Little Rumba at The Judge's Lodging Presteigne © Alex Ramsay
Little Rumba at The Judge's Lodging Presteigne © Alex Ramsay
There is no finer dance band in the Welsh Borders than Little Rumba. For over 20 years the band have been honing their music, playing at all the best pubs, parties and festivals. I always picture them as playing under sun-striped canvas.     

The band is made up of four musicians with very different musical backgrounds which goes some way to explaining how come Little Rumba’s music blends South American and Eastern European influences as well as jazz and blues.

Singer, guitarist, Pete Mustill emerged from the original R’n’B boom in the 1960s. Among other adventures, Pete encountered a pre-Hawkwind Lemmy but the pair did not go onto make beautiful music together. Therein lies a tale, but not mine for the telling.

At some point in the 1980s Pete got fixated on the music of Astor Piazzolla, the Argentinian composer who revolutionized the traditional tango into a new style termed nuevo tango in the mid-20th century.  This new musical love inspired Pete to form the much-loved Tango Band with sax player Hugh Colvin. Among other things, The Tango Band managed to make a record that reached number three in the Czech charts.

Somewhere in all this, the two put together another great New Orleans-influenced band which I don’t think ever had a name and only lasted a few gigs - one of them being my wedding. That makes it 1991. The performance is etched on my mind for as they were playing a fine version of The Neville Brother’s Yellow Moon, such a moon was beginning to rise above the field of wedding guests. It was one of those moments, unforeseen and unforgettable.

Little Rumba is the next iteration of Pete and Hugh’s musical exploration. In the band they are joined by violin and accordion player, John Hymas and bass player, Jacqui Savage. John is a highly regarded composer and founder member of the contemporary folk band Hoover the Dog. Jacqui meanwhile has played with numerous other border bands including WHC favourites Dirty Ray and tip-top zydeco band Joe Le Taxi.

In 2009, Little Rumba, with the help of a few friends, released their album The Big Picture which not only showcases their musicality but also a laconic wit. It’s a very good record indeed.

Lastly, it should also be mentioned in dispatches that Pete has not only led and played in some great bands but he has been instrumental in fostering a vibrant live culture in and around Presteigne and beyond.  It was Pete who started and remains the somewhat esoteric editor of Broadsheep – the listings magazine – which has been invaluable in keeping all of us aware of what is happening in the county. Sheep Music, Full Circle and Velvet Violin Cabaret, Pete is at the heart of all these wondrous events. I think it’s true to say that Pete, together with partner Alison Parry, have shown me how small-scale events can and should be done.  

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