Richard Kensington had come to Nottingham to study Philosophy and Psychology at university. With a strong musical church background his degree pulled his existential rug out from underneath him and left him dazed and lacking meaning and purpose. His love of music was a light in the darkness and he looked to music and the sense of connection that it brings to give life meaning again. Never feeling as good as when he was playing the drums and drawn to the energy of rhythmic complexity of Cuban music Richard decided soon after finishing his degree that he was going to become a professional conga drummer. Within months of this decision a chance encounter led to a Mas Y Mas tape dropping onto his doorstep. Richard heard the tape and had found his band.
Mas Y Mas has given Richard a context to carry on exploring Cuban music and after many trips to Cuba Richard continues to play and study traditional Afro Cuban music in both secular and religious contexts. This feeds back into the music of Mas Y Mas led to the recording of their third album in Havana in 2008.
‘Music has led me to places in the world and in myself I would never have otherwise discovered. It has introduced me to people who have changed my life and has proved to be one of the most powerful and positive forces I have encountered. Through my life in music I hope to pass this experience onto others. In the words of Giovanni Hidalgo
“La musica es la medicina que siempre prevalece”
“Music is the medicine that always prevails!”’
Richard is the percussionist in Mas Y Mas. Specialising in Afro-Cuban percussion his main instrument is the Conga Drum (Tumbadora) but he also plays Cajon and Bata Drums as well as a host of hand held percussion instruments from around the world.
Richard has studied Afro Cuban drumming in Cuba on many occasions since his first visit there in 2002. Having studied with bands such as Clave Y Guaguanco, Rumberos de Cuba and Afro Cuba de Matanzas, El Septeto Nacional De Ignacio Pinero and La Orquesta Sublime, Richard continues to develop his knowledge of Afro Cuban folkloric musical styles. He has also studied intensively with Santiago Garzon Rill ‘Chaguito’ during every visit to Cuba. Chaguito has become Richard’s mentor over the years and this relationship was at the heart of the collaboration that saw Mas Y Mas travelling to Cuba and recording their third album ‘La Bala’.
In Mas Y Mas Richard plays:
- 2 Timba Congas
- An Entiriso requinto hand made in Havana
- A Mario Cortez Kongo Bass Cajon
- A Mapex 18” Kick Drum
- An LP stand mounted guiro
- A pedal mounted toca wood block
- A pedal mounted LP Claro Bell
- An LP Hi Hat Shekere
- Paiste twenty 16” Crash and 8” Splash cymbals
Richard also plays and studies Batá drums with The Axis Percussion Trio focusing mainly on Itotele. His study of Batá has intensified since his visit to Cuba in 2010 with the trio. Richard’s Báta drums were brought back from Cuba on his first visit there in 2002.
As a percussionist Richard is also interested many other types of traditional music and can sometimes be seen at an Irish Traditional Session playing Bodhran. He plays a Christian Hedwitschak bodhran.
As well as playing on all of the Más Y Más recordings Richard has also recorded albums with Rich and Famous, Shmoov, Bass Tone Slap and features on two albums by Zoe Johnstone.
Music off the Stage
Over the years Richard has focused as much on music off stage as on stage. He has worked in a variety of educational settings and is since 2009 has been working more intensively with music in health care settings as well.
Richard started working in Rufford Infant School for Creative Partnerships in 2003. The focus of this work was to research on the impact of music sessions on speaking, listening and writing in pupils, This work still continues to the present day and has become integrated into the culture of the school.
The Youth Music Mentoring scheme ran a percussion module led by Richard from 2007 until 2011. This focused on using music as a means of mentoring young people. The project involved working with a small group quite intensively over a long period of time developing percussion skills in the context of a safe and supportive environment. It also involved Richard undertaking a high degree of training on mentoring and youth work.
Richard also taught West African and Cuban Percussion at Nottingham music school between 2003 and 2010. During this time he introduced hundreds of children and young people to the joy of playing hand drums. Some of these were so enthused that they have gone on to play professionally and now collaborate with Richard on various projects.
Music in Health
Richard’s involvement in music and health is has been growing since he started working in this field in 2009. From running a drumming group at The Education Base of Thorneywood Mental Health Hospital (www.thorneywood.ik.org) he has gone on to train with the French company ‘Musique et Sante’ (http://www.musique-sante.org/) and is currently working on a project with OPUS (www.opusweb.co.uk/wordpress/?cat=6) focusing on playing music in hospital settings; on wards and during interventions to reduce stress and increase patient well being in partnership with physio therapists, play specialists and other nursing staff. This work is now expanding further into Nottingham with sessions at Highbury Mental Health