Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Vocal Sampling

You’re going to thank me for this

Traffic in the San Francisco Bay Area
Dr. Bob’s Neighborhood

It was Wednesday, September 18, 2002 (I didn’t remember that date; I looked it up). I was stuck in the car, driving somewhere. (Generally but accurately speaking, when you’re driving anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, you are very like stuck in the car, meaning stuck in traffic.) In those days before GPS and Waze and Google Maps and such, the only way to find out what the traffic was like was to turn on the car radio and listen to your local all-news station. Of course, by the time you actually heard that traffic report, you were likely already caught in traffic or were about to be. Since there are few things more maddening then being stuck in traffic and then being told via the airwaves that hey, guess what?, you’re stuck in traffic, I did what I always did under such circumstances, and that was tune in our local NPR affiliate, KQED.

All Things Considered was on the air. The stories aired that afternoon described a depressing litany of the world’s problems at the time, and included stories on the Congressional hearings on Iraq; school vouchers in Maine; pre-September 11 intelligence reports; critics of Yassir Arafat; a suicide bombing in Israel; and terror arrests in Pakistan. 

The Latin Grammies were taking place in Los Angeles that evening, so there was also a story about those Latin Grammies and then a second story about a Grammy-nominated Cuban band with which I was not familiar. (This, in itself, is not surprising, as the number of Cuban bands with which I was familiar at the time numbered exactly zero.)

Vocal Sampling
Vocal Sampling

The name of this Cuban band was Vocal Sampling; they were from Havana and their story was told by Felix Contreras, who is described by his NPR bio as being:

“A recovering television journalist who has worked for both NBC and Univision. He’s also a part-time musician who plays Afro-Cuban percussion with various jazz and Latin bands.”

……Get a link to that broadcast and the Vocal Sampling album that nearly made me drive off the road on Patreon.

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