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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.

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 /

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