I met Sal in the desert. Literally, in the middle of the desert.

We met under the shade in the Coachella Art Studios. The Coachella Art Studios was an arts and crafts workshop that I helped organize for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in the camping section this past year. There were people from all over the world under the shade that day, but Sal stuck out to me. I took notice to how comfortable he looked in the high temperatures on a late April afternoon in Indio. So, I approached Sal and came to find out that he was from the Coachella Valley. The more we engaged in conversation, the more interesting it got. Sal was a little bit older than me, and was dropping all sorts of desert knowledge and stories on me. Turns out he was in a bunch of desert bands, and he told me about this new band he was currently making music with, Fools Gold. I had heard of the band, knew of them, but hadn’t seen them live just yet. He promised he hook it up with some passes to his next show. I liked the idea, and we called it a deal.
There I was, tightening up my laces, getting prepared to get my groove on. Rumor had it that if you go to a Fools Gold show, you better be prepared to dance… you’d be a fool not to. Sal took stage with the rest of his tribe, and the rest was history. My mind was blown, I was truly impressed by the energy and magnetism of this band. The positive energy was live and the percussion, lead by Sal, kept it pumping all night long. To say the least, I left the concert a fan forever. And, pretty sweaty from all that fancy footwork.
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. As Sal gears up for his American & European tour with Fools Gold and Foreign Born (an offspring of Fools Gold), I quickly take the opportunity to catch him and ask if he wouldn’t mind sharing with the Coachella Valley Art Scene what he shared with me the day under the shade at the Coachella Art Studios.
And this is what he said….

So, Sal… were you born in the desert? When did you come out here?
I moved to La Quinta in 1987 when i was twelve, we moved there from a place called Red Mountain; a beautiful Mountainous region between Idyllwild & Temecula in the Cleveland National Forest. La Quinta was small then. I went to La Quinta Middle school, then Palm Desert High. I remember it being a very diverse collection of students, I went to school with people from all over the world. My best friend was a Nigerian princess that showed up every morning in a black limousine, with her escort/bodyguard..she was beautiful. I still remember her epic smile. I can still remember her name, which was always a challenge to pronounce, her name was Obinajulu Nawamakachiti. She introduced me to African music like Highlife and Sokous. I often wonder what she is up to now-a-days… I would love to give her the Fool’s Gold album & Smile…

How were your days in the desert spent?

The palm desert high school days where all about exploring all sorts of music.I remember buying my first music in these times. My first purchase were 5 tapes: Beastie Boys – Licence to Ill, New Order – 1986, The Cure – Kiss me,Kiss me, Kiss me, and Gregory Issac’s – Night Nurse. As I said, I went to Palm Desert High and I remember Josh Homme(sons of Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age). Homme was in my class, and I also played Football with him, but never glanced or even talked to him, we where in different scenes I guess….

What instruments do you play?
Me and Orpheo hold down the lead Percussion in the band. What is unique about Fools Gold is that all instruments seem to revolve around the rhythmic section (percussion grooves). I play a variety of instruments, predominantly from North Africa:
1. The Gankoqui Bell -means (Forged Iron carrying a child) The basic form of a gankoqui consists of a larger low-pitched forged bell and a smaller higher-pitched bell permanently mounted together. The larger forged-iron bell/gong is referred to as the “parent” and the smaller, higher-pitched bell is referred to as the “child” (in the fanciful “protective custody” of its “parent” bell). This instrument is the rhythmic pulse for an entire ensemble, its voice provides the basic meter/background over which most Anlo-Ewe music is structured. In these cultures a performer may be said to be ‘playing blind’ if he or she lacks a keen sense of and synchronization with the gankoqui’s basic guiding patterns.
2. the Congas from Cuba
3. the Kagan Drum: a strait forward, sharp sounding drum that cuts through the music, and is always is accompanied by Awe Drums… these are ceremonial drums from Ghana used to celebrate dance rituals.
4. the Kashishi, Nut-Rattles, Goat-toe shakers, chekeres, Axatse Shell Gourds; all are shakers that accompany the communal layers of sound.
5. the Mizhar Tamborim from Egypt
6. and I also sing Call & Response vocals-Afrostyle

How did you get interested in playing these instruments. Where did you start?
I have always loved African music. I feel that it is the beginning of all music… starting with the most basic instrument, the drum. I feel that it is the origin of rhythm & musical pattern. As a kid i found it in Hip-Hop, later in Indie Rock, and now I hear it in everything. There are beats all around us, just listen…

So what bands were you in when you lived out here?
I was never in any mentionable bands in the desert. My first band I was in was called the “Clones Don’t Have Bellybuttons”. It was a fun hybrid of abstract Brazillian tempos, fused with German Kraut sound. The band never went anywhere but, but all members did go on to make awesome music, and they still are. One member, Rob Barbedo, is in Darker My Love. Jack Adams is in John Webster Johns. Orpheo McCord is in FoolsGold, Ed Sharpe and Magnetic Zeroes. And, of course, I’m in Fools Gold and am the newest member of Foreign Born… geez, now that I think about it, I miss that old band….

How did you end up linking up with Fool’s Gold?
Through the love of African music, I guess. I remember getting a call about a year and a half ago from my childhood friend Orpheo. He was like, “are you ready to make African music?” I instantly said “yes.. when’s the first practice?” I got to the studio, met all the other cats, and it all evolved from there. The reality is that we all came together for the love of the music. I mean we are really having a good time up there and based on the crowds’ response, it must show. You know… without the crowd, Fool’s Gold is not as potent. Something magical happens when the reciprocity of energy is shared…

What’s up with Fools Gold right now? What does the future hold for you guys?
Well, our first self titled full length will be released on Sept 29th, on IAMSOUND recording label. We have several tours in the works, playing at the Sunset Junction Festival in Silverlake, Manimal Festival in Pioneertown, we also have a West Coast mini-tour the first part of October, and Europe in November/December. I know it will be cold out there… gotta bring some of that Afro- Cali-Sunshine music to the world.
We actually never know the future – for it is not written, and anything can happen.
One thing the band has agreed on is that the next album will be recorded in another country… may the Carribean(?), Africa(?), Brazil(?)… like I said, anything can happen… if we work hard and want it bad enough.
Sal (on the left) and Orpheo (both Coachella Valley natives) playing the drums for Fool’s Gold.
Fool’s Gold group shot.

Sal (far left) and his band, Fool’s Gold.
To listen to more music, and follow the band: