vrijdag 2 november 2012

Percussion cultures

I think, it was about 30 years ago that I started to play percussion. I was playing drums in our family band and my father said to me: Michael we are playing latin music, why don't you try to play these congas? This is how it all started for me.
I went to Rotterdam to study at the Conservatory and in my first year a great Cuban master (Justo Pelladito) came to give 2 weeks lessons to us. He left us with a lot of patterns for bata, congas and other instruments. Of course me and the other students practiced all the patterns in the years after he had left.
In 1989 I went to Cuba to study with Pelladito and other masters. Pelladito told me a lot about the different rumbas. Which way did they play in Matanzas, what is the difference with Havanna, how did the rumba get in Santiago de Cuba and so on! So I thought, those tumbadores are very, very important in rumba and you have to know how every pattern is in each rumba. My focus was still on the patterns, did I have the right timing, was my sound good ect.
The funny thing was, when I attended rumba parties in the street or when I went to the Sabado de rumba, I was told that rumba was not about the patterns for the tumbadores....... It is about the songs and about the dance!! The lyrics about social or political issues and the way of dancing are the main thing in rumba! This put my conga drumming in a complete different perspective.

This experience made me wanted to travel more and more to the countries with a strong percussion culture. I still wanted to learn the patterns from all kind of rhythms, but I was also more interested in backgrounds of the rhythms.
So I travelled to Africa (Senegal, Gambia) to study sabar and boucarabou. I just wanted to find out about patterns (still) and the context. The same with Brasil, I went to Recife for maracatú and frevo, to Salvadar da Bahia to see the bloco afro's and candomblé and to Rio de Janeiro for the escolas de samba.
Traveling to those countries gave me so much more information about the historical context, social aspects, ect. of the rhythms.
Do I use all this information when I teach or when I play in bands? No, in the end I'm still teaching and playing patterns, but it gives me a good feeling to carry this extra information with me. So if people all over the world ask me questions about rhythms I teach on Youtube, I'm glad to have information about the backgrounds. Of course, I do not know everything and I am always open for more knowledge about the percussion world!

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