorite singers, El Indio and Mayito from Van Van at El Palenque, one of my favorite restaurants. After ordering, the waiter came by the table with a basket of bread. Mayito waved it away, and said, "¡Directamente al mambo!" Jajajaja, immediately, I made a mental note to myself: this is the title of the next Mamborama album.

Mayito is a very intense person. I don't know, too many cafecitos, too much Red Bull, but whatever, he's certainly not boring. He has a giant German Sheperd named Mambo. One afternoon, I was over at his house, sitting on the second floor patio, drinking ron and listening to some mixes of his latest solo CD. The dog, Mambo, ran outside to the street, and became enamored with a little terrier that must have been in heat. This poor little dog was was half Mambo's size, and was being walked on a leash by a little old lady, who was quite distressed by mambo's boldness in taking liberties with her little dog.

Mayito and I heard her shouting at Mambo, and this is the part I will always remember: Mayito Rivera Van Van, standing up, leaning over the wall of the patio, and shouting at the top of his lungs, "¡Mambo! ¡Mambo! ¡Mambo!" jajajajaja!!! Finally, Mayito had to go downstairs and drag poor Mambo away from his new novia, because Mambo wasn't in control of his actions at that point. I think all males can relate; the other brain takes over.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Stories behind the songs, pt. 2

Puro Y Temba started out just with music. I had no idea whatsoever what the lyrics should be, so I took the demo to El Indio's house along with a bottle of Havana Club. On the second listen, (I kid you not), Indio started singing the coro:

Sé qué soy un puro
y qué soy un temba
pero tengo demásiado sabor
pa' ponerte a gozar

I fell out laughing, and immediately approved this idea, it was great. Indio and I are, after all, tembas to be sure. In case you don't know, a temba is Cuban slang for someone over 40. (Some people think it's over thirty, but I disagree). A puro is another Cubanismo for an older guy. And like most older, superficial guys (it seems universal), we like younger women. Not too young, mind you, I'm not a perv. In fact, I like them to be old enough to at least be able to carry on a decent conversation. But still, in my mind, I'm perpetually nineteen, I liked young girls then, and nothing has changed, except my age. It's hard to grow old gracefully when you are as immature as I am, jajaja.

Robertón Van Van more than brought the song to life, and I love this improvisation of his:

Yo sé qué tienes la juventud
pero yo tengo la experiencia

So fellow tembas take note. Contained within this song are more than enough great lines to convince a cubanita that despite your age, you are still hot stuff. Put them to good use!

Postscript: An Italian web site, Salsaschool, has posted what looks to be an accurate transcription of Robertón's improvisations. Check it out.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
OK, an update, finally, allright, ok, ok...

My favorite girls with one of my favorite musicians, El Tosco. L-R: Sandra, mi novia, Tosco, Lauren, mi hija.

Well, a blog without updates is a sad thing, neglected, left to fend for itself. It gets lonely because after awhile no one comes around to visit anymore. But my excuse as always, is that I've been spending more than two thirds of my time in an undisclosed tropical location where internet access is a twenty minute sweaty walk away, and costs nine bucks an hour. And the truth is that on a hot day, I prefer to kick back drinking a cold cerveza or three hablando mierda with my compadres. It's been that way for over a year and a half now. But I am currently back in the yuma, getting things ready for the American release of Directamente Al Mambo. And Kevin Moore of has publicly shamed me into updating the blog, jajaja.

Anyway, I am proud and happy to announce that it will be released July 18 on Ahi-Nama Records. This puts Mamborama in very good company indeed. Ahi-Nama has Maraka, Issac Delgado, Bamboleo, Eddy K, and now, Mamborama. Yupiii! Ahi-Nama president Jimmy Maslon has been putting out Cuban records for ten years now, and he definitely knows what he is doing.

I feel good about all of this, because making this record was NOT easy. Two long years in the making, lots of twists and turns along the way, pero vale la pena. Check the previous posts for the who's who on the record, and of course, don't forget to listen to the clips.

Looking back at it now, I find it interesting how autobiographical the record is. All of the tunes were written down there, and every one has something or another to do with the life that I've been living there. It's been at times strange and surrealistic, but never boring. Mi Bailarina, for example, is a fictionalized account of a dancer I was chasing at the Hotel Cohiba a few years ago. I told the story to El Indio, and his lyrics are great. It wasn't quite that way, but it gets the essence of what was going on. "Se me fue, mi bailarina..." Later, I'll post some more stories about how the tunes came to be. It all really proved to me that Charlie Parker was right: "My music comes from my life, my experiences. If you ain't living your life, nothing's going to come out of your horn."
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Listen to Directamente Al Mambo...

