Maraca you say? Consider yourself lucky. Given that half my family hails
from Mexico, I have had significant experience with maracas. This reminds
me of a regular gig my band had, backing a local (and quite popular)
burlesque troupe here in LA (sprawling megalopolis in Southern California,
Richard). We did monthly shows, providing every style of music for ladies
bumping, grinding, and dancing their way to various, and universally scant
states of undress.
One of my favorite performers, a former Princess at Disneyland, asked us to
play a samba. I had visions of Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in Line,” but it
required more rehearsal time than we had available, so we went with one of
our standards - Tequila, by The Champs.
Our performer - her stage name is Vanda Mystere - loves to get the band
involved, especially me, because I have no shame, and having been married
twice, am used to being humiliated by women. Her idea was to come out in a
legit Carmen Miranda outfit, complete with impossibly high headwear, and
start to dance to the samba beat of Tequila’s intro. She was going to
pretend to have no sense of rhythm, and wanted to accentuate that fact by
shaking some maracas in the whitest way possible. I, being of
Latin-American extraction, was to demonstrate proper technique, and then
hand the maracas back for her to give it a try. My contribution, other than
my amazing innate sense of rhythm, was the maracas themselves - old family
heirlooms from a Mexico of long ago (I’m lying, I found ‘em for 75 cents at
a yard sale, worked the guy down from $1.50).
My lesson of course was doomed too fail, and when we decided she was
unteachable, she would do what any red-blooded person would do in that
situation - she’d take her clothes off. Ah, the life of a musician.
The music started and Vanda appeared, dancing, wiggling, and really
emphasizing beats that were nowhere in the rhythm. Her maraca shaking
sounded like a rattlesnake on crack, trying to keep time to the Hokey
Pokey. I beckoned her to come over, and after ever-so-gently taking the
precious maracas from her hands, demonstrated the clave rhythm required for
the song. Oh, a small point of order: Vanda didn’t know these were junk
maracas from a yard sale.
She tried again, fairing no better, except that this time she put a bit of
her body into the shaking, much to the delight of the audience. I of course
kept a very straight face, as I was primarily concerned with helping this
damsel in distress (soon to be in dis-dress) use instruments of my
forefathers. I once again demonstrated the proper technique,
enthusiastically handing back the maracas to the former Disney princess.
Appearing to have finally grasped the concept, she shook with the heart and
soul of Shakira, but with the grace of Dumbo. Her maraca whiplash was so
violent, the head of one maraca disengaged from the handle, and sailed
across the dance floor, leaving a powdery contrail that would have made an
The look of genuine shock on her face was the single most organic moment
I’ve experienced in my decades of live entertainment. I wish we had it on
video. The audience exploded. I reluctantly stayed somewhat in character as
I gently took the the tattered remains of my noble maracas - la musica de
mi gente - from her trembling hands. In my best there-there gesture, I
patted her shoulder to let her know it was ok. I retreated to the
bandstand, and Vanda, bloodied but unbowed by the unfortunate
instrument-fail, danced out of her fabulous costume as we wailed away our
rendition of that 1957 favorite.
So Tom, you might consider shaking that handle to see if it’ll loosen a
bit, and if that doesn’t work, there’s always Vanda.
On Mon, Jun 29, 2020 at 5:13 AM Thomas Bruce