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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

More on the Rhythm Section

The basic conga pattern is the pulse of the Latin rhythm section. Usually accents the 2 and a light bang on the 3 and open tones on the 4 and. Light on the one. The old time dancers never worried about what count to start.

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks
of changing themselves."

They broke on the accented tone. Later in the US, the music was accented on the one count, European style and they broke on the one. So the break for dancers has been on the accent (da moosic) not on the count.

So in Mambo, the rock step was on the 2 and 3 count and the slow was on the 4, 1. In Cha Cha Cha the rock step was on the 2 and 3 count and the Chassé was on the four and one.

Of course this was danced a little different when they began to accent on the one count American Style. Now you broke (rock step) on the 1 and 2 count, with the slow on the 3 - 4. In the Cha Cha Cha you broke on the one count (rock step) and 2, and you Chasséed on the 3 and 4.

"Me Gusta Estar Viva" por Paloma San Basilio

Of course the fun really began when musicians began to accent the three count. This acquired the name of San Juan. (Puerto Rico?) The rock step was on 3,4 and the Chassé was on the 1 and 2. Later on still, they accented the 4 count. It then acquired the name Guapacha. The rock step on the 4, 1 and the Chassé was on the 2 and 3.

There has got to be a more difficult way of dancing. These have even been used in International Style as unnatural step patterns. In this day people can and will dance on all counts. As long as it is one consistent basic throughout the music, the couples are in sync and having fun. That is the name of the game. Unless you are a competition dancer.

"Magdalena" por Sergio Mendez

Now we also have two other drums to worry about. The Bongos and the
Timbales. The Bongos are needed in any rhythm section of Latin music. They are two small drums, one slightly bigger than the other, and different pitch, which are fastened together. They are traditionally played while seated and cradling them between the legs.

If the Congas are basic, the Bongos are a little bit of gingerbread. They were the only drum used in the early Son groups in Cuba. They can flower up Latin music very nicely. In larger bands they are mainly used as an ad-lib instrument playing around the more fundamental rhythms of the congas and timbales.

The Timbales are late comers to the Latin sound.  They are two single headed drums with shells made of brass or steel, mounted on a stand, and played with dowel type sticks. The heads are on the average about 13 or 14 inches in diameter and were created as a smaller less booming kettle drum.

They usually have a cowbell and a wood block mounted to give another choice of sound to the timbalero. He strikes the cowbells or wood block with one hand and he strikes the heads with the other stick according to the conga drummer's "tumbao" (or basic rhythm) on the 2,3. Sometimes he will play on the sides or shells of the timbales and this is called cascara or paila rhythm.

Sorry folks, I don't remember ever seeing anyone in Hawaii play the timbales.