Oye, now there are clips online for all eleven tunes from the new album. Put a big click right here, and enjoy. Updates are going to be scarce for awhile, because tomorrow I head back to my secure bunker in an undisclosed tropical location. Hope to see some of you there! Chao pesca'o.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Here are three clips from the third tune of the new album, Las Cubanas, Qué Lindas Son. Music and arrangement by me, lyrics by El Indio, and featuring El Nene (Azucar Negra, Revé) on vocals and Feliciano Arango on bass. Cable/DSL | Dialup

How many times have you heard a bass solo in the middle of a dance tune? But when you have a player like Arango, it would be a terrible waste not to turn him loose. Cable/DSL | Dialup

And, why not another clip? This is towards the end of the tune, each coro a tribute to Cubanas from every province in the island. ay, las Cubanas... Cable/DSL | Dialup
Saturday, April 08, 2006
OK, another preview clip

Here's a short excerpt from the song Puro Y Temba, featuring Robertón from Van Van.

Man, I wish I could just put the whole album up here now, I'm dying to see how people are going to react, but I can't. Poco a poco, business is business.

Cable/ DSl hifi goodness or,

Tuesday, March 28, 2006
While we're waiting for the new Mamborama CD to hit a store near you, here's a preview of the first track, Mi Bailarina, with vocals by invitado Kalunga: Cable/DSL | Dialup

Want more? OK, here's another clip from the same song, with El Doctor from Cubanito 20.02: Cable/DSL | Dialup

Stay tuned for more previews to come...
Sunday, March 19, 2006

OK, here's the latest on the all new, third Mamborama CD, Directamente Al Mambo. It is currently in the expert hands of John Matousek, a terrific mastering engineer that I've worked with for over twenty years. John is putting the extra sheen and shine on it, and I am finishing up the graphics while he is mastering. Next comes working out the licensing deals for various parts of the world, and hopefully, it will be available by late spring. Here's a list of songs with the guest artists of each one. See the previous post for a list of the músicos.

1) Mi Bailarina (B. Wolfer/Sixto Llorente)
Featuring Carlos M. Kalunga (Klimax, Manolito) and El Doctor from Cubanito 20.02

2) Puro Y Temba (B. Wolfer/Sixto Llorente)
Featuring Robertón Van Van

3) Las Cubanas, Que Lindas Son (B. Wolfer/Sixto Llorente)
Featuring Alexei Sanchez Mesa, El Nene (Azucar Negra, Revé)

4) La Mentirosa (B. Wolfer)
Featuring Flipper from Cubanito 20.02

5) Taca Toco (B. Wolfer)
Featuring Tony Calá (NG La Banda)

6) Señorita Pajarita (B. Wolfer)
Featuring José Luís Cortés, El Tosco

7) No Mereces La Pena (B. Wolfer)
Featuring José Goméz, Pepito (Pupy)

8) Directamente Al Mambo (B. Wolfer)

9) Baila Conmigo (B. Wolfer)

10) Yo Con Mi Jolongo (B. Wolfer/Sixto Llorente)
Featuring Tony Calá (NG)

11) Ave Maria, Por Dios (Danzón)(B. Wolfer/David Bencomo)
Featuring José Goméz, Pepito (Pupy)

Yes, you read right, the album ends with a Danzón. Ten tracks para bailar, un tema para escuchar (that is unless you happen to know how to dance to danzón).

When I get my hands on the mastered version (hopefully early next week), I'll post some clips here as well as pass some on to Entonces, ¡vamonos directamente al mambo!
Sunday, December 25, 2005
¡Felíz Navidad!

OK. mañana I head back to my bunker in an undisclosed tropical location to complete the new album, "Directamente al mambo." While I was here in California to spend Christmas with my family, I re-recorded all the piano tracks with my lovely acoustic Yamaha C-3 6'1" grand. Now, all I need are coros and lead vocals, a few solos, and it's ready to mix.

Stay tuned, and have a great new year's!

Mamborama news and the world of Cuban music, accompanied by occasional self-indulgence.

Extensive Cuba trip report now online.

Here's an online scrapbook of photos of La Habana and some of the recording sessions for the new album.

August 2003 / September 2003 / October 2003 / November 2003 / December 2003 / January 2004 / February 2004 / March 2004 / April 2004 / May 2004 / June 2004 / July 2004 / August 2004 / September 2004 / October 2004 / February 2005 / April 2005 / June 2005 / December 2005 / March 2006 / April 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / April 2007 / May 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / January 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / October 2008 /

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