Orquesta Ricos??n: My Story

Dedicated to all those bands and bandleaders who have struggled but stuck with their dream of keeping their bands alive

By Jose Morales
Published on LatinoLA: September 21, 2007

Orquesta Ricos??n: My Story

So a few years back, while a member of Orquesta Guayao, I wrote an article about that band. Boy did I love playing with them! They were everywhere! Everyone in the band did their bit to help out get Guayao ahead.

After I graduated with a Mathematics degree from Cal State Northridge, I began working. It was time to become an adult. But music was still my passion and seeing how Guayao was established, I wondered if I was capable of putting my own band together and make it successful.

Lets backtrack here a little. I was born in Nicaragua and raised in a northern city called Matagalpa. We were poor after my dad passed away in 1984. Armando Morales Barillas was his name. What a musician he was. The best guitarist in Nicaragua. He had his own TV show called "Una Guitarra De Noche." He had his own radio show, performed in concerts in Latin America, North America, Europe. He also played a concert in Spain next to Andres Segovia.

He would call me "my stranger" because when I was born, he was in tour in Europe. As successful as he was, he also loved the bohemian life style. He died of "unknown" reasons in 1984. I was only six and would never learn from him. We also lost any little comfort we had with him. My mom was left poor.

In 1989, we moved to Los Angeles, California with very little knowledge of my dad's success. It wasn't until I went back to Nicaragua in 2002 that I realized the impact he still had, after 18 years of his death, on Nicaragua. I was invited to a tribute organized in my dad's name. They were celebrating 18 years of his passing and how his music and career is still an inspiration to many Nicaraguans. That's when I realized that it was my duty to fill his shoes. The problem, those are not easy shoes to fill.

At the end of 2006, I put together an orchestra called "Orquesta Ricos??n." I began writing music a year prior and thought it was a good time to get a good group of musicians and try to do establish ourselves in the land of opportunity. Of course, it took me a few years to realize that I didn't have to be a classical guitarist like my father. I could not possibly accomplish more for him because he had accomplished what any other Nicaraguan guitarist still dreams of to this date. I just wanted to play music and enjoy doing so.

After living through the Contras crisis in Nicaragua and finally making it to Los Angeles, I dedicated myself to studying. I graduated in 2005 with a Mathematics degree from Cal State Northridge and that itself is a huge accomplishment for me. When I started school, I had no green card. I had to work and with my mom's help, pay for my own school. Working full time. Studying full time. You'd think I had no time for music. Wrong! I was addicted to it.

Today, I have accomplished what most kids my age in 1989 wish they would have had the chance to accomplish. I feel lucky already. I put together Orquesta Ricos?? last year and although a young band, it‘«÷s a fun band to play with. My regular musicians have become like my brothers. Orquesta Ricos??n would be nothing without them.

People like Daniel Seldner (timbales) from New Jersey, Ernesto Valenzuela (congas) from Los Angeles, Brian Wright (bass) from Anaheim. I've also had the pleasure to play with amazing musicians like Fermin Sifontes (piano) from Cuba, Albeniz Quintana (piano) from Peru, Yalil Guerra (piano) from Cuba, Dennis Jiron (trombone) from Los Angeles and leader of Rumbankete, Daniel Rosenboom (trumpet), Clifford Childers (trombone), and many other great musicians. They all have become like an extension of my family.

Orquesta Ricos??n may not be your big shot band, but it‘«÷s just one story of many other stories around the nation. Everyone has their story. This is ours and I dedicate it to all those bands and bandleaders who have struggled but stuck with their dream of keeping their bands alive. It‘«÷s not easy. It‘«÷s a lot of work. But we all share something in common: we love music.

About Jose Morales:
Jose "Chavo"Morales - http://www.myspace.com/orquestaricosn I also dedicate this story to Armando Morales Barillas. Throughout my struggles, his accomplishments have been my inspiration and have not allowed me to give up. Thank you dad!

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