CM : When it comes to drum and gear preferences , have there been any significant changes you ’ ve made in recent years ? If so , what led to the change ?
Wodelet : I did a lot of gear experimenting early in my drum career , but over the last few years I haven ’ t made many changes to my equipment . These days , I ’ m more likely to be experimenting with different hand and foot techniques than with gear .
CM : Lastly , for the gear heads , can you describe your go-to touring kit ?
Wodelet : I currently play a Yamaha Absolute Hybrid Maple kit – 12- in . rack , 16-in . floor , 22-in . kick – with a Pearl Steve Ferrone Signature snare , and a mix of Sabian Artisan and Paiste Signature Dark Energy cymbals . I tend to prefer darker cymbal sounds so they don ’ t interfere with my band ’ s vocals . I run tracks and trigger samples with a Roland SPD-SX , and I ’ m really proud to use Los Cabos drumsticks — a great Canadian company ! My Plunge Audio in-ear monitors are a crucial part of my setup too .
Since moving to Calgary from his native Venezuela , Luis ‘ El Pana ’ Tovar has earned a reputation as one of the top percussionists in Western Canada across a variety of genres . He has played with Brian Hughes , Oscar Lopez , Pavlo , Rik Emmett , and The Mike Lent Trio . Internationally he has performed with Ric Fierabracci , Hilario Durán , Luis Bonilla , Jerry Rivera , David Pavon , and Oscar D ’ León . Tovar , a Juno Award nominee , is one of the founders of the world fusion band Cumako , as well as the contemporary salsa band Distrito Salsa .
PHOTO BY : HENRY PALACIOS
CM : For those who are unfamiliar with you , how would you describe your musical style and the range of genres and instruments that you play ?
Luis Tovar : I describe myself as a Latin percussionist first , because [ congas ] is my first instrument . So , I started in Latin percussion and started doing more Latin jazz with drums after . People call me mostly for Latin jazz , but now I ’ m starting to get in other [ genres ] with the drum kit . But congas are my main instrument . I studied that and that is the first instrument I fell in love with .
CM : Can you tell me about your upbringing as a percussionist in Venezuela ? When did you start playing congas and why did it become what you dedicated yourself to ?
Tovar : I grew up in a family that loved music but no musicians . But in the family , it was always a party . Before I was even thinking of playing , I was already exposed to percussion and to singing and drums . Where I ’ m from , there is a lot of Afro-Venezuelan influence and everything has percussion and the cuatro guitar , which is kind of like a ukulele but a little bit bigger and the tuning is different .
So , I grew up with that and then seeing my brother , he was 10 years older than me , and when he ’ d take care of me , he was just practicing bass . So , indirectly , I was listening to jazz and stuff like that in ‘ 80s . Also , he started practicing in my house and when I started getting bigger , like around eight years old , he showed me some stuff . I don ’ t remember exactly when , but I know for sure that I start playing percussion around 17 years old . I started playing in a salsa band . That was my first band that I joined , but not on congas ; I was playing timbales . I think that was around 1991 or ’ 92 .
So , in my house and in my barrio , also in the streets and my neighbours , there was a lot of exposure to music .
CM : When did you come to Canada , and how did being in a North American music scene influence you ?
Tovar : I moved in 2006 . I was 26 years old and now I ’ m 43 , so how did that happen ! [ laughs ] When I came here , it was just salsa music in my head , and congas and timbales for percussion because I was coming from playing with a big band in Venezuela .
When I came to Calgary , I didn ’ t know anything about Canada . Maybe Toronto sounded familiar , or Montreal , but when I came to Calgary , it was a shock to me because in 2006 , there was no Latin
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