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Study - Timba Gears "Reelin' in the Gears"

cuban music, musica cubana
photography: Curtis Lanoue & AmeriSalsa
for further reading, see: The Tomás Cruz Conga Method, Vol. III


Perhaps the most striking difference between Timba and its predecessors is the way the rhythm section keeps changing gears. Some complain that this makes it harder to dance, but those who learn to change their moves along with the band quickly become addicted and find it impossible to return to the monotony of "ballroom" salsa dancing. It's the same story with musicians.

Each of the major Timba bands has a drastically different sound -- it would be impossible to mistake El Médico for Los Van Van, La Charanga for El Trabuco or Issac for Paulito. There are obvious differences in the harmonies, the lyrics, and the instrumentation, but the differences also have a lot to do with the rhythmic gear changes. All Timba bands use gear changes, but the gears, and the way they're used, differ almost completely from band to band.

The only way to get a grip on this complex concept is to take each band separately, and then go back and look for similarities. We may as well start with what many consider to be the greatest Timba rhythm section -- the 1998 incarnation of Paulito FG y su Élite:

cuban music, musica cubana
drums & timbales: Yoel Páez

cuban music, musica cubana
congas: Tomasito Cruz

cuban music, musica cubana
bongó and campana: Luis Chacón "Coqui"

cuban music, musica cubana
bass: Joel Domínguez

cuban music, musica cubana
piano: Sergio Noroña (1997)
piano: Pepe Rivero (2-98 to 4-98)
piano: Yaniel Matos "El Majá" (5-98 to 12-98)

cuban music, musica cubana
arranger: Juan Ceruto

cuban music, musica cubana
composer and field general: Paulito FG

This is the group which recorded the classic album "Con la conciencia tranquila" in mid-1997, but it wasn't until the live performances of 1998 that their gear concept evolved into the most flexible, sophisticated, and electrifying in Timba history.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011, 01:00 PM