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The Roots of Timba - Part II - Los Van Van's First Album

cuban music, musica cubanaYou can hear Blas Egües' original approach to songo in our first example, El penoso, the opening track of Los Van Van, Volume I as well as the opening track of their first EP a few months earlier. This album, released late in 1969, combined the 8 tracks already released on EP with 4 additional tracks from compilations: Marilú, Yuya Martínez, Los momis, and La lucha.

1969 Los Van Van - El penoso
(all LVV songs composed by Juan Formell unless otherwise noted)

xx0x 0xxx 0xx0 xxx0
2-3 rumba clave
0xxx xxxx xxxx xxxx kick drum
0xxx 0xx0 x0xx 0x0x

0xxx 0xx0 x0x0 x00x bass tumbao -- MIDI
bass: Juan Formell - drums: Blas Egües
source:
Colección, Vol. I

notes: Immediately we encounter a rhythmic figure that we haven't seen in previous Cuban bass tumbaos, and which was destined to play an essential role in timba.

xx0x 0xxx 0xx0 xxx0 2-3 rumba clave
xxxx xxxx x0xx 0x0x
precursor of important timba kick pattern

It's 20 years too early in our story to justify launching into a timba tangent, but if the reader wishes to plant a seed which will bear considerable fruit in later chapters, mastering the following exercise is highly recommended:

xx0x 0xxx 0xx0 xxx0 clap (2-3 rumba clave)
0xx0 xxxx x0xx 0x0x
sing or tap foot (timba kick drum template)

Don't analyze this pattern too much yet - just learn to execute it and notice that the kick and clave never hit at the same time.

Before leaving El penoso, note that if the lead singer's vocalizations sound familiar, it's because this is Abdel Rasalps, aka Lele, Sr., whose son, Lele, Jr. (source), began his career with Pachito Alonso and Orquesta Revé, later joined Los Van Van in 2001 and is still singing with them as of this writing in 2007. [editor: and still with them in 2014 as well]

1969 Los Van Van - La lucha
xx0x 0xxx 0xx0 xxx0
2-3 rumba clave
0xxx 0xxx 0xxx 0xxx guagua
0xxx xxxx xxxx xxxx kick
xxxx 0xx0 xx0x xxxx
rim of snare
xxxx xxxx xxxx
0x0x toms
xxx0 xxox xxx0 xxox
conga tones
0xxx 0xx0 x0xx 0x0x
0xxx 0xx0 x0xx 0x0x
bass tumbao -- MIDI
bass: Juan Formell - drums: Blas Egües
source:
Colección, Vol. I

notes: For me, La lucha is the best-written song on Los Van Van's debut album, and the only one which can be mentioned in the same breath as the inspired creations of Volume II.

The bass tumbao has the same rhythm as the first half of El penoso, which it repeats twice, using different notes each time. This MIDI track has extra percussion added to review the original pre-Changuito songo groove of founding drummer Blas Egües and conguero El Yulo (Raúl Cárdenas).

1969 Los Van Van - Los momis
xx0x 0xxx 0xx0 xxx0
2-3 rumba clave
0xxx xxxx xxxx xxxx kick
xxxx xxxx xxx0 x0x0
bass pickups
xxx0 x0x0 xxx0 x0x0
bass tumbao -- MIDI
bass: Juan Formell - drums: Blas Egües
source:
Colección, Vol. I

notes: This is another typical up-tempo early songo groove except for the bass tumbao, which doesn't hit the downbeat or the ponche. I've yet to find another example of this unusual bass tumbao rhythm -- Arsenio's Mi china tiene cohimbre is similar, but much slower.

1969 Los Van Van - La bola de humo
xx0x 0xxx 0xx0 xxx0
2-3 rumba clave
0xxx xxxx xxxx xxxx kick
0xxx 0xx0 x0x0 x00x

0xxx 0xx0 x0xx 0x0x
bass tumbao -- MIDI
bass: Juan Formell - drums: Blas Egües
source:
Colección, Vol. I

notes: The rhythm of the bass tumbao of La bola de humo is identical to El penoso except that the first and second phrases are inverted

0xxx 0xx0 x0xx 0x0x
0xxx 0xx0 x0x0 x00x
El penoso -- MIDI

0xxx 0xx0 x0x0 x00x
0xxx 0xx0 x0xx 0x0x
La bola de humo -- MIDI

Note that although the rhythms are the same, the two tumbaos sound drastically different harmonically, the latter having more of a gospel or R&B flavor.

Sunday, 09 March 2014, 06:16 PM