Latin Rudiments: Rhythms coming and going
by Fidel Morales
Fidel Morales - Cuban drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, author and educator - has just released his first book Afro-Cuban Techniques for Drum Set & Percussion.
As the author himself explains, "This work is the result of many years devoted to the exploration of this folkloric musical tradition - with its wide variety of genres - combined with the study of classical music, jazz and contemporary music". The goal of this book is to provide drummers and all musicians interested in the study of Afro-Cuban rhythms with the technical elements required to play this style of music. Fundamentals such as clave, patterns, Latin rudiments, interdependence, "3 against 2", and ostinatos are only some of the tools taught in this book.
Master drummer Ignacio Berroa welcomed the release of this book and said that is "a great book for drummers who want to improve their independence skills and get closer to the magical world of Afro-Cuban music". Afro-Cuban Techniques for Drum Set & Percussion contains dozens of advanced practice exercises and solos for musicians to approach this style and improve their drumming skills.
Some things are linked together.
I started studying classical percussion in Cuba with two great masters, Federico Chea and Marcos Valcárcel. From them I learned music reading and percussion rudiments. Afterwards, I studied with Lorenzo Barés, Juan Ramos (RIP) and my dear teacher Roberto Concepción.
While I was going to school I would also seek the wisdom of working musicians such as drummers and percussionists that I admired. I was always surprised when they told me about the music they enjoyed listening to.
Pedrito Vega, played with "Los Yakos" and told me about Shelly Mane; Amadito Valdés was into Walfredo de los Reyes; Guillermo Barreto from "Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna" told me he liked listening to Mel Lewis; José Luis Quinatana "Changuito", who since he was a kid had played "quinto" in "comparsas", told me he liked Steve Gadd; Andrés el Negrón, a conguero who back them played with Isaac Delgado's Orchestra, compiled in a cassette tape all the jazz and fusion drummers he was into. Even Miguel Angá himself recorded a funk tune in the drum set for a renowned TV show.
I remember Papo, the conguero from Nicolás Reynoso's jazz group called "Sonido Contemporáneo". I had the privilege to play in this band. While I was in the group Nicolás told me of Changuito's "mano secreta" (secret hand technique) back when he was playing with maestro Felipe Dulzaides.
Years later, Panamanian Pablito Llanes brought the great Giovanni Hidalgo to a show I was playing with my orchestra "Layé" at cabaret "Inna Nega" located at the Holyday Inn in Panama City. Even though I had studied rudiments back in school I was surprised that all these patterns had names like "drag"', "flam""ratamacue", etc. Just for fun I will tell Giovanni to play a rudiment on a table so I could guess which one was it. We were hanging out and doing this until 4:00 am!
In my opinion people like Giovanni were ahead of the curve. They caused a revolution by incorporating the technical aspects of rudiments and finding ways to make them sound musical and not like mere flashy exercises. I have already mentioned some "congueros" who were adept in this modern approach to express themselves. As a drummer, I felt that all the chops and technique I brought to Afro-Cuban music and the ideas I exported from other cultures sounded like I dragged them by the hair instead of having a natural flow. Because of this I decided to organize my ideas in a way that would benefit me and also have a pedagogical application so I could help other musicians.
To accomplish the goal I previously described I based my study on three elements:
- Rhythmic elements from Afro-Cuban percussion (rhythmic patterns, accents, displacements, etc.)
- The Rudimental tradition of classical percussion (Lawrence Stone, John Pratt, etc.)
- Rhythms and linear rudiments from Funk (Rick Latham, David Garibaldi, etc.)
Combining these elements and orchestrating them around a musical instrument should bring forth modern sound effects and a floating like approach to solos and rhythm in general. I advice you all to play ostinato figures with your feet while playing these suggested exercises. This will be beneficial to further develop coordination and independence, which is essential for drummers, and modern percussionists that employ the use of cowbells, jam blocks and bass drums (kick) among other devices in their set. In addition to these benefits incorporating ostinato figures on the lower limbs can add two more voices to your performance.
I would like to think that this is my humble contribution to my students and those who love Afro-Cuban music.