The Rumba Madre is a Nashville-based group whose characteristics are very interesting and make it different from many other artists and orchestras that have appeared in this section over the past few years.
On this occasion, we had the pleasure of talking with Basque guitarist and tresero David Vila, who revealed the most important details about the creation of The Rumba Madre and his own musical career before and after the group, so just sit tight because there is a very interesting story coming on.
Music in David’s childhood
When David was just a little boy, in his entire family, only his grandfather liked to sing. In contrary to the case of many other artists we have had the pleasure of interviewing here, David does not come from a family of musicians, but that did not keep him from developing a taste for this artistic side over time.
Being very small, his parents moved from Galicia to the Basque Country to work and seek a new life. In this autonomous community, the cultural environment turned very lively and punk and other similar rhythms were at their peak of popularity, which got him interested in the tuna guitar and other instruments. He also started listening a lot to jazz and blues, which became fashionable in those years.
Since David had no possibility to be formally educated in music, he just listened carefully and imitated the sounds the best he could until he decided that he needed to go one step further in his budding career as a musician. It was then when he moved to London, England, to study his degree in guitar. He had already worked as a musician in Spain, so this work experience was very useful to what he would do later on.
Aside from having obtained his degree in music, David also toured around Europe with some local bands, which he continued to do in the United States when he moved to Nashville.
Currently, he is a Hispanic popular music professor at the university level, so he teaches everything he has learned to young people who want to follow his same path.
The first U.S. city David went to live in was Chicago because he was very interested in exploring the blues and other genres from that part of the country, but David did not have the visa required for entry into the U.S. at the time, so his plans to go there were inevitably postponed. When he was finally able to travel, he had no choice but to go to Nebraska and stay there for about two years for lack of a better option.
Subsequently, he chose the city of Nashville as his final destination because of the large amount of musicians who live and work there. He even went so far as to call this place ”The Disneyland of musicians” because of all the opportunities it presents in this area.
Another positive aspect for artists is that there are a lot of well-known record labels and studios to work with, making it an excellent choice for artists looking for a place to start or continue their careers. The locals themselves call it ”the music city” and have a saying that goes ”the worst waiter is a better musician than you,” making it clear how music is perceived in Nashville.
David’s inclination for Latin music
In England, David had already been studying some flamenco and, while it is true that he was not an expert yet, there were not many musicians in Nebraska who played that genre, so he caught the attention of many of his colleagues and groups that requested his services. The same thing happened in Nashville and the fact that he spoke Spanish reinforced the idea that he played Latin music.
The above led many to believe that David was capable of playing both Flamenco and Cuban music without any problem, which was not entirely certain at the time. This is how he ended up playing guitar in a Cuban son band, thanks to which he had to learn to play the Cuban tres in order to be in the band.
Although at first, it was too complicated for him, he focused on practicing a lot and listening to recordings of treseros to be able to imitate them as well as possible. Thanks to his effort and commitment, David learned how to play it and he spent five or six years doing it until he created his own group, The Rumba Madre.
David laughingly recalls that his goal when moving to Nashville was to play country music as he did in England, but there were so many country musicians that he chose to explore another niche and ended up studying and playing Latin and Caribbean music.
The Rumba Madre
After all the experience gained by David in those years, he thought it was time to create his own project and, for this, he chose two colleagues he met in that same musical context in Nashville, Nicaraguan guitarist Rubén Darío and Puerto Rican bassist Benjamín Alexander.
The three artists coincided many times in different bands and concerts in which they played together, so they already knew each other’s styles very well. Since they were all Spanish-speaking, migrants and musicians, they saw that they had many things in common and established a friendship that led to a band.
Both David and Ruben took advantage of the many compositions they had made in recent years and used them as repertoire for the project that was coming. Not much time would pass before music venues and festivals began to take them into account.
On one such occasion, they met Cultura Profética keyboardist and composer Iván Gutiérrez Carrasquillo, who had lived in Miami his whole life, but decided to try his hand in Nashville, Gutiérrez was so impressed with the music made by The Rumba Madre that he proposed them to make an album. He also acted as a contact point for The Rumba Madre to be in touch with companies and labels that would be key to the success of the group later.
They were going to release their first album in 2020, but could not present and promote it due to the pandemic, so they had no choice but to wait for things to die down.
So far, The Rumba Madre has experimented with rumba, punk, Cuban son, salsa, flamenco, tango and many other genres.
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