Back in the High School days, some of my most reliable music sources were skateboard video’s. From Old School Hip Hop to New Wave to 60’s Psych rarities. In one of the videos of that time (Adio – One Step Beyond), there was a certain part (Ed Selego) that had a song by Nico Gomez And His Afro Percussion Inc. The song, Ritual, had this energetic exotic groove. The electric guitars plus heavy bass elevated the song to some kind of psychedelic Latin Jazz.
When I was young, my mother was into this Belgian singer Raymond Van Het Groenewoud. I liked his music too, it was humorous and you could clearly hear he was influenced by diverse music genres. A few years back, I walked into a record store in Amsterdam and asked for the Ritual LP by Nico Gomez. The record shop owner starts laughing and asks if I’m willing to spend 200 bucks. At that time I wouldn’t even dare touch a record that cost that much money. This seller then went on trying to impress, saying Nico Gomez is actually the father of Belgian singer Raymond Van Het Groenewoud and originally from Amsterdam. The seller was laughing at me earlier, so I thought he was fooling me. Turned out he was right though, check out the facts.
For starters, his name is Joseph Van Het Groenewoud. Joseph or Jos had moved to Belgium to outrun the Dutch military service in Indonesia. He changed his name to Nico Ooms because there was a rumour going round that military police was checking Brussels for deserters. In Belgium, though originally schooled to play violin, he started his career as a bass player at a local orchestra in Brussels. Soon he changed his name to Nico Gomez and expanded his oeuvre to arranging, conducting and producing records, providing Belgium with an exotic groove. I haven’t got a clue what inspired him to move this direction in music, the family doesn’t seem Latin rooted. The man is also to be held responsible for arranging/writing the Latin Funk classic Jungle Fever by the Chakachas. Which was not really conservative to say the least.
A funny side note might be the following. I checked Discogs to see which records involved Nico Gomez. To my surprise I saw him credited a bass player on a 2002 release, ten years after his death. The record is Para Puente by Snowboy And The Latin Section on the Cubop/Ubiquity label (worth checking out!). I took this as a lead and contacted Snowboy. He then told me there indeed is a Nico Gomez playing Bass on that record, but not the same Nico Gomez! Snowboy was a bit shocked when touring Japan with his own Nico, the Japanese fans confused him for the other Nico and therefore wanted his autograph. Funny coincidence they both play(ed) the Latin Jazz.