learning rumba vs other music

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Re: learning rumba vs other music

Postby rhythmrhyme » Thu Mar 21, 2013 7:31 pm

In the context of Rumba being an art, a way of life and a cultural tradition this thread makes more sense. As the initial quote came from me, it's important that I clarify my respect for the form and the traditions it comes with. Being a newbie to Rumba, I have seen exactly what is being talked about here i.e. people coming in to play it "there way" and not respecting the detail and art of the form. Personally, I can sit on clave for hours and be a happy camper, focusing on the detail of where my strikes land, listening to how it fits in with everyone else, learning and watching how other people improvise etc. The clave chair is a great opportunity to listen and learn - but some people just don't get it! As soon as they play a few minutes they want to "improvise" or some other dumb thing - it's crazy making for me. I think this is what was initially being asked.

I'm glad we got the verbal abuse issue mostly resolved, although I think Jorge may still believe in the old methods and that's cool - it's a free world. I have an inherent respect for all cultures and music and would never balk at being pulled off a drum, or having my clave taken away. So perhaps I would avoid most of the verbal abuse simply by being the respectful laid back cat I am when playing with others. Other folks lead with their ego and not with respect and I expect this could lead to a lot of conflict, especially when religion and spirituality get mixed in.

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Re: learning rumba vs other music

Postby KidCuba » Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:30 pm

I think the best rumberos are hardest among each other. I have seen some pretty harsh words and disrespect between guys who know how to play and know how to play well.

As for new guys, or students, they usually don't the harshest treatment around here. And if they do, well, si no sabes, no te metas.... I think people need to recognize that as well, if you don't play a part well enough to hold it down - a rumba is not practice. Practice at home, practice with your friends, but if you can't hold a part down, don't think its going to happen magically while a rhythm is being played at a blinding speed with complex improvisations happening around you.

People that are not familiar with the cultural aspect of rumba need to be taught that it is not a drum circle, it is structured interplay between percussion, singers, and dancers. They need to be taught there is a definite pecking order and you should respect your elders and those who play better. If I have the opportunity to play a few moments during a rumba and I see someone better than me - I offer them the drum. If I get on clave, or coro - I am happy, because I am still helping making it happen.

And for my final statement, if your going to study rumba, you better be willing to open your mouth and sing some coro. It is disheartening to see soo many students of the percussion ignore the vocal aspect of the music. Sin coro, no hay na'
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Re: learning rumba vs other music

Postby bongosnotbombs » Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:02 pm

KidCuba wrote:
People that are not familiar with the cultural aspect of rumba need to be taught that it is not a drum circle, it is structured interplay between percussion, singers, and dancers. They need to be taught there is a definite pecking order and you should respect your elders and those who play better. If I have the opportunity to play a few moments during a rumba and I see someone better than me - I offer them the drum. If I get on clave, or coro - I am happy, because I am still helping making it happen.


These statements I take some contention with, while I agree they are true, they do not have to be universal. There are lots of players that are better than I am, however I have learnt to play and play well. If it's my turn, I'm going to play, even if Sandy Perez is in the room, which has happened. Everyone that can hold it down deserves a turn at the drum, and to me pecking orders are maintained by those with insecure egos. I have never seen Carlos Aldama, Jesus Diaz or Sandy ever enforce any sort of pecking order, they enjoy hearing others play and will play with anybody that can hold their own.

However, I will give my drum to anyone that asks for it, there is always another chance to play and no one has to ask me twice.

There are some that insist on playing when they can't hold it down. If I'm playing, I usually just get up and walk away from the poor player, usually the other players do as well, the the poor player ends up all alone, a powerful hint. If I'm not playing, I may simply and respectfully ask for a turn at the drum. Or everyone sings aqui entres and it's time for rotation.

And I agree, if you don't sing coro then I don't feel you are really a rumbero at all.
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Re: learning rumba vs other music

