Monday, May 16, 2011

The Latin Beat

Yes, it is true, the DJs are missing more and more what makes Latin music, Latin Music. The percussion instruments of the advanced Mexican Indian Empires of 2000 years ago.

"Life is a dance, you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead
and sometimes you follow."

There are examples of metal maracas in early Mayan culture. So it is reasonable to suppose that the earlier Toltec civilization  had them too. These had evolved very nicely 500 years ago into two rattle like gourds (tuned) with the right amount of seeds to give the right sound.

The player fronts the band with maracas in hand in animated motion. In Central America they are sometimes made out of small metal juice cans, filled with sand, welded three or four and painted with vivid colors.

The Cowbell, which is just that, a player striking it with a stick.  The cowbell came into use six or seven decades after the arrival of the first illegal aliens. There had been no cattle in the Western Hemisphere until brought in by the newcomers. This is also played in American Country music.

"Tangerine" By Jimmy Dorsey

The Guiro, normally, a long notched gourd. The player makes scratching sounds, scraping it with a round stick. It can be scraped  with an even count sound or it can quick, quick, slow as in Rumba or Mambo.

It was used in the Mayan culture, long before the Aztecs took over and then went to Cuba and the Caribbean. It attained more popularity in the Dominican Republic than anywhere else and it is generally accepted as Dominican.

The Claves, are a usually two round pieces of mahogany about an inch in diameter and about five inches long. They are played by holding one loosely in one hand and struck by the other five times in two measure phrase.

A holdover from the Mayan five count measure, where each clave "Palito" was hit in every other beat. Very easy there. Not so when trying to do this in a four count measure. Not many profess to do this "correctly."

These are now being omitted more and more in the music that passes for Latin or Mestizo. It helps to know that the Mexican empires from the Toltec to the Aztec had professional dancers and musicians and very proficient in many percussion instruments in addition to the drums. The drums came into existence right after the appearance of Agriculture throughout the world.