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SpanishEnglishClave Changes Track by Track - Me sube la fiebre

IV. CLAVE CHANGES IN THE MUSIC OF LA CHARANGA HABANERA - TRACK BY TRACK

So much for theory -- let's get down to the incredible arrangements which make the study of clave worthwhile.

1992 Love Fever

1) "Me Sube la Fiebre" starts in 3:2 by borrowing the second coro from later in the arrangement. Note the campana bell in the right side of the mix heavily marking the three side ("second gear"). The timbalero is playing clave on the jamblock (he starts on the "2" side because of the a capella vocal entrance, but the phrasing of the singing and horns clearly makes this 3:2 clave).[audio example 18]

At 0:24 the clave changes to 2:3, "New York" style. To confirm this, simply listen to the jamblock and clap along until the entrance of the horn section. [audio example 20]. Note that you are still in sync with the jamblock when it comes back in. Now we're in first gear. The campana has been replaced by the bongó. The congas occasionally use the big drum, but for the most part aren't clearly marking the clave. The cáscara is very hard to hear because it's masked by both the maracas (left channel) and güiro (right channel). There is probably cáscara, but it's very low in the mix. If Lazaga weren't playing 2:3 clave on the jamblock we'd have only the construction of the melody and horns to determine the clave. In a lot of Timba and most Salsa, there is not only no one playing clave, but the timbale plays a clave-neutral maraca-like cáscara pattern. In such cases one could almost argue that the music is not in clave at all...almost...but not so in the in the case of CH, the clave is always strongly present.

At 2:34 we come to the first coro. We stay in 2:3 clave but switch to third gear. Note that the bongó is replaced by the standard campana bell pattern at 2:40. The mix of "Love Fever" makes it relatively easy to hear the closed tones of the campana accenting the "2" side in the right channel. The big conga is now marking the "3" side. The timbale bell is playing variants of contracampana. The piano even plays the standard pattern once at at 2:55! Before leaving this section, check out the bloque that comes behind the first guía at 2:38. This has nothing to do with clave, but adding bloques after a section has begun is a very important feature of Timba and this is an important early example of it. (In most salsa, bloques are used to divide sections; Timba additionally uses them to add fire to a section which has already begun).

At 3:37 we come to the second coro, the one which was used at the very beginning of the track. This means we have to go back to 3:2 clave, but this time the change is done "Clave License" style. [audio example 21]. Start from the previous section and clap 2:3 clave stubbornly until you hear the campana contradicting you at 3:38. At some point, the musicians simply agreed to start the clave over. The exact point is subjective, but we'd say it comes at 3:36. Try clapping 2:3 and at 3:34, on the "3" side, simply leave off the last note of the "3" side and then start on the "3" side again just before the coro comes in with "Ay me sube". So we would call this a "3:3 Clave License" change because it's the "3" side which gets implied twice in a row. In any case, we're now in 3:2 and in second gear. [Our audio example begins right on "1" of the 2 side. Listen for the loud campana bell.]

At 4:06 there's a nice bloque which doesn't change the clave but does shift us into third gear as evidenced by the campana, contracampana and the big conga.

At 4:34 the coristas jump in and harmonize the guía while the piano plays a downward glissando and suddenly we're back in first gear with the horns playing what they played to lead into the cuerpo. Ending an arrangement by bringing back the opening horn section is a very common traditional salsa device and since we were in 3:2 and the opening material was in 2:3, it requires a clave change, this time the 2:2 Clave License variety. This one is very clear cut - there's no bloque - the guía lasts its usual two bars and then the horns start right in. So the clave change occurs exactly with the first note of the horns at 4:36.

At 4:47 the horns play what sounds very much like a tight ending to the song, but it's a false ending and the second coro comes back. This time, because the final phrase of the horn section takes up half a clave, it's a New York style change. Try clapping 2:3 clave along with the horn outro and keep going right through the ending and note that you are still right when the campana comes back in, now in 3:2 clave, with its "second gear" pattern.

Both of these clave changes can be heard in [audio example 22].

"Me Sube la Fiebre" was re-recorded on the next CD, "Hey You, Loca!" with a similar arrangement and the same pattern of clave changes. This CD was recorded in a more modern studio and has a clearer mix and various changes. The original vocal entrance is now preceeded by a short horn figure. The conga has taken over some of the snare drum figures, freeing up the snare to mark the "2" side. The kick drum is more active. The tempo is faster. The güiro is more pronounced. The campana has moved to the left channel and it's now harder to hear its closed tones even though from a mixing engineer's perspective it's a much better mix. Ironically, to the student of clave, sometimes the most horrible live bootleg mixes are the most revealing because they exaggerate small details which happen to be key "evidence" in determining the clave.

"Me Sube La Fiebre" throws in everything but the kitchen sink, changing clave four times in all three possible styles, but it does so in very clear and unambigous ways, such that after assimilating the descriptions above, the reader is liable to start feeling fairly cocky and conclude that clave might not be so mysterious after all. Indeed, much of Charanga Habanera's material will be self-explanatory once the concepts of "Me Sube" are mastered, but then there are songs like "Extraños Ateos" which will continue to humble and amaze the listener even after many years of study. For this reason, we suggest reading the sections on tracks 3 through 8 first and then returning to track 2!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011, 03:31 AM