Postby 11am » Thu Mar 21, 2013 10:14 pm

I'm new here and i'm always find these conversations interesting. i usually find myself siding with Johnny C's insights cause we're bout the same age. My comment is this. There are 2 philosophy's on playing Congas. One is to be a park Rumbero, and never leave the park, and the other is to play for a living in a musical situation that may be anything from Afro Cuban, to jazz, to R&B/ Soul, to whatever. There's a big difference. In the park Rumba, there's respect and then there's stupidity. for instance, in the park, never take a drum or clave away from somebody that can and will kick your ass. See, that would be stupidity! There can be that element in which case you just walk away, even if the guy playing can't play. Your ears are you best teacher. Listen to the guys that really know how to play, not necessarily the one who wears the coolest hat, and talks the most shit. I've heard more arguments over how to feel the clave than carter got pills. You can get arguments over when to play 3/2, or 2/3 until hell freezes over. In the studio, when Quincy Jones says: OK here we go, 1 2 1234 you better be on that downbeat if you going to pick up your pay check, he's not worried about the clave, you're job is to feel it for him. Learning and knowing all the traditional patterns takes a lot of watching, listening and practice. If you go to a Rumba to practice, you might get embarrassed, if you sit next to players who are in performance mode. That's their stage and they ain't gettin paid for it, so you better be at their level, or just watch. If you go to Rucker Park, in NYC to ball, on a summer night with a crowd cause some pros showed to play, you BETTER know how to play hoop, the Park Rumbas can be the same in that regard. When the best show up, you might just want to watch and listen. In the playing for a living world, you're ability to interpret and play traditional rhythms in time, with feel becomes the bottom line. The ability to play Son and Guaguanco is essential. In pop music you very rarely are called upon to play anything else, maybe a boo ga loo.( Nor do they know or care what the proper name of the rhythm is) In jazz you might get the occasional 6/8. The Great Mongo Santamaria's Afro Blue comes to mind. Most of the Big Band Salsa of the 60-70's was Son, Rumba, and Guaguanco. The respect part is working on knowing your traditional rhythms well, as many here have stated. It takes a long time,( I'm 60 and I'm still learning) but essentially, it all comes down to your ability to feel good. BTW it's a lot easier to play in any type of band and get paid, then it is to be accepted in a serious Park Rumba! Know you're shit, practice and don't worry too much about criticism. One last thing, about learning the hard way. If you are convinced you have rhythm, and 98 % of of the criticism you receive is that you don't play in time, or you are not playing the specific rhythm, properly, or at all, ( free styling) you might want to consider the 98%. Some people cannot play in time, and they absolutely, positively believe that they can but they can't. Some people will take the time to tell you, (or in a Rumba, call you out), but most people won't, they'll just avoid playing with you. Practice is a long road sometimes.
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Re: learning rumba vs other music

Postby KidCuba » Fri Mar 22, 2013 3:02 am

bongosnotbombs wrote:
These statements I take some contention with, while I agree they are true, they do not have to be universal. There are lots of players that are better than I am, however I have learnt to play and play well. If it's my turn, I'm going to play, even if Sandy Perez is in the room, which has happened. Everyone that can hold it down deserves a turn at the drum, and to me pecking orders are maintained by those with insecure egos. I have never seen Carlos Aldama, Jesus Diaz or Sandy ever enforce any sort of pecking order, they enjoy hearing others play and will play with anybody that can hold their own.

However, I will give my drum to anyone that asks for it, there is always another chance to play and no one has to ask me twice.

There are some that insist on playing when they can't hold it down. If I'm playing, I usually just get up and walk away from the poor player, usually the other players do as well, the the poor player ends up all alone, a powerful hint. If I'm not playing, I may simply and respectfully ask for a turn at the drum. Or everyone sings aqui entres and it's time for rotation.

And I agree, if you don't sing coro then I don't feel you are really a rumbero at all.


This is the best thread I have read on here in a while... Thanks to everyone participating.

I need to further clarify my statement... I want to play like everyone else, but if I see somebody that is a true heavy hitter, or can take the rumba to a better place on my part - I offer them the drum. Not because they expect it, but out of my own respect for them and the fact that putting them on a drum can take the rumba to a whole other level. They don't always take it, but I offer it - as a sign of respect.

And we may have to agree to disagree, but I believe each rumba community has a definite pecking order. The better players end up getting more time, due to their skill.

And just as a commercial - the 1st Saturday of every month we still have Rincon Rumbero in Los Angeles. It is a free community rumba. If any of you guys, or you know others who are interest, are in the L.A. area sometime - visit us!
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Re: learning rumba vs other music

Postby Derbeno » Fri Mar 22, 2013 10:56 am

11am wrote: Some people cannot play in time, and they absolutely, positively believe that they can but they can't. Some people will take the time to tell you, (or in a Rumba, call you out), but most people won't, they'll just avoid playing with you. Practice is a long road sometimes.


