In front of a crowd of 500 people, 32 of the DMV's prominent conga players battled for the King Conga title and prize of $2,000 at La Fountaine Bleue in Lanham, Maryland. Early Monday morning, Samuel "Smoke" Dews of Da Mixx Band won that title of the contest hosted by GoGoradio.com's Heartbeat's Conga Hour.
The contest, held to showcase the percussive style of GoGo music, was held bracket style, featuring both veterans and newcomers spanning four decades. Each participant was allowed 90 seconds in the first,second and third rounds. In the fourth round, the allotment was 45 seconds and in the ultimate challenge for the title, both Dews and final challenger "Pooh" from CCB band were given one minute to prove their worthiness of the title.
"Pooh", who at one point in the contest approached the stage with a sheet over his head playing blind, conceded by saying that he "brought 45 different styles", including a heavy display of latin elements, but was complimentary of Dews.
Dews shares, "Pooh's got a lot of tricks with him. He made the competition really tough. It feels good to win though. I've been playing over 20 years and it is good to get recognition and notoriety for something that I do. It's also helping the Go Go community. I really thought that 'Hot Sauce' (of Backyard Band) and B.J. (of L.O.U.D.) would be the toughest to beat, but 'Pooh' had tricks I had never seen before."
Rickey "Rock Steady" Brown, one of the judges explains, " At the last minute, in the last round, 'Pooh' got a little lax. Smoke took it to a different level in the last round, otherwise, Pooh was excellent. He's the best I've seen in a long time."
Greg "Googie" Burton, also a judge, adds "It was Smoke's last performance. His ending was good. It was a hard decision. I didn't want to decide."
Contestant Reginald "Lil Beats" Daughtry, conga player for 80's icons Redds and the Boys says, "It was so great for me to see it still carries on no matter what. I loved participating with GoGo Mickey's sons. To be able to come together for this, we needed this."
Daughtry was defeated in the second round by B.J. Scott, one of two of legendary Milton "GoGo Mickey" Freeman's sons in the contest.
"'Lil Beats' is one of the masters. I give him love all day long," smiles Mark "Saki Marky" Hollingsworth who was defeated by Daughtry.
Nicky Barnes of All 4 U, one of the early favorites, was defeated in the first round. He discusses, "The judges saw it that way and I respect that. I think the judges should have looked for different things. When Bo Beedy (of Black Alley) came out with the cowbells, that was different. But this is necessary to keep GoGo alive."
Kalani, percussionist with Wisdom Speeks adds to Barnes' statement, "As far as my GoGo world, everyone is doing the same thing. We need to put more latin elements into the beats. We need more Tito Puente and Sheila E."
Contestants included "E" of Mental Attraction, Congo Dray of Dynasty, Stewie Smacks of Style Band, Lil Boogie of Pleasure, B.J. of L.O.U.D., Craig Clipper of Fayces U Know, Lil Beats of Redds and the Boys, Saki Marky of Wisdom Speeks, RE Angie, Kareem of the Pumpblenders, Hot Sauce of Backyard Band, Supa Dave of Pocket of Hope, Mighty Moe Hagans of Be'la Dona and Chuck Brown Band, Lil Mickey, Pooh of CCB, Timbo of OBX, Congo Jay of 1st Impreshun, KP of Project 360, Smoke of Da Mixx Band, Congo Danny of Khemistry, Left Hand Jason of Soundproof Band, Good 2 Go the Virginia Sleeper, Nicky Barnes of All 4 U Band, Kermit of Ms. Yendy, Smacka of Fatal Attraction, Bo Beedy of Black Alley, Shea of Kaddy Musiq, D Harp the Skate Board King, Smokin Congo Joe of Black Ice, Pep of Mambo Sauce, Mike "Fleas" Burney of the Mike Phillips Project and Congo Mike of Elements Band.
B.J. "The Future", 'Pooh', Dews and 'D Harp', also a nationally recognized skate board champion earned spots in the final four.
Most participants were very complimentary of the competition and the fans were delighted to witness such an event. In the final challenge, the crowd was equally divided between Dews and 'Pooh'.
Keith Holmes, two time middle weight boxing champ and GoGo fan, expresses, "I had 'Hot Sauce' or 'Smoke', but this young kid 'Pooh' is really something to be reckoned with."
DC Jay, co-host of GoGoRadio.com's "GoGo in the Streets" echos, "'Pooh''s got that energy. He is someone no one in here really knows."
Sponsors of the event included Chuck Levin's Washington Music Center, Beats by Dre, Modern Drummer Magazine and Latin Beats.
Heartbeat's Conga Hour can be heard every Tuesday night from 6pm to 10pm on GoGoRadio.com.