Hard Pass - Wichy Ayala

Nabori Nation sat down with Wichy Ayala and a bottle of Don Facundo Bacardi’s best to have a short conversation about him and Nabori. Wichy Ayala is one of Nabori’s founding members and Nabori's musical director. Nabori is now in its 10th year of operations.




NN: Good afternoon Wichy. Tell us a little about yourself. 

WABorn Luis Ayala - nicknamed “Wichy” by my mother at the hospital - in the Parcela’s de Borinquen in Caguas Puerto Rico.  Migrated to the United States at a young age where I spent my formative years in Milwaukee Wisconsin; Principally in an inner city project housing complex called McKinley Gardens in the north side of the city.    


NN: What person or event ignited your interest in music? What person or event drew your interest to Salsa music?

WA: Consistently surrounded by music at an early age, as my mother was an avid Ismael Rivera and Gran Combo aficionado, classical salsa was always prevalent.  However, Rafael Castro Sr. was perhaps the person solely responsible for my musical development and entrenched interest in bands like Willie Rosario and Bobby Valentin.  It would be under his leadership and guidance, that we would form early musical groups, learn the basics of salsa construction and discover a firmly rooted passion for pursuing this art form.    


NN: So Salsa was always your thing. What was the first Salsa record/cut you remember hearing or buying?

WA: As a young cat in Puerto Rico, I knew Willie Colon & Ruben Blades “Siembra”, front to back.  Considered a classic album from my perspective - “Pedro Navaja”, “Plastico” and “Buscando Guayaba” became neighborhood anthems.  I could recite Pedro Navaja verbatim and not miss a verse at the age of 5.


NN:-The  Wichy Ayala Super Salsa Band includes you and which other salseros? (dead or alive)

WA: The Wichy Ayala Super Salsa Band would include:

Pappo Lucca - Piano

Bobby Valentin - Bass

Anthony Carillo – Bongo

Giovanni Hidalgo - Congas

Jan DuClerc - Trumpet

Angie Machado - Trumpet

Eliut Cintron - Trombone

Cuto Soto - Trombone

Furito Rios - Baritone Sax

Pichie Perez - Coro

Osvaldo Roman - Coro

Chegui Ramos - Coro

Cuco Pena - Musical Director

And on Lead Vocals the late great Ismael Rivera


NN: Nabori has performed in a great variety of venues across the midwest. What has been your favorite Nabori gig so far? Why?

WA: Two come to mind:

a)      Tumbao (Chicago): Not an overly aesthetically pleasing ambiance but it did represent an unpretentious crowd that only wanted to listen to salsa and often times classical salsa!  Even the DJ during band intermission would play salsa…pure heaven for me.  The sound system left much to be desired, but the energy we got from playing in front of a predominantly Puerto Rican salsa crowd was unmatched.  Good memories brother!

b)      Any venture that took Nabori out of town: The opportunity to expand, penetrate a new market and showcase our music to an audience unfamiliar with our music, is an undeniable high. 


NN: What musician who plays your instrument (dead or alive) would you love to sit with and share a drink with? What would you talk about?

WA: My idol is legendary timbalero Rafael “Tito” de Gracia, who thankfully is still alive.  Of course in my case it would be multiple drinks – as it’s impossible for me to have just one - but I would ask everything from how he started to his current views on the state of salsa music


NN: What's the drink?

WA: Bacardi Limon on the rocks, 3 ice cubes and a lime


NN: 2015 marks Nabori's 10th year of existence; What does Nabori mean to you?

WA: I am unapologetically a salsero with extreme prejudice, meaning Salsa is the only thing I ever want to play and listen to.  Nabori is not a study in diversification or a group trying to reinvent a sound, but rather a collection of musicians who have dedicated 10 years to the preservation of Puerto Rican classical salsa through original music.  Our anniversary means that for 10 years we have held true to our vision of creating our own music in the vein of what we identify with most.  Regurgitating other people’s music was never our vision, let the DJ’s play commercially recognizable songs.  Nabori is about exploring the creative process, inventing our own music and paying homage to a small Caribbean island called Puerto Rico.  Throughout this journey we’ll extend tributes and our own gratitude to all the bands and soneros that have paved the way and those that are actively involved in this ever so important movement of culture preservation through music.  Que Viva la Salsa!!!    


NN: If there was a Mt. Rushmore built for salsa bands, who would you include?

WA: That’s simple: El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, La Sonora Ponceña, Bobby Valentin and Willie Rosario


NN: Thank for your time today Wichy. I'll have another Bacardi Limon for the road.

WA: Perfect! Thank you!