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The conga, also known as tumbadora, is a tall, narrow, single-headed drum from Cuba. Congas are staved like barrels and classified into three types: quinto (lead drum, highest), tres dos or tres golpes (middle), and tumba or salidor (lowest). Congas were originally used in Afro-Cuban music genres such as conga (hence their name) and rumba, where each drummer would play a single drum. Following numerous innovations in conga drumming and construction during the mid-20th century, as well as its internationalization, it became increasingly common for drummers to play two or three drums. Congas have become a popular instrument in many forms of Latin music such as son (when played by conjuntos), descarga, Afro-Cuban jazz, salsa, songo, merengue and Latin rock.
The drum is a member of the percussion group of musical instruments. In the Hornbostel-Sachs classification system, it is a membranophone. Drums consist of at least one membrane, called a drumhead or drum skin, that is stretched over a shell and struck, either directly with the player's hands, or with a percussion mallet, to produce sound. There is usually a resonance head on the underside of the drum, typically tuned to a slightly lower pitch than the top drumhead. Other techniques have been used to cause drums to make sound, such as the thumb roll. Drums are the world's oldest and most ubiquitous musical instruments, and the basic design has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years.
A stave is a narrow length of wood with a slightly bevelled edge to form the sides of barrels, tanks, tubs, vats and pipelines, originally handmade by coopers. They have been used in the construction of large holding tanks and penstocks at hydro power developments. They are also used in the construction of certain musical instruments with rounded bodies or backs.
A barrel, cask, or tun is a hollow cylindrical container with a bulging center, traditionally made of wooden staves bound by wooden or metal hoops. Traditionally, the barrel was a standard size of measure referring to a set capacity or weight of a given commodity. For example, in the UK a barrel of beer refers to a quantity of 36 imperial gallons. Wine was shipped in barrels of 119 litres. Barrel has also come into use as a general term for a wooden cask of any size.
Most modern congas have a staved wooden or fiberglass shell, and a screw-tensioned drumhead. They are usually played in sets of two to four with the fingers and palms of the hand. Typical congas stand approximately 75 centimetres (30 in) from the bottom of the shell to the head. The drums may be played while seated. Alternatively, the drums may be mounted on a rack or stand to permit the player to play while standing. While they originated in Cuba, their incorporation into the popular and folk music of other countries has resulted in diversification of terminology for the instruments and the players. In Cuba, congas are called tumbadoras.
Conga players are called congueros, while rumberos refers to those who dance following the path of the players. The term "conga" was popularized in the 1930s, when Latin music swept the United States. Cuban son and New York jazz fused together to create what was then termed mambo, but later became known as salsa. In that same period, the popularity of the Conga Line helped to spread this new term. Desi Arnaz also played a role in the popularization of conga drums. However, the drum he played (which everyone called a conga drum at the time) was similar to the type of drum known as bokú used in his hometown, Santiago de Cuba. The word conga came from the rhythm la conga used during carnaval (carnival) in Cuba. The drums used in carnaval could have been referred to as tambores de conga since they played the rhythm la conga, and thus translated into English as conga drums.
The music of Latin America refers to music originating from Latin America, namely the Romance-speaking countries and territories of the Americas and the Caribbean south of the United States. Latin American music also incorporates African music from slaves who were transported to the Americas by European settlers as well as music from the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Due to its highly syncretic nature, Latin American music encompasses a wide variety of styles, including influential genres such as bachata, bossa nova, merengue, rumba, salsa, samba, son, and tango. During the 20th century, many styles were influenced by the music of the United States giving rise to genres such as Latin pop, rock, jazz, hip hop, and reggaeton.
The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States and thus also in the state of New York. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.
Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".
There are five basic strokes:
A head is the part of an organism which usually includes the ears, brain, forehead, cheeks, chin, eyes, nose, and mouth, each of which aid in various sensory functions such as sight, hearing, smell, and taste, respectively. Some very simple animals may not have a head, but many bilaterally symmetric forms do, regardless of size.
