Conga Drums and Nostalgia

A few weeks ago I took some photos of musician Daniel Marruzzo at London’s Afro Cuban Music Night. He is about to play a conga drum and the lighting gives the whole image a red glow:

The conga drum looks red but isn’t. From time to time I miss my old red conga drum. A few years ago I realised that I wasn’t really playing it any more. I felt inhibited worrying that it disturbed the neighbours and playing it gingerly was unsatisfying and didn’t work. So it’s on permanent loan to one of my sons and I believe it resides in a music studio in Wood Green. This was it’s moving out day:

In my Marie Kondo decluttering/clear out state of mind I couldn’t justify the taking up of space with something that had become a symbol. But a symbol of what? Years back (late 80s-early 90s) whilst studying part time for my photography degree I did a project on identity and self-portraiture. Here are a couple of the polaroids from that project:

I think I was juxtaposing the conga as oppositional to the domesticity of the red hoover. I was seated on a suitcase and there’s a copy of Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being. The red conga is freedom, travel and caught up in the narrative of existential choice!

Here are some other pictures I’ve taken featuring conga drums. Below, the late Cachao on bass with Richie Flores on percussion, 2007:

Pedrito Martinez performing at Subrosa, New York, 2015:

Jhair Sala, 2015:

Next are a few pictures from London’s Afro Cuban Music Night. Firstly, Gerardo De Armas, 2017:

Betty Rojas, 2016

Bella Cubana dances by the conga drum:

Vickey Jassey, 2018:

Dave Pattman and Gerardo De Armas, 2018:

Some pictures taken during rehearsals with the London Lucumi Choir. Firstly, the very flexible hand of Hammadi Runcurell Valdes, 2011:

Choir director Daniela De Armas, 2014:

Still life with doll and red conga:

Late rehearsal featuring Daniela’s granddaughter and red conga, 2016:



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