CLAVE CONCEPTS: Tito Puente's Para Los Rumberos
This article focuses on the importance of the clave
in writing melodies, arrangements and in the direction of the rhythms
employed by all instruments, for it is the clave pattern the one
that provides the foundation in styles based on Afro-Cuban music.
This article features a brief analysis of the main theme from Para Los
Rumberos written by Tito Puente (please refer to cd Cuban Carnival by Tito Puente and his Orchestra - RCA 2349-2-RL) and its relationship
with the clave concept. Tito Puente believes that the arranger
is the most important person in the orchestra, for it is the arranger's
role to fit the composition, give it the correct timing and the correct clave direction, "very important those insignificant little sticks" he says.
As explained in my article on CLAVE CONCEPTS Afro-Cuban Rhythms, there are two major clave styles
in Afro-Cuban music; the son clave (generally associated with dance
styles) and the rumba clave (associated with folkloric rhythms). They are both two bar rhythms, consisting of a bar containing three notes
and another containing two. These rhythms can be approached two ways. In the 3-2 often refer to as the 'forward clave' and in the 2-3
refer to as 'reverse clave'. The choice of the direction of
the clave is guided by the melody, which in turn directs all other
instruments and arrangements.
The following examples show the son
clave in both the 3-2 and 2-3 versions. For an example of the
rhythm section parts please refer to the article CLAVE CONCEPTS Afro-Cuban Rhythms.
3-2 Son Clave
2-3 Son Clave
In this brief analysis of the main theme of Para
Los Rumberos you will find that the melody line definitely works in
3-2 clave. I have heard recorded versions of this tune by
other artists who for some reason — no knowledge of clave concepts, or
understanding of Afro-Cuban rhythms, or simply as Tito Puente put it to
me "their own interpretation" — have not taken into account the clave concept. What results from that is a melody 'fighting' the clave rhythm. The following illustrates the melody in its proper clave setting:
Excerpt from Para Los Rumberos by Tito Puente:
you listen to music based on Afro-Cuban
music (Latin-jazz, salsa, etc) try and analyse the clave direction, the rhythms played, the melody, the arrangement, missing or added bars
(change of clave direction), etc. You will be pleasantly surprised
at the amount of serious work that these styles command in terms of composition,
rhythms, arrangements and interpretation.
© Alex Pertout. All rights reserved. No part of this article
may be reproduced without prior written permission from the author. This article was first published in Drumscene magazine.