The moose call or glissando is done by rubbing the third finger, supported by the thumb, across the head of the drum. The finger is sometimes moistened with saliva or sweat, and sometimes a little coat of beeswax is put on the surface of the conga head to help make the sound.The moose call is also done on the bongos.
In music, a glissando is a glide from one pitch to another. It is an Italianized musical term derived from the French glisser, "to glide". In some contexts, it is distinguished from the continuous portamento. Some colloquial equivalents are slide, sweep, bend, smear, rip, lip, plop, or falling hail.
To bend the pitch of the congas, a conguero sometimes uses his elbow to shift around on and apply pressure to different parts of the head; this causes the note to change. This is not a traditional stroke, but it is common in modern salsa and rumba.
Guaguancó uses three congas. The smallest conga is the lead drum known as quinto. The following nine-measure quinto excerpt is from the guaguancó “La polémica” by Los Muñequitos de Matanzas (1988).This passage moves between the main modes of playing (A, B, C). The A section is the basic lock or ride, as it is known in North America. It spans one clave (measure). An alternate phrase (B) is also one measure in length. Cross-beats, the basis of the third section (C), contradict the meter. By alternating between the lock and the cross, the quinto creates larger rhythmic phrases that expand and contract over several clave cycles. The great Los Muñequintos quintero Jesús Alfonso (1949–2009) described this phenomenon as a man getting “drunk at a party, going outside for a while, and then coming back inside.”
Los Muñequitos de Matanzas is a Cuban rumba and Folkloric group. Having continually recorded since 1956, Los Muñequitos is the most famous rumba group from Matanzas, and one of the most beloved rumba groups of all time.
In music, a cross-beat or cross-rhythm is a specific form of polyrhythm. The term cross rhythm was introduced in 1934 by the musicologist Arthur Morris Jones (1889–1980). It refers to when the rhythmic conflict found in polyrhythms is the basis of an entire musical piece.
The basic son montuno conga pattern is called marcha, or tumbao. The conga was first used in bands during the late 1930s, and became a staple of mambo bands of the 1940s. The primary strokes are sounded with open tones, on the last offbeats (2&, 2a) of a two-beat cycle. The fundamental accent—2& is referred to by some musicians as ponche.
1 e & a 2 e & a Count H T S T H T O O Conga L L R L L L R R Hand Used Key: L: Left hand R: Right hand H: Heel of hand T: Tip of hand S: Slap O: Open Tone
The basic tumbao sounds slaps (triangle noteheads) and open tones (regular noteheads) on the "and" offbeats.There are many variations on the basic tumbao. For example, a very common variant sounds a single open tone with the third stroke of clave (ponche), and two tones preceding the three-side of clave. The specific alignment between clave and this tumbao is critical.
Another common variant uses two drums and sounds bombo (1a) on the tumba (3-side of the clave).For example:
1 . & . 2 . & . 3 . & . 4 . & . Count X X X X X Son Clave X X X X X Rumba Clave H T S T O O H T S T H T O O Conga O O Tumba L L R R R L R R L L R L L L R R Hand Used or 1 . & . 2 . & . 3 . & . 4 . & . Count X X X X X Son Clave X X X X X Rumba Clave H T S H T O O H T S H T O O Conga O 0 Tumba L L R R L L R R L L R R L L R R Hand Used
The conga marcha can be heard on countless recordings, including these:
There is also the bolero rhythm that is used for ballads. The conga part is similar to the marcha and can be heard on these recordings:
Beginning in the late 1960s, band conga players began incorporating elements from folkloric rhythms, especially rumba. Changuito and Raúl "el Yulo" Cárdenas of Los Van Van pioneered this approach of the songo era.
This relationship between the drums is derived from the style known as rumba. The feeling of the high drum part is like the quinto in rumba, constantly punctuating, coloring, and accenting, but not soloing until the appropriate moment (Santos 1985).
