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Spiro and Diaz, Conga Drum Lessons

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Founding Teacher Michaei Spiro and Jesus Diaz present the most through compilation of Afro-Cuban videos on the web.

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Learn to Play Timba

“Timba” is simply a name that has dev eloped to describe the contemporary style of dance music from Cuba. Although it of course has many modern elements, including electric keyboards, the drumset, synthesizers, drum loops, and so forth, it is basically just the latest iteration of “la musica popular”. To me, it is the child of salsa and songo, and differs dramatically from earlier/other styles of Cuban dance music in that the bass and piano parts are significantly more sophisticated and complex. From a percussion standpoint, it is really the dev elopment and integration of the drumset that to me characterizes timba. Young Cuban drumset players have taken Changuito’s original ideas from the songo era, and developed their own stylistic identities (this includes Samuel Formell, who replaced Changuito in Los Van Van). But the conga drum style has not changed that much. Certainly each player comes up with his own unique “movimientos”, but as a basic rule, the congueros are still playing tumbao,. The difference is that they integrate many more slaps into the basic pattern, which gives the music more drive and attack, and makes it feel very different than the tumbao of a straight ahead salsa band.

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Learn to Play Pilon

The pilon was the creation of Pacho Alonso in the 1960s, and is also a dance form with the same name, where the dancers imitate pounding sugar cane in a “pilon”, or large mortar. Alonso originally sang with Beny More in the 1950s, but then went on to have several hits under his own name that were based on this rhythm, as did his band that continued on without him, Los Bocucos.

The pilon has a unique conga drum part, as well as a timbale part where the bass drum is an integral part of the rhythm. Along with the guiro, a strong signature sound is created between the percussion parts to enable the dancers to imitate the pounding of the sugar cane.

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Learn to Play Mozambique

Although Eddie Palmieri and his New York band of the 1960s, “La Perfecta” (featuring percussionists Manny Oquendo and Tommy Lopez) played a rhythm they called “El Mozambique”, the original Mozambique was created by a Cuban musician named Pello “El Afrokan”. He invented this rhythm in the early 1960s primarily as an addition to the music of Carnaval in La Habana, and literally took it to the streets. It is the only Cuban rhythm I know of where the parts are duplicated by more than one player, and his group consisted of a large number of percussionists where many people played the same part. This is very different than a “conga de comparsa” for example, where there is one player per part, and much more like a Brazilian bateria playing samba batucada, where all the parts are duplicated. Pello eventually added bass and keyboard to the percussion, brass and vocals, and the Mozambique became synonomous with his name in Cuba.

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Learn to Play Songo

The songo is a set of rhythms created by Jose Luis Quintana (Changuito) in the 1970s and 80s to accompany the songs written by Juan Formell and the great piano player Cesar Pedroso (Pupi) in the internationally renowned Cuban dance group Los Van Van. The style originated with Van Van’s original drummer Blas Egues, but was quickly transformed by Changuito into an international recognized percussive style. It incorporated the drum set into Cuban music, as well as of course the congas and timbales, and was a brilliant modern approach often imitated but uniquely Changuito’s.

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We feature over 250 videos that cover ALL aspects of Afro-Cuban Drumming. Exercises, Salsa Tumbao, Guaguanco, Guarapachangueo, Bantu...

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