I’ve been away from Cuba for 2 weeks now and all I want to do is go back. So to fuel that, here is what I did on my trip! I can’t give details of patterns etc. as it was all very new to me too, therefore, some sit-down and transcribe time is needed.
Being in my final year with exams literally around the corner, means that for now, I’ll have to postpone until I’ve got some chill time.
So, my first stop was in Centro Habana. Throughout the whole trip, we were learning about Afro-Cuban Folkoric Music i.e. traditional rumba such as Guiro, Bata rumba, columbia, guaguancó etc.
Here we learnt songs for a cajon ceremony, in order to learn these lyrics, you need to get them from somebody who understands the language. Sounds silly, but the words aren’t pure Spanish – due to the slave trade and the migration of African slaves, songs/language were the beginnings of influencing one another and thus people took parts of other languages that meant something in relation to the religion.
We also learned Guiro. Another fascinating rumba, the pure essence of drive and passion is immense. The main drivers (in my opinion) other than the Clavé, I get a real buzz from the Shekere and the hoe blade. The sharpness of these instruments locks everybody in, allowing others on, for example the conga drums, especially the Tumba (main solo instrument).
From here we travelled to Matanzas – a completely different vibe from Havana. Definitely less crazy (a little bit of craziness) and with that a notable difference in sound. The music of Havana is fast paced – Matanzas is more relaxed allowing space to here the melodies between the drums. We did Rumba Columbia <– can you hear the music?!
Then Cienfuegos – where we based as we went to Trinidad and Palmira. Trinidad is a B-E-A-UTIFUL place. As the group would say ‘Tranquillo!’ 😀 Trindad is pure Cuban music, with no outside influences. This is because they wanted to keep the music theirs, a part of the heritage and music they’ve developed. The drums used, were very similar to that of congas (see photo below) and the music sounds very different indeed! Likewise, Palmira also used different drums and there was no holding back. The main drum used as a message, could be heard up to 1 mile away and we could definitely hear that in a relatively small room!!
Finally, Havana. Last stop of classes, learning about Rumba Fransisco (again completely new) and all I have to say is it was a great way to end. All of the above can all be researched (be careful of the resources, there is lots of it and therefore it can get confusing)
The best way to learn, it to go to the country, go on a course in the country or where you’re based. Feel free to contact me if you’d want to know where you can get inside the world of Cuba!
Learning all of these new forms of rumba was an amazing experience. Now with enough contacts, I will be going back again and again and again. But first, it’s time to explore the next stop in the 1-2 year working ‘year out’ i.e. building a name for myself and travelling to Brazil, Africa (Senegal/Dakar) and India.
Next week, I’ll talk about the differences between a Conservatoire and University and what it’s like to be in the final year/prospect of leaving as a self-employed musician! Enjoy the photos! Hope you have enjoyed and gained some insight into my world.