In several songo arrangements, the tumbadora ('conga') part sounds the typical tumbao on the low-pitched drum, while replicating the quinto (lead drum) of guaguancó on the high-pitched drum. The quinto-like phrases can continually change, but they are based upon a specific counter-clave motif.[See: "Songo Patterns on Congas" (Changuito).
Tomás Cruz developed several adaptions of folkloric rhythms when working in Paulito FG's timba band of the 1990s. Cruz's creations offered clever counterpoints to the bass and chorus. Many of his marchas span two or even four claves in duration, something very rarely done previously.He also made more use of muted tones in his tumbaos, all the while advancing the development of . The example on the right is one of Cruz's inventos ('musical inventions'), a band adaptation of the Congolese-based Afro-Cuban folkloric rhythm makuta. He played the pattern on three congas on the Paulito song "Llamada anónima." Listen: "Llamada Anónima" by Paulito F.G.
The merengue rhythm, used in orchestral merengue, goes 1 2-1-2. It can also be heard as 1-2-1-2 1-2-1-2-1-2. Essentially, it is the rhythm of the tambora applied to conga. This can be heard on Elvis Crespo's Suavemente and Grupo Mania's Me Miras y Te Miro. In merengue tipico the rhythm is usually more complex and less standardized; it can range from simply hitting the conga on a fourth beat to playing full patterns that mark the time.
The rhythm of Palos is also representative of what we can call Afro-Dominican music. The drums are made out of hollowed-out tree trunks, and they are used both for secular and religious music in Santo Domingo and Haiti. The drums are called palos (alcahuete, palo mayor and adulon). The balsie is another drum played with both feet and hands. The player sits on it and uses a friction technique called arrugao. Panderos are also used in Dominican folk music, like congos, salve, and palos. The Dominican version of the 'clave' is 'la canoita', which are two sticks struck against each other, one with a handle. In the Gaga they also use palo drums and in the rhythm called Palo de Muerto, which is played when a member of the cofradia or brotherhood dies. The rhythm of palos is played throughout the Dominican Republic and is the national dance of the country. This music was suppressed and persecuted during Trujillo's rule due to social and racial discrimination.
The cumbia rhythm, simple and slowly played, goes 1-2-2-1, also heard as 1-2-1-2. It can be heard in Fito Olivares's Mosaico Fiestero and La Cumbia Sampuesana y La Cumbia Cienaguera by Ancieto Molino y Los Sabaneros.
There are many other kinds of rhythms for the conga. It is constantly applied in new genres of music, therefore taking up the rhythms of that specific style, such as punta, reggaeton, Brazilian forms such as samba and bossa nova, and even reggae, funk, go-go, and soul music.
Conga drums are tunable to different notes. The original drums were tuned by adjusting knots and tension ropes on the drumhead, or, where the drum-heads were tacked or nailed to the top of the shell, by careful heating of the head. Modern congas use a screw-and-lug tension head system, which makes them easier to tune (or detune). This modern type of tension system is attributed to Carlos "Patato" Valdes, a popular Cuban Conguero. As was discussed above, terminology for the drums varies. Here, the naming system used is a composite of those mentioned before with those currently in use by major conga manufacturers. The drums are discussed in order from largest to smallest; the sizes of the drumheads given vary considerably by manufacturer, model, and style.
Congas, being percussive instruments, do not have to be tuned to any particular note in purely percussive settings. However, when playing with harmonic instruments, they may be tuned to specific notes.
Congas are often tuned using the open tone (see above). In general, the particular note will depend on the make, model, and size of the conga drum. The drum should be tuned so that the bass tone resonates, the open tone rings, and the slap pierces through the musical mix. If the tuning is too loose, the bass and slap tones will sound "flabby"; too tight, and the drums will sound unnatural and "pinched". With a single drum, it is easy to tighten the drum until it makes a pleasing sound and then tighten a little more to reach a uniform desired pitch. It is very important to ensure that tuning is uniform around the drumhead, which can be checked by placing one finger pad in the center of the head and tapping the head near the edge above each lug location to detect any change, adjusting as necessary. Uniform tightness will help "let the drum speak".
