Afro Cuban

Afro Cuban

Day 4 lands us in Cuba for an extensive study of  the wonderfully playful mastery of Afro Cuban music. Thank you for taking the journey with me as told by our Instructor Vince Cherico who is widely know for he work incredible drums and percussion work with the Caribbean Jazz Project.

Day 4 lands us in Cuba for an extensive study of the wonderfully playful mastery of Afro Cuban music.
Thank you for taking the journey with me as told by our Instructor Vince Cherico who is widely know for he work incredible drums and percussion work with the Caribbean Jazz Project.

 

TDS @ Drummers Collective NYC Day 4

Afro Cuban music is an expose’ in exquisite role playing and teamwork. As is true for all Latin percussion styles, you have specific roles for each instrument that require a humble heart and complete focus in order for the GROOVE to lock in.

It feels like you’re spirit is awakened and alive, deep within a happily functioning family when you’re playing one of the instruments that make this style so encompassing and inviting.

One of the things a enjoy most about Afro Cuban is that you have dance and virtuosity at the same time. You have melody, story-telling, contrasting rhythms and a “deep pocket” that is created.

The first Afro Cuban musical instruments were borrowed from the original Cuban natives, the Tiano-Arawak Indians. Claves: two wooded sticks that are struck together, the Maracas: a matched pair of gourds with seeds inside, mounted on sticks and shaken; and Guiro (GWEER-oh or WEE-roh) a gourd which is serrated and scraped with a wooden stick. The Cajon (wood box) was the first musical instrument used in the Rumba during slavery in Cuba and the ban of all African percussion instruments.

It was after slavery was abolished in Cuba in 1886, that black Cubans started to moved away from the plantations and toward cities like, Havana and Matanzas, where Rumba was developed and the Tumbadoras became the foundation of this drumming style. The Tumbadora, of African origin, was initially made from a tree trunk with the inside burned out with fire, the top covered with animal skin and was played with the hands. In the late 1800’s came the Bongo. The Bongo has two small drums of different sizes with animal skins and were attached together and traditionally held between the knees and played with the fingers and hands. They were used in the Changui and Son styles.

Cuban rhythms such as the Habanera, Guajira and Guarcha were influenced by the Spanish culture and the rhythms of Rumba, Conga, Son, Changui and Bembe were influenced by African culture.

It’s important to mention the migration of Haitians and some of their French plantation owners who had fled Haiti after the slave revolution in 1791. They settled in the eastern Provence of Cuba and built coffee plantations near Santiago de Cuba and  Guantanamo. There they created mutal aid, social-recreation societies called “cabildos”. These cabildos became known as Tumba Francesa (“French drum”.) They would put on elaborate shows during Carnival and dress in ballroom costumes from 18th century France. They played African/Haitian style drumming with a blend of French Creole singing and were acompanied by trumpets.

Cinquillo is the five note rhythmic figure that is present in all Afro-Caribbean Music and is where the clave (key) pattern originated. It’s roots are African, via Haiti, from which it traveled to eastern Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean as well as America via New orleans.

I’d like to thank my incredibly brilliant instructor Vince Cherico for passing on his understanding of Afro-Cuban music history.

Contradanza was a popular dance and music genre in the 1800’s. It was from the Afro-Franco-Haitians the lived around Oriente. It was all the scandalous rage due to it’s afro syncopation and made it’s way into the music salons. They used European instruments, such as violins, tympani melodies and harmonies. It was revolutionary in that you had music forms such as waltzes, quadrilles and schottisches all with an Afro based percussion groove underneath.

Habanera, Danzon, Cha-Cha-Cha, Rumba (guaguanco, yambu and columbia) Bembe, Bolero, Chanqui, Guajira, Guaracha, Son Montuno, Manbo, Latin Jazz and Salsa are all directly related to Afro-Cuban music styles.

Son is the most important Afro Cuban style and is the essence and heart of the music. It has African and Spanish elements and is the oldest and most popular music and dance form and can be traced back to the Oriente province of Cuba at the dawn of the 20th century and  has spread throughout Latin America. At the center is the anticipated bass rhythm or Tumbao that characterizes all Cuban music derived from the Son. The influence of the Cuban Son is the most important form at the root of Salsa music.

Mozambique is an important rhythm created by Pedro Izquierdo ( aka Pello El Afrokan), a conga drummer from the Havana neighborhood of Jesus Maria. It stems from two styles, Conga and Guagaunco and creates a horn driven sound that integrates the call and response of the rumba with he high-energy carnival spirit of the conga de comparsas. Mozambique spread like cray in the Cuban carnivals of the 1960’s and it’s infectious rhythm spread over into the United States and hit New York big.

Here are some links to listening examples:

18 San Pascual Bailon (Contradanza)