Interesting observations, I have seen far too many that can rip that quinto to shreds. Amazing stuff that I can only aspire to do when I grow up one day :P

Yet, they positively struggle to hold it together on the Tres-dos or Salidor.
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Re: learning rumba vs other music

Postby Quinto Governor II » Wed Mar 27, 2013 11:06 pm

It seems some people think that to have a love for rumba and to engage in it, it is necessary to except the culture that comes along with it. For me that would be a more valid consideration if I were in Cuban, but I am not, and I don't think it is necessary or practical for me to except modes of behavior that is presented as part of the culture, that are counter to my personality and personal beliefs. Its a totally different context in our learning to play. In Cuba drumming is passed on in the family or even the extended family. In the context of an adult family member being stern, hash, or even physical makes sense. But the same type of behavior between 2 adult outside of that cultural scenario constitutes disrespect IMO. From my perspective rumba has so many styles and ways of playing , that it is not practical to have a hard and fast rule about how it is to be played. So many of the so-called rules that were introduced to me when I first started studying are not adhered to, as I've learned from watching so many videos and listening to recordings over the years. As far as playing what you want, I think it is a matter of common sense in evaluating the group in which you are playing. It should not be hard to determine what type of players you are playing with, and to participate accordingly. At a minimum rumba requires a certain amount of discipline. Drum circle drummers understand this and it is one of the reasons why they don't have an interest in it. If you have a strong enough personally and the skill to match it, you may try to buck the group. If you gain the respect of a key player or 2 you can make your mark and establish your style as one of the excepted ways of playing.
Outside of the obvious states that are known for rumba here in the U.S., can many of us say that we really are playing rumba? For many of us 1 guy playing 2 drum guaguanco, and another soloing on quinto may constitute our rumba. Most of the conga drummers I've meet only know this basic form of playing guaguanco - even non-Cuban Latinos. Most of the Latinos that I have meet - mostly with roots in N.Y. only play this form of guaguanco. Gua-gua is not played, and the coros are usally from salsa songs. They mostly will jam playing salsa or plena, and merengue. These are not pros I'm speaking of, of course - just your average drummer who jams in the park or wherever.
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Re: learning rumba vs other music

Postby pavloconga » Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:43 am

I'm a bit late coming to this conversation as I haven't checked in for a while.

Anyway, just thought I'd relate my experiences of participating in rumbas in Cuba. I studied under Sandalio 'Macho' Crespo Calderon (RIP) and most of the time we played in the casa of Mario 'Chavalonga' Dreke (RIP) in el Barrio de Atare. Chava was kind enough and gracious enough to invite me to his humble home and to allow me to study there over a period of several months with Macho.

For that reason, apart from my studies on the drum with Macho there were many impromptu rumbas (usually columbias or guaguancos) that started up any time of day or night simply because of the amount of people that would drop by and visit Chava. I felt honoured just to be in their company, much less to actually play with them.

Anyway, I did get to play a lot in those situations and sometimes I screwed up, or somebody else did. But guess what? Nobody made a big deal about it. No one got angry. If something wasn't played right it was pointed out or you were told, and you might swap to something you could play correctly or you would sit it out. Sometimes even the Cubans wouldn't get it right.

I never experienced any bad vibes between people while playing in a rumba situation, quite the opposite in fact.

I don’t know how it is in other parts of Cuba but that ’s how it was en la casa de Chava. Just my experience.
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Re: learning rumba vs other music

Postby rhythmrhyme » Mon Apr 22, 2013 1:53 am

AMEN!

That's what I thought, it's certainly my experience playing with African's as well. Life's short, why stress - be happy brother! that's the vib I'd always get.

I think the aggression is a north American thing, perhaps even east coast from what I've read.
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Re: learning rumba vs other music

Postby pavloconga » Mon Apr 22, 2013 4:17 am

rhythmrhyme wrote:AMEN!

That's what I thought, it's certainly my experience playing with African's as well. Life's short, why stress - be happy brother! that's the vib I'd always get.

I think the aggression is a north American thing, perhaps even east coast from what I've read.


Right on brother!
I suspected that may be the case about it being a north American thing.

The other thing was, in Cuba not only was there no bad vibes in rumbas, but instead I got a lot of positive encouragement in those situations. I think their main motivation in a rumba is to create beautiful music and keep the tradition strong.
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Re: learning rumba vs other music

Postby Quinto Governor II » Tue Apr 23, 2013 7:12 am

pavloconga wrote:I'm a bit late coming to this conversation as I haven't checked in for a while.

Anyway, just thought I'd relate my experiences of participating in rumbas in Cuba. I studied under Sandalio 'Macho' Crespo Calderon (RIP) and most of the time we played in the casa of Mario 'Chavalonga' Dreke (RIP) in el Barrio de Atare. Chava was kind enough and gracious enough to invite me to his humble home and to allow me to study there over a period of several months with Macho.

For that reason, apart from my studies on the drum with Macho there were many impromptu rumbas (usually columbias or guaguancos) that started up any time of day or night simply because of the amount of people that would drop by and visit Chava. I felt honoured just to be in their company, much less to actually play with them.

Anyway, I did get to play a lot in those situations and sometimes I screwed up, or somebody else did. But guess what? Nobody made a big deal about it. No one got angry. If something wasn't played right it was pointed out or you were told, and you might swap to something you could play correctly or you would sit it out. Sometimes even the Cubans wouldn't get it right.

