|Other names||Tres, tres cubano|
|Developed||19th century in eastern Cuba|
|Bandola, bandurria, laúd, Spanish guitar, tiple, cuatro|
The tres (Spanish for three) is a three-course chordophone of Cuban origin. The most widespread variety of the instrument is the original Cuban tres with six strings. Its sound has become a defining characteristic of the Cuban son and it is commonly played in a variety of Afro-Cuban genres. In the 1930s, the instrument was adapted into the Puerto Rican tres, which has nine strings and a body similar to that of the cuatro.
The tres developed in the second half of the 19th century in the eastern region of Guantánamo, where it was used to play changüí, a precursor of son cubano.Its exact origins are not known, but it is assumed to have developed from the 19th century Spanish guitar, which it resembles in shape, as well as the laúd and bandola, two instruments used in punto cubano since at least the 18th century. Tres playing revolves around the guajeo , an ostinato pattern found in many Afro-Cuban music styles. Tres players are commonly known as treseros (in Cuba) or tresistas (in Puerto Rico).
By most accounts, the tres was first used in several related Afro-Cuban musical genres originating in eastern Cuba: the nengón, kiribá, changüí and son, all of which developed during the 19th century. Benjamin Lapidus states: "The tres holds a position of great importance not only in changüí, but in the musical culture of Cuba as a whole."One theory holds that initially, a guitar, tiple or bandola, was used in the son. They were eventually replaced by a new native-born instrument, a fusion of all three, called the tres. Helio Orovio writes that, in 1892, Nené Manfugás brought the tres from Baracoa, its place of origin, to Santiago de Cuba. According to Sindo Garay, the tres itself originated in Baracoa. In 1927, Eduardo Sánchez de Fuentes mentioned Nené Manfugás as the first tres player from Santiago de Cuba. However, he described the tres as having originated in "time immemorial" among Afro-Cubans, while bearing a strong resemblance to the Spanish guitar and the bandurria. According to writer Alejo Carpentier, the tres descended from the bandola (itself a derivative of the Spanish bandurria), which lost two courses over time. According to journalist Lino Dou, the tres was virtually unknown in western Cuba until 1895, when it was bought from Oriente by the mambises . Similarly, Fernando Ortiz stated that the wars between Spain and Cuba (Ten Years' War and Cuban War of Independence) gave rise to the differentiation between the Spanish guitar and the Cuban tres, the latter becoming a symbol of the creole nation. Ortiz asserted that the tres most likely originated during pre-colonial Cuba, before gaining widespread popularity in the late 19th century. The origins of the tres and other Cuban instruments are discussed in depth by Ortiz in his seminal work Los instrumentos de la música afrocubana, published between 1952 and 1955.
As the son cubano grew in popularity in the 1920s, so did the tres. By the 1930s, there were several rising stars of the tres, including Eliseo Silveira, Carlos Godínez, Arsenio Rodríguez and Niño Rivera.In the 1950s, Arsenio left Cuba and his sound was continued by Ramón Cisneros "Liviano" and Arturo Harvey "Alambre Dulce" in the Conjunto Chappottín. Other important treseros of the 1950s such as Senén Suárez and Juanito Márquez began making recordings with electric treses. In the United States, the tres was sometimes featured in salsa ensembles, especially in the 1970s, when players such as Nelson González, Charlie Rodríguez and Harry Viggiano made numerous recordings for Fania Records. Traditional tres playing has been promoted in Cuba since the first recordings by Grupo Changüí de Guantánamo in the 1980s, featuring Chito Latamblé, as well as the albums by Isaac Oviedo and his son Papi Oviedo. In 2010, tresero Pancho Amat won the highest accolade awarded to musicians in Cuba, the Premio Nacional de Música.
The Cuban tres is significantly smaller than the Spanish guitar, with a scale length between 48 centimetres (19 in) and 65 centimetres (26 in). It has three courses (groups) of two strings each for a total of six strings. From the low pitch to the highest, the principal tuning is in one of two variants in C Major, either: G4 G3, C4 C4, E4 E4 (top course in unisons), or more traditionally: G4 G3, C4 C4, E3 E4 (top course in octaves). Note that when the octave tuning is used, the order of the octaves in the first course is the reverse of the order in the third course (low-high versus high-low). Today many treseros tune the whole instrument a step higher (in D major): A4 A3, D4 D4, F#4 F#4 or A4 A3, D4 D4, F#3 F#4.
A musician who plays the Cuban tres is called a tresero, although the term tresista has also been used in Cuba in the past.There are variants of the instrument in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Cuban trova singer, songwriter and guitarist Compay Segundo invented a variant of the tres and the Spanish guitar known as armónico. Eliades Ochoa plays another variant he calls the guitarra tres, which is a Spanish guitar with two extra strings tuned like a tres.
The typical tres ostinato is the guajeo. It emerged in Cuba in the 19th century in the musical genres nengón, kiribá, changüí, and son.The tres playing technique of changüí, and to a lesser extent nengón, has influenced contemporary son musicians, most notably pianist Lilí Martínez and tresero Pancho Amat, both of whom learned the style from Chito Latamblé. Both nengón and kiribá are included in the repertoire of changüí ensembles. For example, the debut album of Grupo Changüí de Guantánamo opens with "Nengón".
