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Many Latin American musicians undertake new adventures in other countries when they have already covered important sections of their musical life, it is not easy to decide to leave everything and start from scratch.

Abdala Saghir is an example of professionalism and commitment a musician who since childhood has been a lover of percussion and rock and roll drums, although his curriculum includes experiences in multiple genres.

He was part of many bands such as Conagua, and today he is the drummer in RED DOG, with whom he enjoys the calm and tranquility of having found a musical voice, while bringing his unique approach to drums, music and performance to breaking point.

Let´s learn a little more about Abdala Saghir in this exclusive interview:

Subterranica: Your beginnings in music go back to several acts before arriving in the USA, tell us about that stage.

Abdala: Actually, I started listening to the vinyl collection that my uncle, Rocky Villegas left at my grandparents house when he returned from music school in the USA. Zeppelin, Blue Oyster Cult, The Who, Rush, The Police, Van Halen ... Lots of classic rock. I’d say I owe to him my taste in music. Out of this world guitar and cello player.

Then I started listening to Kill em 'All by Metallica, and playing drums in a band called Post Mortem, with Tato Plata, Gabriel Matute, Andrès Vergara, and Mauricio Chemás. We played Metallica and Iron Maiden covers. We all went to the same school.

When they kicked me out of San Pedro Claver (Yep, I was sent to a Catholic, Jesuit school...) I started playing with Ernesto Azuero, Felipe Navia, Gabriel Matute and Santiago Carreras. We already played original music and spent our time listening to Steve Vai and Dream Teather. Granted, way too technical, but when you’re young you get impressed by physical ability, speed and stuff like that.

I also remember spending many an afternoon talking and playing drums at the Navia´s house.
I’d play Andrès drums, who taught paradiddles and all that stuff. He also got me into King Crimson. Andrés I think played keyboard or drums around that time with Carlos Vives and the Province.
Just the other day I heard some of what he’s writing nowadays. Impressive as always.

Then with Gabriel Matute and a bunch of other people we started Conagua. Many people went through "Conagua All Stars" as we called it jokingly, and eventually we went to Rock al Parque Festival. I had never seen a crowd that big in my life before then. I still dream about it, 25 years later. I think I fainted as I stepped off the stage.

I also started playing around the same time with a jazz quartet, Kaleidoscope Jazz, and did a tour sponsored by “Banco de la República”. The quartet was Rafa Madagascar, a Jazz piano animal, Oscar Serrano, who was a Jazz pioneer in Bucaramanga, my hometown, and Richard Mera on the Bass. My man Richard has that “Pastorious” sound.
That was the last thing I did in Colombia. I was 16 years old, thrilled to be flying around in an airplane with my drums. One doesn’t know much about life at 16.

Subterránica: Name some of the projects in which you participated  then and some things you left behind:

Abdala: Conagua, My friends, Kaleidoscope Jazz, UNAB’S music school, Carlos Acosta's advice, A roadie job, Januz Kopitko’s and Dmytro Ryeznik’s coolness...

Subterránica: How was your arrival in the USA as a musician, what changed, what went well and what went wrong?

I arrived like everyone else, disoriented and eager to get ahead and play my a** off. 
Someone recommended I to go to the local community college and talk to the drum instructor.
That day they were auditioning drummers for the jazz orchestra. I went there, and I spoke very little English... Next thing I know they pick me as a drummer for the jazz orchestra, hand me a folder full of charts. Given a week to learn a two-hour show... comping and playing horn section hits and reading. Then we were off to Orlando and New York.

The man who taught me to read drum charts and a lot of musical concept is Tim Froncek, one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever known, greatest performer ever and unreal drummer. He polished me. When in doubt, I still call him.

Subterránica: Do you feel that maybe drummers have lost a bit of ground in the face of new technologies or that, on the contrary, they are still an essential part of the popular genres?

Abdala: During the last decade I have seen how sampled sounds and acoustic drums are incorporated more and more. I think it's very nice. But I'm not talking about having the Simmons on one side and the toms on the other. I'm talking about people who are a hybrid between a DJ and a drummer, and they pack dance floors in Ibiza and all over Europe... There’s nothing wrong with that! Hahahahahaha!

Subterránica: What projects have you been a part of in the USA, what has been your trajectory?

