I grew up in an environment that had a fair amount of Cuban music. First in my native Matanzas and later in my adopted hometown of Miami. In the City of Matanzas music was all around. It was not unusual to see a group of improvised musicians going the down the street with a Rumba rhythm and a crowd of enthusiastic followers dancing behind them (arrollando). Later in Miami it was common to hear the neighbors having a jam session of mostly percussion instruments and a little horn. If I went to the beach or went to a party the conga drum would call out to me. It was inevitable that I would acquire a used drum while still a teen and the rest is history. I have been a conga player my whole life and I owe it to my dad. He instilled in me the appreciation for this music, passed on the “music gene” and then was my biggest cheerleader. My father passed away a couple of months ago and in the last few days it’s when I have gradually begun to listen to music again; it feels good. Recently there was a song with an upbeat conga tempo, and I instinctively said “Entra Yeyo”. (Remembering my dad)
Yeyo Griñanes was a tall black man who lived in my father’s hometown of Guira de Macuriges (Arsenio Rodriguez hometown). Yeyo was the master Conga player in Guira. My father told me on many occasions the stories of parties he was invited to where there were several percussionists playing. Should Yeyo walk in, the lead drum would immediately be his; hence the expression “Entra Yeyo”. As a grown adult I played with a band in Miami and my father frequently attended the functions the band played. When he wanted to complement me or encourage my playing, he would say “Entra Yeyo!”. (With a big smile on his face)
My father was an exceptional human being, excellent son, husband, father, grandfather, friend to all and the most positive and enthusiastic human being I’ve ever known.
I will continue to listen to Cuban music thru the tears and keep saying “Entra Yeyo!”