Inside the conga

Everywhere on earth music flows from the human voice and the drum.

In Cuba, with its long and direct connections to Central Africa’s incomparable polyrhythmic virtuosity, the drums take on an especially prominent role.

The bass, the piano, even the horns have at their aesthetic root the sophisticated sounds and rhythms produced by Cuba’s percussionists.

Contrast this with northern music (Europe and North America), where drummers, percussionists, and even the issue of rhythm itself tends to be shunted to the back of the bandstand.

As a result of this hierarchical skewing, the details of drumming appear far off the radar for the person trained with a northern ear, if in fact they make it onto the radar screen at all.

Your appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of Cuban music will grow massively as you learn what the congueros (conga players) are doing and how they produce their magical sounds.

In this video two masters talk shop.

Dig in.

If you love music, I can guarantee that watching and re-watching this video will change your ear for the better and produce a lifetime of enjoyment that will surprise and delight you.

Note: The conversation is in Spanish. Reading the well produced subtitles makes for an excellent and enjoyable Spanish lesson.

Background

This masterpiece of educational video, “Evolution of the Tumbadoras”, was produced in 1996 in New York City by a company called DCI Music Videos.

The two percussionists are Changuito (José Luis Quintana) and Giovanni Hidalgo.

Changuito was born on January 18, 1948 in the Casablanca district of Havana.

By 8 he was already playing professionally at the legendary Tropical with his musician father in the thriving Cuban music scene of the 1950s.

In 1970, he joined the Cuban super group Los Van Van. Among many other accomplishments (including three Grammys) he’s known for popularizing the “songo” genre, the forerunner of the “timba” form.

Grammy award winning Giovanni Hidalgo was born on November 22, 1963 in San Juan Puerto Rico to a musical family. His father José Manuel Hidalgo “Mañengue” was also a renowned conga player.

In 1981 he traveled to Cuba as a member the Batacumbele Band where he met Changuito and 15 years later the fruit of that relationship was captured by this video.

MORE: Highlights reel – Just instruction, no conversation

– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube

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