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Jose Madera is a respected arranger, conductor, percussionist and musical director. Madera worked with Tito Puente for over thirty-two years, serving for a number of years as Puente's musical director. Madera also teaches percussion and conducts regular big band workshops at the famed Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts in New York City, specialising in the music of Tito Puente, Machito, and Tito Rodriguez.

The following interview with Jose Madera was especially conducted for my Master of Philosophy in Music [By Research] thesis titled The Conga Drum: Development, Technique, Styles, Improvisations and the contribution of Master Drummer Ramon ‘Mongo’ Santamaria which I completed in 2008 at the ANU in Canberra. The thesis documents the conga drum’s historical development, investigates basic hand techniques and current technical hand developments, as well as the enormous contribution of master drummer Ramon 'Mongo' Santamaria, arguably the most influential player in the history of the instrument, exploring his percussive output as well as his ensemble, composition and arranging proficiency. I conducted this interview with Jose Madera via email.

PERTOUT: How you did you develop your clave knowledge in terms playing the music and arranging in clave?

MADERA: Having grown up around the Machito and Puente bands, I learned clave from those experiences and it's also something that I feel when I play. It's ingrained in me.

PERTOUT: There is a version of Afro Blue played by Tito Puente’s Golden All Stars that contains all the correct clave changes, are you responsible for this arrangement? 

MADERA: I did not have anything to do with the Golden Men cd, I don’t know who fixed the tune as far as the clave is concerned on that recording.

PERTOUT: In terms of not sticking to arranging in the traditional clave sense (adding or subtracting bars to work in clave) some contemporary Cuban performers and composers have openly stated “we are Cubans and so we have clave license" how do you feel about this?

MADERA: As far as having license to change or play phrases that are out of clave as a lot of the newer Cuban bands tend to do, I find that to be incorrect. Tito Puente would never allow that and neither would I.

Email Interview. 25 June 2007.

© Alex Pertout. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior written permission from the author. This article forms part of the thesis ‘The Conga Drum: Development, Technique, Styles, Improvisations and the contribution of Master Drummer Ramon ‘Mongo’ Santamaria’ which was submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Philosophy in Music [by Research] Faculty of Arts, Australian National University.

© Alex Pertout. All Rights Reserved.