Pibo Marquez and His Burning Hands

by Michael Kurshan Emmer, PRCC
The messenger came on a plane from Venezuela, but the message that sang through the congas came from Africa. Each “toque” and “golpe” from the diaspora with a unique tone; this one may have been the voice of Obatalá, that one may have been Elegua; we would have to ask Joel “Pibo” Marquez to know for sure.
         “Pibo” Marquez, the Venezuelan musician, producer, composer and winner of the Ismael Rivera award, has had a successful career in music that has taken him around the world, showcasing his Afro-Latino music in more than 40 countries. With places such as Mali, Finland, Colombia, Greece, Brazil and many more as the set for his performances, the incredibly talented and gracious artist always makes sure to highlight the Afro-Latino rhythms and history in his sets. Having performed and recorded with many internationally acclaimed acts such as Arturo Sandoval, Juanes, and the Bogota Philharmonic Orchestra, among many others, the Venezuelan percussionist and teacher is the leader of “Pibo Marquez y su Descarga” (Salsa) and “Las Manos Calientes” (Jazz).
         Sponsored by the Humboldt Park Community As A Campus, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Old Town School of Folk Music, and the Consulate General of Venezuela in Chicago and performing for a packed room of community members and students at the Chicago High School for the Arts at 2714 W. Augusta Boulevard on Friday May 6, 2016, the Venezuelan percussionist introduced each folkloric rhythm with its background and structure as if he was speaking of an old friend. One rhythm at a time, he went through the gamut of Afro-Caribbean experiences: the Yambú and the Guaguanco Rumbas, the Bomba and Plena of Puerto Rico, the Cumbia from Colombia, and the Calypso from Guyana/Venezuela to name a few.

Cla cla cla, the cencerro held the tempo as its sound rang out in the auditorium at ChiArts. Perfect time, held by the constant movement of the musicians left foot, like the feet of Rumberos on the move, dancing their way from Matanzas to the Bronx and beyond. Flanked by guitar on his right and bass on his left, the hands of the visiting Congero radiated deep history and tradition, making the congas fly and sing so smoothly, so effortlessly: Pibo the musician, Pibo the master, Pibo the teacher.

In addition to the performance at the Chicago High School for the Arts, Pibo Marquez was gracious enough to host a workshop/jam session with students from Clemente Community Academy’s steel band. The musician reflected that he was incredibly moved by the experience at both schools.  Read more about the man and buy music from Joel “Pibo Marquez at his website.
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