Monday, December 6, 2010

Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella (1995)

Les Blank

"At the start of his documentary on master Afro-Cuban drummer and composer Francisco Aguabella, Les Blank throws us right into the heat and passion of a 1985 Aguabella gig at Cesar’s Latin Palace in San Francisco. The drum comes alive under Aguabella’s hands, spinning rhythms that are thrilling, hypnotic—that speak directly to the soul.

For Aguabella, who migrated to the U.S. in 1957, drumming is an integral part of his santería religion—he’s a master of the batá, a special ceremonial drum. So while he’s played with pop musicians from Peggy Lee to Paul Simon, drumming for him remains a sacred passion. Blank’s film explores Aguabella’s drumming styles and religion and features interviews with associates such as Katherine Dunham and Israel “Cachao” López. But it’s the music that speaks the most freely—and Blank’s film has plenty of it."

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