I never experienced any bad vibes between people while playing in a rumba situation, quite the opposite in fact.

I don’t know how it is in other parts of Cuba but that ’s how it was en la casa de Chava. Just my experience.



QG wrote:

I would guess that most of the the stern or harsh discipline spoken of takes place during practice sessions and not during the actual rumba. The rumba is a party and who wants to that type of vibe at a party? Your experience seems to support this.
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Re: learning rumba vs other music

Postby onile » Tue Apr 23, 2013 12:19 pm

Alafia Abures Mi!
I hope that you are all well and abundantly blessed!

I totally love reading about the various experiences with Rumba, and Cuban drummers (or rather traditionalists) who have yelled, or screamed at them on a "live" "on the spot" situation. No one enjoys that type of experience I'm sure, no matter what the situation, unfortunately it's happened, and may continue in some circles/communities.

My personal experience back in the 80's with the Marielitos was a bit humbling as well. An interesting observation for me was that, while the collection of self taught drummers in the local park were used to bringing and playing two, or three drums and jamming (tonal overload of course in some situations), the "new" arrivals at that time began to take the drums away, and make assignments. This I found extremely interesting, because most everyone was used to "playing the same rhythm as was another player, however on a differently tuned set of drums, not quite poly-rhythmic, but as in most cases annoying none the less. I was confronted by one Cuban player, who took away my tumbadora, and everyone was just silent and observing, he demonstrated the pattern he wanted me to play on tres-dos, very patient, polite, and informative! My initial thought was, "why doesn't he just play it, and I can just observe it from the sideline till I can pick it up?" (feeling a bit embarrassed that I might "screw it up). Nope, he played clave, and began his "Dianna" and off we were! More talent than I had ever been exposed to at the time! What I saw was that this "new" group of musicians that had arrived, were talented enough to play all the parts, however weren't selfish, or necessarily insulting (there were a couple of guys that they didn't allow on the drum, and we all understood why).

I can imagine that some were perceived as rude, or intrusive for having taken away a drum or two for the sake of "organizing" a cohesive sounding rumba, with song, dance, and drumming! Another interesting observation was that, they did not include the bell pattern we had constantly listened to out in the park. The "bongo pattern" that was usually applied by who ever brought it was not heard as frequent, or at all in some situations. Very little heiro, more clave than bell!

I respect, and appreciate how some of us "self-taught" drummers came to where we are today, obtaining our skill levels "de la calle" and learning from the new technology (internet). A lot of credit is owed to these on the spot situations however, because they are forever ingrained into who we are today, and how we apply our craft in certain situations. I for one feel blessed to have come up the way I did, and met the drummers I have along my musical trajectory. I am blessed!
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Re: learning rumba vs other music

Postby bengon » Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:49 pm

Coño! Mira al Tonito Jovencito!
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Re: learning rumba vs other music

Postby pcastag » Tue Apr 23, 2013 4:05 pm

Everyone learns differenltly , but in almost any musical tradition "cutting" is inevitably involved, whther it's your harsh disciplinarian clasical piano teacher , or getting yelled at in a street environment, or getting cut on the jazz jam. It happens, it's always happened, and it will continue to happen. Music is a very competitive occupation, people undercut each other, steal gigs , cap on other people's playing, hey just like the real world! if you don't have the stomach for it then you can always play for personal enjoyment or with your friends. Not much of a street scene here in Houston, and of course each city has it's own vibe etc., but my teachers, ( skip, abey, michael spiro, and alberto villareal in Habana) were all really cool, of course they were getting paid so, that might explain some of it! Regardless the street is the street, I've been reading some books lately, the carlos aldama book, the vilareal book, those guys grew up in a time when groups would cut on each otehr etc. Still the same today. Human nature is what it is, like a coach chewing out his players to get the best out of them.
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Re: learning rumba vs other music

Postby pavloconga » Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:51 am

Quinto Governor II wrote:.


I would guess that most of the the stern or harsh discipline spoken of takes place during practice sessions and not during the actual rumba. The rumba is a party and who wants to that type of vibe at a party? Your experience seems to support this.


Yes I think that's true. In lessons Macho was tough on me. He told me when he was young and studying he'd get rapped over the knuckles with a stick if he got things wrong.

If I showed any sign of slacking off in lessons he would yell "Fuerte! Fuerte". He was quite a taskmaster, pushing me way beyond my limits. While at the same time saying things like "What I can do – you can do too". I could not have asked for a better teacher. He was very tough while at the same time very encouraging, as well he was an absolute master of the music. His lessons were always open-ended, sometimes up to 6 hours or more long. Cuba was an unforgettable experience. Rumbas were always good.
Rest in Peace Macho.
Last edited by pavloconga on Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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