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SpanishEnglishPt. 3 - Song by Song - 1. Tema introducción

Tema introducción
by David Calzado

[click here for full lyrics and analysis of form]
[click here to hear complete song]

Charanguero Mayor bolts out of the starting blocks with "Tema Introducción" -- 75 seconds of riveting Timba played at a blistering clip of 112 beats per minute. At least on the surface, like several songs on this album, this song is part of the entertaining musical "war" of lyrics that raged between Charanga Habanera and Charanga Forever. This was certainly a mock war in many respects, like two boxers dissing each other before a big fight to create publicity, but there was also some real animosity, not so much between the musicians, but between Calzado and his former Charangueros.

This piece seems to be the answer to Charanga Forever's "Somos La Charanga", easily Charanga Forever's best song and one of the best in all of Timba. Here's an excerpt:

somos La Charanga
la mismísima Charanga
la Charanga que tú conoces
la que siempre te sofocó
[audio example 5]

...which translates roughly to:

"We're the (real) Charanga
the same Charanga we always were
the same guys you've always knows as "La Charanga"
the same band that always took your breath away

The original Charanga Habanera definitely did take everyone's breath away, and "Somos La Charanga", like Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed", is that killer track that makes you want to believe the magic can go on "forever", but from the perspective of 2002, it's pretty clear that David Calzado has won the "war" ("la guerra") handily. The original mutineers, while successful individually, have all gone their separate ways. Charanga Forever, which from the start had significant personnel changes at regular intervals, produced an album and a half, some of which is brilliant, but they have yet to make a complete album which measures up to their work with Calzado. The original Charanga Habanera had a Beatlesque majesty -- that intangible vision that has the power to elevate pop music to the level of genius. Calzado scarcely sang or played a note on their four albums, but without his ability to combine a "big picture" concept with a meticulous focus on detail, his former band has managed to produce only one complete masterpiece between them -- González and Lozada's "Tanto Le Pedí". This album, which will have its own article, is the true successor to "Tremendo Delirio", but without the guidance of Calzado, Lozada didn't have the discipline to continue at that level for another disc and González lost interest in him and left. González is now in Italy, Manuel Arranz is in Argentina with Sandier Antes, and Pedro Pablo, Michel Maza, and Dany Lozada each front separate bands. Sombrilla, Vitico and Polledo still have a band called Charanga Forever, but even most of its second generation of musicians have now moved on. Cucurucho is in Van Van, Dariel Tellez is with Paulito, and so on. The band called "Charanga Forever" has had many ups and downs and is still a going concern, but in the meantime Calzado has never missed a beat. His new band has stayed at the very cutting edge of Timba and the 5th and 6th albums, while produced by an entirely different group of musicians, are a powerful and worthy continuation of Calzado's first four Charanga Habanera albums.

But so much for hindsight. When Charanga Forever came out with "Somos La Charanga" in 1998, it presented David Calzado with a formidable challenge and "Tema Introducción" is the opening salvo in his spirited response:

somos La Habanera
la fiebre que anda
somos Charangueros
de cuerpo y de alma

Supporting the lyrics is a such a mesmerizing piece of music that we've devoted an entire article to it: "Conversations in Timba".

The most striking feature is a supremely challenging bloque which is repeated six times. If you've been following along chronologically with this series of articles on Charanga Habanera, you'll have encountered the phenomenon that I refer to as the game of "Where's One?". When I started using that term, I had nagging doubts that this was in fact not a game at all but merely an indication of my own inability to quickly grasp these complex rhythms! These fears were happily alleviated in a recent bit of e-mail correspondence with JC González, who, to my delight, actually admitted that he enjoys creating ambiguous introductions which challenge the listener to find the downbeat. He even went to far as to say that the musicians themselves would frequently be flustered when he first brought in some of his wilder arrangements. "Tema Introducción", however, takes this whole idea to another level. González, like Piloto, the other great "Where's One" master, would start out ambiguously and then settle into a normal groove, but "Tema" starts out right on the money. There's no doubt whatsoever where "one" is until much later when the killer bloque comes out of nowhere. The listener is taken on a rhythmic rollercoaster ride by an extraordinary series of syncopations, combined with the blazing fast tempo and multiple layers of polyphony in the rhythm section.

For more on this tune, we recommend the "Conversations in Timba" article, which, unlike our special clave articles, is short, easy reading, with lots of truly amazing audio examples that should be equally fascinating to non-musicians and others who are not clinically insane.

Charanga Habanera tried various interesting ways of integrating this chart into their fast-paced set, but perhaps the most exciting was the idea merging into it from the end of "Charanguéate", which is in the same key, Emi. Check out the guías that Aned Mota uses to accomplish the change from one song to a next. We apologize for the fade at the end. That's where the tape ended! [audio example 5b].

Tuesday, 20 March 2018, 02:48 AM