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SpanishEnglishStudy - Clave Changes - Clave Changes in Charanga Habanera

III. CLAVE CHANGES IN THE MUSIC OF LA CHARANGA HABANERA — CONCEPTS

For those seeking to learn more about clave, Charanga Habanera makes a wonderful study for two reasons:

1) Especially in their early period they were one of the most adventurous bands in terms of both the complexity and the sheer number of clave changes.

2) Their rhythm section style usually marks the clave very clearly, making it much easier to identify the clave direction at any given point than it is with bands such as Klimax, NG La Banda and Los Van Van.

As a gross generalization, one could say that CH's rhythm section has three main "gears" that it uses frequently:

First Gear: [audio example 17]
Timbalero: clave on the jamblock; cáscara on the side of the timbale
Conguero: standard marcha with variations
Bongocero: bongó

Second Gear: [audio example 18]
Timbalero: clave or a subset of clave on the jamblock; creative parts on bells, kick and snare
Conguero: more creative variations than other gears
Bongocero: campana bell pattern which heavily accentuates the first two notes of the "3" side
note: some or all of the percussionists and/or bass & piano may lay out during these sections

Third Gear: [audio example 19]
Timbalero: clave on the jamblock; variants of contracampana on the bell
Conguero: standard marcha with variations, emphasizing the big drum on "3" side
Bongocero: standard campana pattern which accentuates the "2" side

Additional Considerations: For the mellower cuerpo sections (first gear), CH seems to have a definite preference for 2:3 rumba clave. The more intense coro and mambo sections are more evenly divided but in the earlier recordings, there's a preference for 3:2 rumba, which is one explanation for the larger number of clave changes on those records. To further complicate matters, CH was one of the first Timba groups to use the arranging idea of beginning a song with a preview of one of the coro sections before dropping the energy down and segueing into what would normally be the beginning of the chart. Thus, in many cases, there had to one clave change to get into the cuerpo and another to get out, and on occasion there are additional changes when two coro sections are in different claves.

Finally, Charanga Habanera uses only rumba clave, as opposed to groups like Issac Delgado and Los Van Van who also make use of son clave. For future reference, also note that these groups will sometimes switch between son and rumba clave freely.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011, 03:31 AM