From the blog

FCP International Percussion Festival de Argentina!

Taylor and I just got home a few hours ago from an incredible little festival in Argentina.

The Fundación Cultural Patagonia International Percussion Festival was truly awesome.  It’s like a miniature PASIC smack dab in the middle of Argentina.  Run by the FCP and Angel Frette of the Instatuto Universitario Patagónico de Artes, this festival is well-organized, nicely paced, and represents a wide slice of the percussion realm.

This year’s festival featured 10 or so artists (or groups), each one giving a headline performance and masterclass/clinic.  Ramón Montagner from Brasil presented a very cool concert demonstrating his unique musical style (and insane chops!), then broke down his technique and independance excercises in the his masterclass the next day.  I cannot possibly say enough good things about all of the performers.  Pavel Stepanov (Russia, honorable mention to his wife Maria who is also a percussionist), Noriko Tsukagoshi (Japan), Nuno Aroso (Portugal), Randy/Austin/Andrew of Hands ‘Onsemble (USA), Camilo Jauregui (Colombia/USA) and my friends Mario Grimaldo and Miguel Cruz (Mexico).

Taylor and I left for General Roca, Argentina on what should have been a 24 hour commute.  Our international connection was delayed 16 hours in Dallas, causing us to miss our Argentinian domestic connect (and the next FOUR of them were booked solid).  We had a “no hotel nights” trip planned, but ended up staying overnight in Dallas, arriving in Buenos Aires at 2:30AM and craving a mattress like we hadn’t seen one in a week, then being stuck in Buenos Aires for a full extra day.

The upside to the unplanned day off (during which I missed rehearsal with the FCP Jazz Ensemble) was that we got explore the fascinating capital city of Argentina.  We walked from our hotel in Palermo to Recoleta to grab lunch and see the cemetery.  The Recoleta Cemetery is a walled, full-city-block cite that looks like a shrunken city.  The mausoleums date back to the early 19th century and house everything from aristocrats to military leaders, clerics, presidents and more.  The buildings are beautiful.  Many have marble or limestone facades, stained glass windows and forged iron fixtures.  A surprizing number of them had broken doors and windows allowing us passers-by to see into the state rooms and crypts.  The caskets were often ornate and curved, with brass name plates on them, covered in 100 plus years of dust.  

After the fascinating pit stop in Recoleta, we wandered to the downtown district near the President’s Palace, the central monument and the theatre district.  There we were treated to hot chocolate by Pablo Suarez with whom we share friends Judy and Al O’Connor.  We hung out at the coffee shop for an hour or so talking about how great the O’Connors are and how much worse winters are in DeKalb than in Buenos Aires!

The next day, we caught the earlist possible flight to Neuquen (Rio Negro Province) where we met up with Ramón Montagner and FCP staff to take us to G’ral Roca.  I got off the bus, grabbed a quick pastry from the coffe shop at the university and made it to rehearsal… 2 days and 20 minutes late!  

Rehearsal was awesome.  Miguel Cruz sat in on congas, the FCP Grupo de Jazz were all prepared and great to work with.  If my Spanish were better, a few things would have likely been more easily communicated… but it’s fine, we communicated through the music.  The concert that night was our show.  It was blast!  I won’t say too much about it because I think I’ll have recordings later, but I was very glad to present some of the usual tunes from the CariJazz! set as well as my tribute version of Cliff’s “Summer Song.”

The next few days were a whirlwind of events.  I played some bata on Miguel and Mario’s masterclass (they ended up being asked to teach ANOTHER class because the festival students wanted to hear more from them), gave a presentation on the history and development of the steelpan, witnessed presentations from all of the other musicians and spent a lot of time eating food and talking with all of the incredible artists.

Hands ‘Onsemble gave a great masterclass.  Their music is complex and beautiful music for drums, and the clinic provided so much insight into how they create the pieces and how they view music on a whole.

All of the events until Friday night happened in the FCP wing of the University.  The Friday and Saturday headliners were hosted in the FCP Concert Hall.  That was a cool venue.  Brick warehouse style building with 5′ tall stage and 400 seats.  First show at the new venue was a double-billing of the Rio Negro regional orchestra (with the FCP Percussion Ensemble) and salsa by Miguel y Mario with the FCP Grupo de Jazz.  I had the pleasure of playing on a few tunes with Miguel and the whole crew.  Miguelito is one HECK of a showman and a ton of fun to perform with!

While the festival has a run-out concert in another city on Sunday, Saturday evening’s Festival Finale was my last event of the trip.  All of the artists had a chance to showcase their orignal and collaborative works.  Camilo Jauregui played a beautiful original vibraphone piece that morphed into a percussion quartet arrangement of an Afgan folk tune.  For my slot in the show we just HAD to play Mark Nelson’s “Outcry.”  Several members of Grupo de Jazz requested it and I knew we could have some fun changing the tune up a bit.  Miguel joined in on timbales, Mario on congas, and Ramón  sat in on drum kit.  All of them are incredible, and digging into that tune together – LIVE – in-front of the audience was so cool.  Miguel had to close out the show with a couple salsa tunes.  I joined him for some guiro (the folkloric style) and to play pan on “Manteca”.  We ended up having all of the artists from the festival jump up for it!  And when the audience wanted one more… we hit them with a little unrehearsed “Oye Como Va!”

Taylor and I left fairly early the following morning.  Thankfully we didn’t have any issues getting a taxi for the airport transfer in Buenos Aires; we didn’t have any flight delays; no luggage or customs issues. The travel home was as easy as it needed to be, even though I still can’t sleep on a plane…  I’m so glad Taylor was able to come with me on this little tour.  We got to meet so many cool people and she spent a lot of time as translator for myself and a few others!

Thanks for checking in on my blog!  I have posted a bunch of photos and videos from the festival on Instagram (@SchwebkeMusic) and will be sharing more on Facebook this week.

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