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Cuban Conga Cumbia and Pilon History And Development Drummers Guide

The instrumentation of Cuban Conga rhythm differs depending on whether it's for the Conga Habanera (from Havana) or the Conga Oriental (from Santiago de Cuba, in Oriente Province). Conga Habanera utilizes the requinto, quinto, and conga drums, various sized bass drums, cowbells, snare drums, trumpets, and frying pans. The Conga Oriental replaces the frying pans with brake drums while also employing the hoe blade, and replaces the traditional trumpet with a corneta china or trompeta china (Chinese coronet or Chinese trumpet).

The Conga Habanera features sounds more often found in city life, whereas the Conga Oriental retains a rustic musical character. just as the Mozambique is adapted for the drum set from several instruments, the Cuban Conga rhythm for the drum set attempts to encapsulate the rhythms played by many percussionists into the playing of a single individual. Though the rhythmic patterns in the Conga are more numerous than one person can actually play, the following grooves include its most prominent features, capturing its overall feel. The Conga pattern is played at the very brisk tempo of quarter note = 216-264 beats per minute. The Cumbia dates back to the early 1800s and is from the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

Its roots can be traced to Gaitero music folkloric music played on two flutes (indigenous flutes made out of cactus wood), maracas, African hand drums, and other instruments. Similar in evolution to other Afro Cuban genres, Cumbia developed through the mixing of African slaves and their descendants with local tribes and settlers in the new world. Rhythmically, Cumbia is characterized by a constant pattern on a high drum, wood block, or bell fused with intricate rhythms in the maracas and other hand drums. Over the years, lyrics were added to Cumbia song arrangements, and eventually orchestral and electronic instruments were added. Today, Cumbia is popular throughout North, Central, and South America, and is frequently included in the repertoire of Afro Cuban ensembles.

The typical Cumbia drum set pattern is characterized by a steady rhythm made up of a quarter note followed by two repeated eighth notes, along with a strong back beat from the snare drum, and a repetitive bass drum pattern usually matching the rhythm of the bass player. Typically, the hi hat foot accompaniment doubles the snare drum back beat. There is no clave rhythm in the Cumbia style. The tempo is quick with a double time feel at quarter note = 160-252 beats per minute. Pilon was pioneered in the 1970s in the eastern part of Cuba, most notably by the group Los Bocucos. Its steady rhythm is influenced by the sound of workers pounding coffee beans.

Much like the Mambo or the Guaguanco, this two measure Afro Cuban pattern has both a signature conga pattern and also a signature timbale melody. When adapted to the drum set, the snare hand commonly plays the timbale pattern while the feet and ride hand play repetitive patterns. The drum set pattern itself has similarities to Cumbia, though the roots of the two styles are not related. The pattern is based on a 2-3 son clave rhythm (not usually played by a drum set player).

The tempo is quarter note = 172-224 beats per minute.

By Eric Starg. Eric is using Remo drum heads on all of his Used Drums, including his Bongo Drums and Conga Drums. Eric is a member of Drum Solo Artist where he is answering drum related questions, and helping drummers with tips and advices.


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