Another important consideration is that head tension can greatly impact the ease or unease of the player, and generally a looser drumhead can lead to hand injury more than a tighter one, because a looser drumhead has less rebound and more muffling effect (hence potentially bruising joints and bones under spirited playing). Also, producing a crisp slap tone is nearly impossible on a loose head. During tuning it is suggested to "let the drum speak" and to conform tuning reasonably closely to the natural resonance (pitch) that the cavity of the drum interior presents. This resonance can be heard by singing or playing loud notes near the drum opening (this is true of tuning any drum) and noticing which pitch decays slowest - that will either be the fundamental (resonant) frequency or one of its simple overtones.
When two or more drums are used, there is the potential for more variation of which notes are chosen; however, tuning between or during compositions is rare in live performance. With only two drums, it is common to find them tuned a perfect fourth apart (the same interval used in "Here Comes the Bride") as is the tradition in western classical music for the timpani. Having three drums (typically the tumba, conga, and quinto) invites experimentation and individual customization. Some congueros like using the intervals of a major chord (e.g. F, A, C). Some players use the second inversion of a major chord (e.g. G, C, E); and some prefer a major second between the quinto and conga, with a perfect 4th descending to the tumba. Raul Rekow of Santana often plays five conga drums and tunes them to the opening phrase of a Latin tune.
Salsa music is a popular dance music genre that initially arose in New York City during the 1960s. Salsa is the product of various musical genres including the Cuban son montuno, guaracha, cha cha chá, mambo, and to a certain extent bolero, and the Puerto Rican bomba and plena. Latin jazz, which was also developed in New York City, has had a significant influence on salsa arrangers, piano guajeos, and instrumental soloists.
Salsa is a popular form of social dance originating from Cuban folk dances. The movements of Salsa are a combination of the Afro-Cuban dances Son, cha-cha-cha, Mambo, Rumba, and the Danzón. The dance, along with salsa music, saw major development in the mid-1970s in New York. Different regions of Latin America and the United States have distinct salsa styles of their own, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Cali Colombia, L.A. and New York styles. Salsa dance socials are commonly held in night clubs, bars, ballrooms, restaurants, and outside, especially when part of an outdoor festival.
The clave is a rhythmic pattern used as a tool for temporal organization in Afro-Cuban music. It is present in a variety of genres such as Abakuá music, rumba, conga, son, mambo, salsa, songo, timba and Afro-Cuban jazz. The five-stroke clave pattern represents the structural core of many Afro-Cuban rhythms.
Timbales or pailas are shallow single-headed drums with metal casing. They are shallower than single-headed tom-toms, and usually tuned much higher, especially for their size. The player uses a variety of stick strokes, rim shots, and rolls to produce a wide range of percussive expression during solos and at transitional sections of music, and usually plays the shells of the drum or auxiliary percussion such as a cowbell or cymbal to keep time in other parts of the song.
Arsenio Rodríguez was a Cuban musician, composer and bandleader. He played the tres, as well as the tumbadora, and he specialized in son, rumba and other Afro-Cuban music styles. In the 1940s and 1950s Rodríguez established the conjunto format and contributed to the development the son montuno, the basic template of modern-day salsa. He claimed to be the true creator of the mambo and was an important as well as a prolific composer who wrote nearly two hundred songs.
Bongos are an Afro-Cuban percussion instrument consisting of a pair of small open bottomed drums of different sizes. In Spanish the larger drum is called the hembra (female) and the smaller the macho (male). Together with the conga or tumbadora, and to a lesser extent the batá drum, bongos are the most widespread Cuban hand drums, being commonly played in genres such as son cubano, salsa and Afro-Cuban jazz. A bongo drummer is known as a bongosero.
