Volume 1, November ‘13
And here it is: the first mixtape from the “Gods Of Rhythm” series! I’ve scheduled that for November 2013 with the ambition to be able to put one mixtape every month from now on.
As I’ve added an Intro and an Outro, it seems that soundcloud now accepts my mixes and I hope that they won’t be pulled down as in the past. But mixcloud is still the only one “safe” upload location.
This mixtape concentrates mainly on son montuno and on the work of Arsenio Rodriguez. Many of Arsenios son montuno and danzon compositions lay down some fundamentals of the classic mambo and have very clean and danceable rhythm. From my point of view it is always very important to understand the roots of one cultural aspect, in this case music, in order to be able to enjoy and value the past and most important the present works. And this is of even higher importance, if the culture you’re diving into is neither your one, nor is it strongly connected with yours. That’s why I will dedicate some words in this post to the dancing and music interpretation of today’s latin or salsa dancers.
Simply said in my case, as european one should first understand afro-cuban music and then one can really dance into that music and enjoy it. Otherwise all that diversity is labeled salsa and the resulting dance is bouncing back and forth on the dance floor. While it might be cool and I don’t want to argue about that, there is no trace of afro-cuban roots and it doesn’t matter what kind of music such dancer dances to, as long as it is written in common time (4/4) and has proper tempo. As a matter of fact, if a DJ plays classic mambo and son montuno songs, dancers not familiar with the roots of the music get irritated and can’t stick to the beat. Afro-cuban beats have tons of variations. Bass lines, timbales, even bongo and conga patterns differ from song to song, making it extremely illogical to dance with the same dynamics and counting the same steps each and every song. This is one of the reasons for me to start this mixtape - to put together all those diverse rhythms forming the core of afro-cuban dances.
Even though there are only three very similar genres in that mixtape - son montuno, mambo and danzon - the tempo varies from 112 to 211! If I have to put together a mixtape of present songs the tempo will most likely vary from 180 to 210. In other words, the variety of instrument arrangements and song compositions of even only one afro-cuban genre is much more diverse than what is usually played at salsa parties. Slower tempo causes many of the dancers to walk and turn faster than the music and to be forced to incorporate awkward pauses in order to stay in tempo. Faster tempo causes many dancers to fall behind, struggling to step on the proper counts, but loosing their proper balance. While many of the problems result from improper dancing technique and body movement, I strongly believe that also many of them can be solved by following the music. Following the prolongated bass notes and the conga counts will help stepping in time at slower tempo. Listening to the sharp timbale and maraca patterns and the fast montuno on the piano will help aligning with the fast tempo and stepping tight and precise. Those and many more examples can testify of how understanding the music and the rhythm leads to more proper, relaxed and enjoyable dancing.
That being said, the main topic of “Gods Of Rhythm” is not the dance, it’s the music. It is to present a pleasant selection of songs, written and performed by great known and forgotten afro-cuban composers and groups. Listen and enjoy!