The Kent symphony, Brite Boy, opening act for Tom Petty, Samecumba and The Tropic Orchestra. These last two bands, Samecumba and Tropic, with Ricardo Diquez, David Martinez, Ricky Correa and Jessee Rivera. They are my Puerto Rican family.

The list goes on... Age of Despair with a couple of people from Confessor, The Raleigh Symphony, Lauren Kennedy... Age of Despair was the experience of a lifetime... just like the guys in Tropic taught all about Salsa, these guys taught me all about metal...  Hit hard, follow the riff (Confessor’s Steve Shelton wise words and best advise ever). They are  my metal family. I still get scared when I see Ali Lugo’s three 8X10 Bass cabinets on stage. I think he’s going out on tour with Adam Albright and Dopesick next month. Those two are a trip. We jammed some a few years ago.

Something that helped me a lot was working in a store called 2112 Percussion, one of those drum shops where the ones who know work at.

I am putting a drum set together one day and suddenly Bun E. Carlos walks in looking for drumsticks because he lost his stick bag at an airport. That kind of thing, that kind of vibe.

Tony Williams, Mr. Steve Johnson, Kevin Rader, Merritt Partridge, Pete Albretch, Tim Haisman, Hunter Crews,  Marshall Eure, Robert Shi, Andrew Munger, Dave Cook, Warren Smith, Jason Patterson, Randy Evans...  I was a drum instructor there for several years.
That's my USA family. Those crazy guys taught me how to kill a drum head and a lot more about rock n’roll. There was no classic rock band the late Steve Johnson wouldn’t be able to name member by member or song by song. You can’t learn rock n’ roll in a school. You see?

Subterránica: What is the first thing you teach a young aspiring drummer?

Abdala:  A good and humble attitude will lead to a solid career that you’ll have to build over a lifetime.
Gossip, bad attitude and envy can kill your career in a second.

Subterránica: How do you see the general current panorama for Latin American rock and pop?

Interesting proposals, incorporation of technologies and bands with presence on stage and a strong and intelligent message. I love what Mauro Colmenares and the people from Revolver Plateado are doing. Mauro and David Carrascal played guitar in Conagua as well.

Subterránica: What is your take on the Subterránica awards ceremony for independent music in New York?

Abdala: Let's do it! I'm fed up with all these media and communications gargantuan corporations feeding us recycled music without content, while there are talented people that nobody knows, playing for tips or worse yet, paying to play.
I’m sick of Reggaeton and processed Country music. It’s a shame that rock stars nowadays are made in reality tv shows. Disney musicals and princesses drive me nuts. Ugh!

Subterránica: What equipment do you use live and in the studio?:

Abdala: Maple, Cedar and Birch drums. Kick drums ranging from 18 "to 24", toms from 10 "to 18" and several snare drums.

I tend to prefer coated heads in the studio and clear heads live, but honestly, I always leave the last word as far as drum heads to the producer. The same with Cymbals.

Lately with Red Dog I use an acrylic set of drums that I absolutely love. Let's see if St. Bonham lights my path me and showers me with his grace! LOL!

Subterránica: Tell us a little more about your current band RED DOG:

RED DOG is the culmination of years of hard work, experience, and dedication. Completely independent, produced by us, AS WE PLEASE. I couldn’t tell you how liberating it is to not have to worry about anything but what your gut tells you to play and having fun with your band mates.

The other two parts of RED DOG are Shane Gentry, the man that has Blues and Groove in his blood and Billy Price, one of those bass players who play with a drummer but don’t really need a drummer. These two are wonderful friends and sick musicians. Most importantly we’re all grown ups.

The debut album was recorded, mixed and mastered by Merritt Partridge, the Gringo with the golden ear. Another sick musician and wonderful friend.

Subterránica: What’s left for you to do?

Abdala: I want to take RED DOG to the people. To the truck driver in Chicago and the Carulla employee in Bogotá.

Subterránica: Take this space to say what you want about your career, about you, anything: 

Abdala: I have always felt that my mission is to be the bridge between two or three cultures and scenes. Bring people together from all walks of life. I intend to continue in that work.

I'm way into classic video games. I am the dude who Googles the hundred lives password for Contra and buys Zelda's strategy book. I love my dog.

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