Applications of Folkoric Rhythms to the Drum Set
Palo is an Afro-Cuban folkloric rhythm from the Congo Cycle of rhythms. Included in the Congo Cycle are Palo, Makuta, and Yuka. I learned something about these rhythms while on my latest trip to Cuba, studying with Raul Gonzalez Brito, also known as "Lali". Playing these patterns is an exhilirating experience! I am teaching them now in my classes at Musicians Institute. It's a wonderful sound. So, how can we expand the experience of Afro Cuban folkore and put the rhythms to use on the drum set? Well, here we will explore one example. There are several parts to the Palo rhythm. Traditionally, three drums are used, another rhythm is played on the guataca (hoe blade), and another on the catá (box played with sticks or spoons). Here are the rhythms. (I may have the two drums confused, name wise. If you have info which you consider correct, please email me.) All rhythms are written in 6/8 time signature, easily applicable to Common Time. What follows is a step by step approach to applying the Palo rhythm to the drum set, as a double bass or hi hat/bass drum groove. Your assignment will be to combine pattern number 5 (cymbal and snare) with either pattern number 6 or 7 (double bass or hi hat/bass drum).
1. GUATACA or HOE BLADE
2. CATA or BOX played with sticks or spoons Left hand plays top line Right hand plays bottom line, which is the clave pattern.
3. MULA drum Third eighth note is an "open" tone Other notes are "slaps"
4. CACHIMBO drum First eighth note is a "slap" Other notes are "open" tones
5. Application of GUATACA RIGHT HAND plays cymbal (top line) LEFT HAND plays Snare (accent on measure 2)
6. Application of MULA RIGHT FOOT plays bottom space LEFT FOOT plays bottom line
7. Alternate Application of MULA RIGHT FOOT plays bottom space LEFT FOOT plays bottom line
YOUR LESSON is to combine the cymbal/snare pattern with either of the double bass or hi hat/bass drum patterns.
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Palo Rhythm for Drum Set Recently I put up some double bass apps for the rhythm of Palo, from Cuba. Palo comes from the Congo region of Africa. This rhythm is part of the "Congo Cycle" of rhythms, which also includes Yuka and Makuta. Here is one application, taught to us in Cuba by our drum set teacher Miguel. I transcribed this while MIguel played it. So sweet! Enjoy! The "x's" on top are cowbell or cymbal The next "x" is cross stick. Black noteheads are rack tom, and bass drum is the lowest notehead.
Here are three more ideas for 6/8 drum set performance. They are also inspired by our teacher in Havana, Miguel.
This begins with the words from a rumba, in Spanish, translated to English, and then some history. Thanks to Philip Pasmanick. LA RUMBA BUENA TE ESTA LLAMANDO [Good good rumba callin’ you] by Philip "Felipe" Pasmanick ©11-22-96 La rumba es especial de los dominios de Apolo es un elemento solo del concierto universal en ello no tiene rival (¡guaguancó!) por lo bello y lo profundo si en este glorioso mundo no se ha visto cosa igual. The rumba has a special place In Apollo’s wide domain. While it is just a single element of the universal concert, it is unrivalled therein for its beauty and profundity. Why, in all our glorious world no one has ever seen the like.
These elegant verses, as sung by the outstanding Cuban folkloric group Yoruba Andabo, express pride and love for an afro-cuban cultural phenomenon often ignored or disdained by society at large. Daughter of the African three-drum ensemble and hispano-moorish vocal esthetics, rumba endures in Cuba and throughout the world. Guaguancó, the best known of the three rumba rhythms, emerged in Havana in the first decades of the 20th century. Born from the secretive cabildos (Afro-cuban religious associations), it was seen first in enormous coros de guaguancó and later in the present-day ensemble featuring a half-dozen singers and percussion: three conga drums, claves, and palitos (sticks which play a pattern on any hard surface). The two lower-pitched drums maintain a base of repetitive rhythmic "melodies" combined with improvised "conversation", all held rigorously to the beat of the clave. The high lead drum, the quinto, improvises fills and extended solos working off of the singer, the lead dancer, and the conversations of the other drums.A chorus of three or four men and women and a soloist provide the harmonic, melodic, and textual elements.
In a party (rumba’s natural element), a succession of percussionists, singers and dancers compete to defend or promote their status as the outstanding performer of the moment. In the guaguancó dance, a single couple participates in a stylized game of erotic tag, in which a woman must, with all naturalness and grace, attract her partner yet avoid his "vacunao", a sudden sexual approach with a hand, a foot, or a pelvic thrust. The vacunao is executed without lewdness or physical contact, and a good vacunao (or equally, a suave defensive move) excites laughter and admiration among the spectators. In rumba columbia, a variation in 6/8 from the province of Matanzas, a single dancer, traditionally a male, carries out a sequence of moves which in their competitiveness and stylized qualities share something of contemporary break dancing. The third common rumba variant, yambú, is usually played on wooden boxes (cajones) and is slower and more relaxed. Like the guaguancó, it is a couple dance, but as the singer reminds the dancers from time to time, "el yambú no se vacuna" (the yambú has no vacunao). Sometime the couple mimes a story (such as the hawk and the hunter, or the stern grandma and the reluctant school boy) which the singer narrates. This style is known as yambú de tiempos de España, or yambú from Spanish (ie, colonial) times.
