In Nicaragua, there’s no musician alive as responsible for carrying on and maintaining the musical traditions of Maypole, Palo de Mayo, than Mango Ghost. When I arrived in Bluefields this Spring to record with Mango, five years after our initial meeting, it was that Maypole sound, unique to the multicultural Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, that I was after. Back in the 1970′s, Mango Ghost recorded many Maypole standards with his band Los Barbaros. His rich, soulful voice and prolific drumming were signature to the region and propelled Bluefields into the musical and cultural center of the country. Mango told me several stores how he’s recorded dozens of records of many styles: Maypole, Merengue, Calypso, Bolero, Soca, Mento and many more though most were literally washed away by hurricane Joan in the early 90′s. A born performer, Mango Ghost, now 76 years old, has been playing in the barrios, nightclubs, theaters and national venues throughout Nicaragua and Central America since he was a teenager.
When we began rehearsing for the record, it became clear to me that Mango was more interested in laying down some of his classic Bolero ballads that he’s been singing for 50 years as opposed to many of the Maypole numbers that I had been expecting. Going with flow, I was happy to let the material develop naturally and produce whatever songs Mango wished to record. After a few weeks of rehearsal and nearly a month of tracking, we came away with a rich collection of ten songs, eight in Spanish, two in English, heavier concentration of Bolero, one Cha Cha Cha and a few CosteÃ±a numbers as well.
After completing the tracking for Mango’s record in mid May, I set out to get the band together and do a Maypole session in the spirit of the season. Tracking in the outdoor La Loma Restaurant at the highest point of the city, we ran through 15 Maypole classics, several which Mango recorded with Los Barabors and others which have been remade and rerecorded by other groups such as Dimension CosteÃ±a. But if you ask anyone, no one can hit these classics quite like Mango. Having recently lost a leg due to infection, Mango can’t rock the full drum set like he used to. However, he still hits the congas well and his voice is as rich and strong as ever, with depth and character of a CosteÃ±o Ray Charles. Its was a great pleasure to lay down these classics with a true legend.
Tracking with DP 7.01 on my MackBook Pro dual 2.4, I combined my ULN-8 and RME Fireface 800 for A class conversion. Using selectable character on the ULN-8 mic pre’s and running my API 3124 into the Fireface, I also utilized the 4 native pre’s on the Fireface. For Mango’s LP Aspire congas I set up a pair of AKG 414′s as overheads in MS and Sennheiser 421′s for close micing. I used a Schoeps CMC6/MK41 for both Claudi’s acoustic Washburn and RÃ©ne’s banjo. Putchie’s bass I ran into the ULN’s front side DI and used SM58, Beta 57 and a 421 for vocals. Finally, I set up a pair of AKG C1000s’s in XY and a Sputnik tube mic for room sound. Setting up and breaking down this rig more than 20 times in two months, my custom Calzone 4 space rack definitely helped keep things portable and efficient.