First, let me introduce you to Frank Leto, who will be our musical guide, facilitator, and the lead instructor for our upcoming trip to Cuba with Ukulele Adventures. We were looking for a musician who would be able to bridge the gap between us and local, Cuban musicians and a teacher capable of giving us practical, musical instruction in both ukulele and percussion, specifically based on the music we will be seeing during our stay in Cuba. Initially I thought I would need to hire two people to fill this dual role, until Daniel Ward recommended Frank Leto
Frank is a professional educator and a professional musician who plays Afro-Cuban percussion, Brazilian percussion, Trinidadian Steel Drums, and the ukulele! His love for rhythms has taken him to Brazil, Puerto Rico and Cuba, where he has studied soneros with Carlos Embale, tres with Pancho Amat and batá with Carlos Aldama and Regino Jimenez at the Escuela Nacional de Arte.
The tres will be of particular interest to us. It is a 3-string Cuban guitar (it actually has 6 strings, but only 3 pitches—the strings are tuned in either octaves or unison) and is the prime string instrument in son, an African-based musical style from Santiago de Cuba, (where members of the Buena Vista Social Club hail from!) Son music, which also features bongo, upright bass, and singers, adapts itself wonderfully to the ukulele. So, there is no reason we won’t have our own son band by the end of our trip!
But that’s not all. As most of you know, the grandfather of the ukulele is the cavaquinho, a 4-stringed instrument that was introduced to Hawai’i by Portuguese sailors. Well, those Portuguese sailors also took the cavanquino to Brazil, where it became prominent in Brazilian music, most notably the samba! And Brazilian samba is another one of Frank’s specialties! So,by the end of this trip we should all just be bursting with Latin and Caribbean rhythms.
We really couldn’t ask for more in a facilitator for our group, especially for those ready to improve their ukulele skills, expand their music knowledge base, and soak up the local culture. And, don’t forget, Frank Leto is also a professional music educator.
Our local travel pros in Cuba are on the ground right now looking for just the right venues for us in Havana, Trinidad, and Matanzas. We’ll be able to confirm exact dates once we can confirm availability. For right now we have narrowed down the window for this Ukulele Adventure to 10 – 12 days somewhere between January 27 – February 16. So save those dates if you think you’d like to join us!
And what do we consider “just the right venue?” A small hotel or inn in a lovely neighborhood where we can occupy all of the rooms and have a common meeting area for ukulele and percussion workshops AND be close to the local musical action!
If you are not already on our Ukulele Adventures Mailing List, you should sign up now. The folks on the list are usually the first to hearhear first when registration opens.