Rumba texts can be short or long, and in a variety of structures, from unrhymed narrations to the 10-line décima espinela so loved by Cubans. Typical themes include songs of praise, boasting, picaresque tales, nonsense verse, and social commentary. In folkloric groups a specialized singer often sings duets in harmony with the lead singer, while another adds flourishes called floreos. After singing the text, the soloist improvises while the chorus repeats a short refrain. The inclusion of phrases in"lengua" (Afro-Cuban tongues such as lucumí, abakwá, or palo) is frequent, particularly in the columbia rhythm. The best singers have an extensive repetoire, a gift for verbal and melodic improvisation and a knack for choosing, pacing, and putting in optimal order the most appropriate songs to build energy, participation, and excitement among the particular group of dancers, singers, and drummers.
A rumba party is participatory by nature--everyone can join in, at least in the chorus. But it must be noted that in no form of rumba is there general public dancing as one would expect at a dance party featuring son (salsa), merengue, or cumbia, for example. In a rumba, individuals step forward one or two at a time to compete in a public demonstration of their mastery of a highly specific art form. Furthermore, rumbas must be live. We listen with pleasure to rumba records, but to dance it we need ambiente and spontaneity, drums, voices and spirit in a precise and elusive balance. Finally, there are social barriers to rumba’a acceptance: racist and classist stereotypes (drunkenness, criminality, illicit sexuality, exaggerated machismo, African primitivism, witchcraft), not to mention the direct and indirect effects almost 40 years of U.S. government hostility towards Cuba. Rumba is invisible on Latin TV and little known outside of small groups of aficionados. As a consequence many who know and love "salsa" know nothing of the rumba in its subtlety, creativity, and popular vitality. Excellent CDs of today’s outstanding folkloric rumba groups (I recommend Los Muñequitos de Matanzas’ Rumba Caliente 88/77 Qbadisc 1992 [no number]) are on sale in the Descarga catalog as well as specialized stores such Round World in San Francisco. Also, in many U.S. cities there are parks, basements, and dance classes where good rumba can be found. Rumba is a living tradition. Find it, learn to appreciate its unique voice, and enjoy. As the old guaguancó insists "la rumba es lo mas sublime para el alma divertir" [rumba is the most sublime / to satisfy the soul]. FIN San Francisco de California Saludos-- Felipe (Philip Pasmanick)
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When asking drum set performers in Cuba what "foreign" drummers need to study in order to develop the feel for playing Cuban rhythms, two rhythms are mentioned to me: rumba and abakua. Rumba is Cuban folkoric music, developedby the freed slaves when they moved to the big cities of Havana and Matanzas. Rumba is usually thought to be comprised of three main categories: yambœ (an older rumba variant, played at a very slow tempo), guagaunc— (faster style), and colœmbia, the fastest of the three styles. There are other variants, perhaps not as popular. Guarapachangueo comes to mind. In Matanzas, Cuba, are found yet more variations on the theme of rumba. Rumba is a wide, wide world of drumming, dance, song, and celebration. The soloing of the quinto (drum) can provide drum set players with inspiration to last for years.
Abaku‡ is a secret men's society, brought to Cuba from the Calabar region of West Africa, specifically Southeastern Nigeria. The drumming of Abaku‡ is intense, full of deep weaving rhythms and beautiful soloing, which streches the time, weaving between common time and 6/8 time, between duple and triple meters. What a great music! This groove's inspiration comes directly from my good friend, Miguel Garcia Fernandez, of Havana, Cuba. Miguel is the drum set instructor for my courses in Cuba. I've added another left hand pattern, different from what Miguel taught us. Your right hand is playing cowbell (mounted on the floor tom) and the floor time itself. I believe my bass drum pattern is different as well. Take your time with this groove. Once you get past the coordination and the technical aspects of this pattern, you can hear the melody and harmony. Then you'll be on your way to developing a feel for these wonderful rhythms.
Abakuá is a secret men's society, brought to Cuba from the Calabar region of West Africa, specifically Southeastern Nigeria. The Abakuá society was founded in Havana, Cuba in the 1830s. Regla, a "municipio", or municipality, of Havana, claims the distinction of having the first sacred Abakuá group in Cuba.
Drums are a major part of the Abakuá tradition.The drums used in Abakuá are called the biánkomo or biankoméko. There are four drums used. The drums are called the bonkoechemillá, biankomé, obiapá, and kuchiyeremá, played together with a bell (ekón), two shakers (erikundi), and two wooden strikers (itones). The bonkoechemillá is the solo drum, while the other three drums play parts beautifully laced together in a heavenly harmony of rhythms.
There are two distinct styles of playing Abakuá, the Havana style and the Matanzas style. The drum parts are definitely different as is another important concept; tempo. Whereas the tempos of abakuá in Havana can be very fast, the tempos in Matanzas are much slower, reflecting the differences between a fast-paced city life, and the life of the country. Here are the drum parts for both styles. As with many folkloric rhythms, these transcriptions are outlines of the rhythms. For a more intense study of abakuá, the author humbly suggests a journey to Havana and Matanzas, Cuba.
ABAKUA - HAVANA STYLE
In Matanzas, the drum parts are slightly different.
ABAKUA - MATANZAS STYLE
This Columbia rhythm, part of the family of rhythms called rumba, is from Havana. It differs from the Columbia from Matanzas City.
6-8 Conga Pattern
Here's a nice conga groove in 6/8 based on the Rumba Columbia from Matanzas, Cuba. H=heel; T=tip; O=open
Catá is the rhythm played during rumba, typically on a piece of bamboo or, nowadays, on a red LP jamblock. This rhythm can be adapted to various parts of the drum set as well. I use it for cool double bass patterns and also as a hi hat pattern for a time keeping pattern when there are congueros wanting to play rumba. This short video (1.2 mb) is of my great friends in Matanzas, Cuba, AfroCuba de Matanzas. First playing is the son of the group leader, Minini. Second playing is Minini himself. Here are the two catá patterns you'll see on the QuickTime video.