Benjamin Lapidus presents evidence of the "linear view of the son's development from nengón to kiribá and other regional styles, to changüí, and ultimately to son."The nengón has a limited harmonic range, where the tonic and dominant are accentuated, and the tres is usually placed in the traditional octave tuning (G4 G3, C4 C4, E3 E4). As a genre, nengón consists of variations of a single song, "Para ti nengón". The following nengón guajeo is an embellishment of the rhythmic figure known as tresillo.
Closely related to nengón, the kiribá style emerged in the Baracoa region of eastern Cuba.Like nengón, kiribá is genre that is based on the song or refrain "Kiribá, kiribá". Because of this, Cuban musicologists such as Olavo Alén Rodríguez prefer to categorise kiribá as a style within changüí. Nonetheless, kiribá has a distinct guajeo and might predate changüí.
When playing changüí, the tres is again usually given the traditional octave tuning. The following changüí tres guajeo consists of all offbeats.
According to Kevin Moore "there are two types of pure son tres guajeos: generic and song-specific. Song-specific guajeos are usually based on the song's melody, while the generic type involves simply arpeggiating triads."The rhythmic pattern of the following "generic" guajeo is used in many songs. Note that the first measure consists of all offbeats. The figure can begin in the first measure, or the second measure, depending upon the structure of the song.
Tres solos were first constructed by grouping guajeo variations together, a melodic/rhythmic approach relying on subtle variation and repetition, that maintains a "groove" for dancers. According to Lapidus, tres solos in changüí typically sound "melodic/rhythmic ideas twice before moving on. This technique allows the soloist to set up a series of expectations for the listener, which are alternately satisfied, circumvented, frustrated, or inverted. The practice has its analogue in what Paul Berliner labels 'a community of ideas,' as motives from these sequences are frequently returned to throughout the course of any given solo."
By the mid twentieth century, tres solos began incorporating the rhythmic "vocabulary" of quinto, the lead drum of rumba.The counter-metric emphasis of quinto-based phrases break free from the confines of the guajeo, which is normally "locked" to the clave cycle. Thus, quinto-based solos are capable of creating long cycles of tension—release spanning many measures.
The Puerto Rican tres is an adaptation of Cuban tres with nine strings instead of six. Although nine-string treses are documented in Cuba since at least 1913,investigators agree that the creation of the instrument was probably caused by the 1929 visit of Isaac Oviedo to Puerto Rico during a tour by the Septeto Matancero. Inspired by Oviedo, guitarist Guillero "Piliche" Ayala ordered the construction of a similar instrument for which the body of a cuatro was used. As a result, the Puerto Rican tres is shaped like a Puerto Rican cuatro, with cut-outs, unlike the Cuban variety, which has a guitar-like shape. By 1934, the Puerto Rican cuatro had reached New York and nowadays most Puerto Rican tres players specialize in their national adaptation of the instrument, a notable exception being Nelson González. The Puerto Rican tres has nine strings in three courses and is tuned G4 G3 G4, C4 C4 C4, E4 E3 E4. Players of the Puerto Rican tres are called tresistas.
The following are some of the most influential performers of the Cuban tres.
Notable performers of the Puerto Rican tres include:
Salsa music is a popular dance music genre that initially arose in New York City during the 1960s. Salsa is the product of various Cuban musical genres including the Afro-Cuban son montuno, guaracha, cha cha chá, mambo, and Puerto Rican plena and bomba. Latin jazz has had a significant influence on salsa arrangers, piano guajeos, and instrumental soloists.
The music of Cuba, including its instruments, performance and dance, comprises a large set of unique traditions influenced mostly by west African and European music. Due to the syncretic nature of most of its genres, Cuban music is often considered one of the richest and most influential regional musics of the world. For instance, the son cubano merges an adapted Spanish guitar (tres), melody, harmony, and lyrical traditions with Afro-Cuban percussion and rhythms. Almost nothing remains of the original native traditions, since the native population was exterminated in the 16th century.
Son montuno is a subgenre of son cubano developed by Arsenio Rodríguez in the 1940s. Although son montuno had previously referred to the sones played in the mountains of eastern Cuba, Arsenio repurposed the term to denote a highly sophisticated approach to the genre in which the montuno section contained complex horn arrangements. He also incorporated piano solos and often subverted the structure of songs by starting with the montuno in a cyclic fashion. For his approach, Arsenio had to expand the existing septeto ensemble into the conjunto format which became the norm in the 1940s alongside big bands. Arsenio's developments eventually served as the template for the development of genres such as salsa, songo and timba.
Changüí is a style of Cuban music which originated in the early 19th century in the eastern region of Guantánamo Province, specifically Baracoa. It arose in the sugar cane refineries and in the rural communities populated by slaves. Changüí combines the structure and elements of Spain's canción and the Spanish guitar with African rhythms and percussion instruments of Bantu origin. Changüí is considered a predecessor of son montuno, which has enjoyed tremendous popularity in Cuba throughout the 20th century.
