Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Full Weekend

Well, it's Sunday night and I've just been thinking over our weekend activities. A pretty full and fun weekend, all in all. It continues to be a dry and fairly colorful fall, with leaves still partially on the trees and partially on the ground. On Friday, the crew from LetUsGetDirty4You came over and did a little leaf raking, tree seedling removal, and pulling up more of those unending starts of trumpet vine. We'll have to wait for some cold nights (we had one that night at 19 degrees) and some rain to knock all the leaves down so they can come back and clean the gutters.

Then later we had some leftovers from the freezer (corn casserole and turkey, yum) and watched an excellent but rather heavy DVD, a Polish film about the massacre of most of the Polish educated class by the Soviets in 1940 in Katyn Forest. The shootings were blamed on the Germans and the repressive Soviet regime was able to keep the truth hidden for a long time.

So then we needed something to lighten up with and went over to the Iron Post for Samba Soul!
Vivian Feliciano was singing in Brazilian Portuguese and doing a bit of samba dancing as she sang. George Turner provided some cool guitar work beside her, with Brent Jordan on drums in back and Karim Yengsep on bass on the other side.

Carlos Vega on saxophone joined in the fun and Lara Driscoll on the piano. They did a number of the Brazilian samba and bossa nova favorites that we were familiar with from Desafinado (with singer Elis Artz, Greg Jahiel on guitar, Tom Paynter on flute and melodica, Giraldo Gonzales on congas, and Joel Carracci on drums).

Because it was a later set than we usually go to (starting at 9), the audience was a young crowd, lively and busy talking with each other, but everyone seemed to enjoy the upbeat sound and enthusiasm of the band.

Saturday's fun followed some of our favorite routines -- brunch at Original Pancake House with Frank the Supergardener. I think we discussed the difficulties of growing good tomatoes anymore, along with our complete dismay about election results, over bacon and eggs.

The next stop was the Urbana library. This time, some selfish person had grabbed the copy of the latest New Yorker so I was unable to read this issue's short story while sipping my caramel latte. (I only indulge in caffeine twice a week -- during Monday evening grocery shopping and Saturday afternoon book browsing.) David's Newsweek was out too, so he had to content himself with the New York Review of Books and a mango smoothie. Of course, I checked out the new fiction shelves as always, but this time I've already got too many piled up, having just finished a huge book of Deborah Eisenberg's collected short stories. I did pick up three CDs, however, by a Cuban pianist that Tom Paynter recommended.

After a quick trip home so the five felines could have their delicious premium canned food served on real china saucers, we left for another gig. This was also at the Iron Post. It's close to home, has music nearly every night, and good but reasonably priced cheeseburgers.

Sandunga, the Cuban guajira son band, was doing their "first Saturday" of every month concert. But that night they were more than a great band -- they were a phenomenon. The place was packed. The crowd tended to be fairly young and there were a lot of Latino folks from lots of interesting places who knew all the words to the songs.

William Hope played "tres" guitar and his wonderful 12-string laud. It's a Cuban instrument that sounds a bit like a cross between a guitar and a mandolin, and he plays it expertly and with great joy and spirit radiating out from him in all directions.

Andy Miller is one of three percussion players. He handles the bongos superbly and shakes the maracas and hits the bell-like instrument (a campana, I think it's called). He's young and lean and rather cool good looking with his big dreadlocks.

Adam Walton brought his three new beautiful congas and really heated them up with his quick hands!

And Tina Hope joins in on some vocals and keeps the beat lively with claves (wooden stick instruments) and the guacharaca (rasping metal along a wooden stick).

Julian Norato plays guitar and is lead singer; his soft and melodious voice is perfect for all those lyrics about the "corazon" (heart).

The music was so infectious, and how much this very together group obviously enjoys performing it came across big time to the audience. Part way into the second set, people got up and started dancing. And I mean really dancing! There were some couples, but a lot of them were women and girls and they were having a fantastic time! The energy was amazing. All these women, young and old alike, were swaying and wiggling and waving their arms about and singing along with this tremendously upbeat music from the Cuban countryside. Pretty soon every space between the tables was filled with dancers. (I took a photo at the very start before it got so crowded.)

They didn't ever want to music to end. In fact, I think the band wound up playing at least a half hour after their time while the next band waited to set up. The last encore was the most famous Cuban tune of all, Guantanamera, and the dancers and those sitting at the tables tapping feet and clapping hands went wild! It was such a fun and rejuvenating evening. It was cold outside going home, but we had such a warm feeling inside.

A nice personal note: when we had heard Sandunga some weeks back at the Illini Union Courtyard Cafe (see my prior post about "big night on campus"), David had forgotten his cozy warm old blue-and-black plaid flannel shirt-jacket. We'd called the Lost and Found and they put us "in their database," but we assumed it was lost for good. It turns out that Tina Hope found it and saved it for us and guessed that we might be coming to the Post, so she had it in her car!

Sunday turned out to be work day for me, a World Bank Report on Uganda was waiting to be copyedited. I'd had a long dry spell on freelance work lately and had almost forgotten why they call it "Work." Now I remember. But we later met up with Eleanore Brown, Etsy and Urbana library friend, for some tasty vittles at the Fiesta on First Street.

How was your weekend?


  1. I was so jealous that I did not play in the Saturday Sandunga gig (I was in Indianapolis at a conference...). I hear it was amazing, but reading your words really made me sad about it. Beautiful posts and pictures, thanks Susan.

  2. Hope to hear you play sometime soon, Eduardo! I still remember how sweet it was when your mom and dad danced at an earlier Sandunga gig I attended. Thanks for the kind words.