Submitted by Ashley N. Soto on Thursday, 9/24/2009, at 10:29 PM

Tom and I are going into the Puerto Rican community of the Pioneer Valley to explore the jibaro music that thrives in the area.  The family who owns and operates Santiago's Family Restaurant in Westfield, MA also has a family jibaro-esque band "Grupo Canela" that plays there every Friday and Saturday.  Tomorrow, Tom and I will be going to scope out the venue.  As Tom said, we're just going as friendly customers to get a feel of the place--I'm even taking five other friends along for the ride.  They seem to be more excited about the project than Tom and I are--and we're pretty darn excited.  Hopefully, the fact that there will seven people dining at the restaurant—AKA paying customers—will make the restaurant owners like us enough to let us come back with a video camera….

On Saturday, I'm going to the Festival de la Cosecha, or "Harvest Festival," in Holyoke, MA where there will be Puerto Rican food, games, and music, of course.  I'm hoping to make some contacts with people so that Tom and I know what other options are available in the Pioneer Valley.  I'll look extra tourist-y with my digital camera, which will serve as a "I have to remember to look this up" tool, but with four friends joining me, I'm sure it'll be a blast.  The owner of Santiago's Family Restaurant said that they're hosting a block party/street festival Saturday night, so my friends and I will also be joining in on the fun.  It'll give me a good comparison between the natural and action-filled vibes of the restaurant.

The next step is to get in touch with William Cumpiano, the cuatro maker Tom mentioned, so that we can get the instrument-making angle that eventually goes into making the music.  Just now I came across this group called Criollo Clasico located here in Amherst that employs the use of the cuatro.  The website makes them seem like big "hot shots," but hopefully they'll find a soft spot in their hearts to let two college students follow them around.  

Can't wait to see what next week brings....