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.
Son cubano is a genre of music and dance that originated in the highlands of eastern Cuba during the late 19th century. It is a syncretic genre that blends elements of Spanish and African origin. Among its fundamental Hispanic components are the vocal style, lyrical metre and the primacy of the tres, derived from the Spanish guitar. On the other hand, its characteristic clave rhythm, call and response structure and percussion section are all rooted in traditions of Bantu origin.
Afro-Cuban jazz is the earliest form of Latin jazz. It mixes Afro-Cuban clave-based rhythms with jazz harmonies and techniques of improvisation. Afro-Cuban jazz emerged in the early 1940s with the Cuban musicians Mario Bauzá and Frank Grillo "Machito" in the band Machito and his Afro-Cubans in New York City. In 1947, the collaborations of bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and percussionist Chano Pozo brought Afro-Cuban rhythms and instruments, such as the tumbadora and the bongo, into the East Coast jazz scene. Early combinations of jazz with Cuban music, such as "Manteca" and "Mangó Mangüé", were commonly referred to as "Cubop" for Cuban bebop.
A descarga is an improvised jam session consisting of variations on Cuban music themes, primarily son montuno, but also guajira, bolero, guaracha and rumba. The genre is strongly influenced by jazz and it was developed in Havana during the 1950s. Important figures in the emergence of the genre were Cachao, Julio Gutiérrez, Bebo Valdés, Peruchín and Niño Rivera in Cuba, and Tito Puente, Machito and Mario Bauzá in New York. Originally, descargas were promoted by record companies such as Panart, Maype and Gema under the label Cuban jam sessions. From the 1960s, the descarga format was usually adapted by large salsa ensembles, most notably the Fania All-Stars.
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.
Irakere is a Cuban band founded by pianist Chucho Valdés in 1973. They won the Grammy Award for Best Latin Recording in 1980 with their album Irakere. Irakere was a seminal musical laboratory, where historic innovations in both Afro-Cuban jazz and Cuban popular dance music were created. The group used a wide array of percussion instruments like batá, abakuá and arará drums, chequerés, erikundis, maracas, claves, cencerros, bongó, tumbadoras (congas), and güiro.
The cuatro is a family of Latin American string instruments played in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and other Latin American countries. It is derived from the Spanish guitar. Although some have viola-like shapes, most cuatros resemble a small to mid-sized classical guitar. In Puerto Rico and Venezuela, the cuatro is an ensemble instrument for secular and religious music, and is played at parties and traditional gatherings.
Cuban folk music includes a variety of traditional folk music of Cuba, and has been influenced by the Spanish and the African culture as well as the remaining indigenous population of the Caribbean.
Tropical music is a category used in the music industry to denote Latin music from the Caribbean. It encompasses music from the Spanish-speaking islands and coasts of the Caribbean, as well as genres rooted in this region such as salsa.
The guayo or ralladera is a metal scraper used as a percussion instrument in traditional styles of Cuban music such as changüí, predecessor of son cubano. Largely replaced by the güiro during the 20th century, the guayo is now rare. In the Dominican Republic, the güira, a similar metal scraper used in merengue, is sometimes called guayo. In contrast to Cuba, güiras replaced güiros in the early 20th century.
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.
Luis Martínez Griñán, better known as Lilí Martínez, was a Cuban pianist, arranger and composer specializing in the son montuno style. He played in the Conjunto de Arsenio Rodríguez and Conjunto Chappottín. Together with Rubén González and Peruchín, he is said to have "forged the style of modem Cuban piano playing in the 1940s".
Reyes Latamblet Veranes, better known as Chito Latamblé, was a Cuban tres player who specialized in the changüí genre of eastern Cuba. He is considered one of the most influential treseros, as well as a key exponent and promoter of the changüí in Cuba. From 1945, Latamblé co-directed with his brother the Grupo Changüí de Guantánamo, which featured the most "historically important" exponents of the genre.
Isaac Oviedo was a Cuban tres player, singer and songwriter. He was the founder and leader of the Septeto Matancero for over 50 years, and the author of many famous sones such as "Engancha carretero". Throughout his long career Oviedo only recorded a handful of sessions, mostly for American record labels. He has been called "one of the greatest Cuban tres players" by other musicians such as Efraín Ríos and Pancho Amat. According to the latter, Oviedo was the pioneering and most influential tresero of the septeto format. His technical innovations include the alzapúa thumb stroke and the use of the pinky finger.
Estrellas de Chocolate is a Cuban son conjunto founded by conguero Félix "Chocolate" Alfonso in 1959. Its original lineup featured Niño Rivera (tres), Agustín Cabrera, David Palomares (piano), Armando Albertini "El Gorila" (trumpet), "Chino" León Lahera, Arístides Valmaseda, Filiberto Hernández (vocals), Sergio de Cuba and Pichi (bongo). Albertini and Palomares directed the band, while Rivera was responsible for the arrangements.