The full drumset is not really a central instrument in Latin music (as opposed to a bunch of percussion instruments), nonetheless many Latin grooves are playable on a drumkit, especially if you add a couple cowbells and woodblocks. Since I play on electronic drums, I can just add whatever sample I want on any of my pads, cymbals or pedals. I’m just getting started with Latin rhythms so here are some useful pointers:
- Songo is an exception as it’s actually been written with the drumset in mind (by Los Van Van).
- Son Clave
- Rumba Clave
- Patterns in chart form (if you can’t read music)
- Clave, they key to afro-centric music
- Semantic hair splitting about clave – does enjoying this makes me weird?
- Tumbao beat, which on the drumset applies mostly to the bass drum.
- Reference books: Afro-Cuban Coordination for Drumset, Afro-Cuban Grooves for Bass and Drums
- Akira Jimbo made a Latin Independence video years ago, I think it’s available only as a VHS or ripped (update: here on Youtube). Not beginner stuff for sure, but if I can manage to play at least his first patterns, I should really gain in 4-way independence. Playing hi hat and clave with the same foot (toe and heel respectively) is daunting though.
- Conversations in Clave, from the awesome Horacio “el Negro” Hernandez, whose left foot is more agile than your right hand:
Rumba and Son Clave are almost the same yet sound different. You can invert the two bars in these patterns, which gives you 3-2 and 2-3 Son and Rumba claves. Now the tough part is to feel which one is being played by a Latin band (not easy for an untrained ear listening to a busy mix) as the whole thing needs to be smoothly integrated throughout the music. You can’t change clave within a song just at random. This article has listening guides to help follow a few specific songs.
On a tangent, this brings me to the subject of Spanish. We’ve been in Chile for almost a year and my Spanish is still quite minimal. Not that I’m really trying, so what gets in comes out. However, in my defense, Chileno is to Mexican or Cuban Spanish what Portuguese from Portugal is to Brazilian. Much, much harder to just catch by ear. Oh, and there’s Chilean proprietary slang.
At least, when we went to Oy como Ayer on Calle Ocho in Miami a few months ago, I got to pay for our cover charge in Spanish. Nice club by the way (yet another tangent, it’s a good thing I don’t blog much anymore), great mojitos and tapas and real contemporary Cuban music (timba has a funky pop vibe and sounds like, for instance, Charanga Habanera more than Buena Vista Social Club — inheriting from bands such as Los Van Van and LG la Banda), but pretty expensive too.