Mozambique refers to two separate styles of music.
Timba is a Cuban genre of music based on popular Cuban music along with salsa, American funk/R&B, and the strong influence of Afro-Cuban folkloric music.
Guaguancó is a subgenre of Cuban rumba, combining percussion, voices, and dance. There are two main styles: Havana and Matanzas.
Songo is a genre of popular Cuban music, created by the group Los Van Van in the early 1970s. Songo incorporated rhythmic elements from folkloric rumba into popular dance music, and was a significant departure from the son montuno/mambo-based structure which had dominated popular music in Cuba since the 1940s. Blas Egües was the first drummer in Los Van Van, but it was the band's second drummer, José Luis Quintana "Changuito", who developed songo into the world-wide phenomenon it is today.
NG La Banda is a Cuban musical group founded by flutist José Luis "El Tosco" Cortés. NG stands for nueva generación. NG La Banda are the creators of timba, the most important popular dance and music genre of the past two decades. Prior to founding NG La Banda, Cortés played in the Afro-Cuban jazz-fusion supergroup Irakere, and the seminal songo band Los Van Van.
Congolese rumba, also known as Rumba Lingala after its predominant language, is a popular genre of dance music which originated in the Congo basin during the 1940s, with strong similarities to Cuban son. The style gained popularity throughout Africa during the 1960s and 1970s.
Rumba is a secular genre of Cuban music involving dance, percussion, and song. It originated in the northern regions of Cuba, mainly in urban Havana and Matanzas, during the late 19th century. It is based on African music and dance traditions, namely Abakuá and yuka, as well as the Spanish-based coros de clave. According to Argeliers León, rumba is one of the major "genre complexes" of Cuban music, and the term rumba complex is now commonly used by musicologists. This complex encompasses the three traditional forms of rumba, as well as their contemporary derivatives and other minor styles.
In music of Afro-Cuban origin, tumbao is the basic rhythm played on the bass. In North America, the basic conga drum pattern used in popular music is also called tumbao. In the contemporary form of Cuban popular dance music known as timba, piano guajeos are known as tumbaos.
The annual Explorations in Afro-Cuban Dance & Drum workshops are hosted by the Humboldt State University Office of Extended Education in Arcata, California. The classes focus on Afro-Cuban folkloric song, dance, and percussion.
"Since 1996 local music teacher/musician Howie Kaufman has led Explorations in Afro-Cuban Dance and Drum, a workshop series at HSU that brings teachers and students from far and wide. Passion for the clave rhythm led some seriously dedicated Humboldters to find ways around the U.S. blockade of the Caribbean island and bring Cuban music and musicians here."—Doran (2011).
A guajeo is a typical Cuban ostinato melody, most often consisting of arpeggiated chords in syncopated patterns. Some musicians only use the term guajeo for ostinato patterns played specifically by a tres, piano, an instrument of the violin family, or saxophones. Piano guajeos are one of the most recognizable elements of modern-day salsa. Piano guajeos are also known as montunos in North America, or tumbaos in the contemporary Cuban dance music timba.
Tresillo is a rhythmic pattern used in Latin American music. It is a more basic form of the rhythmic figure known as the habanera.
The quinto is the smallest and highest pitched type of conga drum. It is used as the lead drum in Cuban rumba styles such as guaguancó, yambú, columbia and guarapachangueo, and it is also present in congas de comparsa. Quinto phrases are played in both triple-pulse and duple-pulse structures. In columbia, triple pulse is the primary structure and duple pulse is secondary. In yambú and guaguancó duple-pulse is primary and triple-pulse is secondary.
Tahona, alternatively spelled tajona due to its pronunciation or taona, is a secular style of Afro-Cuban music developed in the 19th century in Santiago de Cuba after the arrival of Haitian slaves following the Haitian Revolution. It is named after the ensembles and the drums played by them. It is considered one of the oldest styles within the rumba complex, and its performance became rare by the 20th century.
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