Written by Greg Whitt Monday, 07 September 2009 00:00
Many of the rhythms of the Caribbean evolved from African patterns carried by slaves brought to work the plantations. This rich heritage can be found in the Tumbao, or Marcha.
The Tumbao, or Marcha, is the foundation pattern for Salsa and many other forms of Latin-influenced music. Whereas the clave pattern played on sticks or bells sets the place in the rhythm to which all other instruments lock in, the march is the underlying pattern on conga that fills out the rhythm section of the music. The 3-2 son clave is shown here. The basic 4/4 rhythm (four beats per measure, the quarter note gets one full beat) has an inherent pulse on beats 1 and 3. It is common in many African rhythms to play the two beats before the pulse as pick-up notes. I think of this as a “giddy-up” pattern that is like bouncing along on a horse at trot. The two patterns combined form a “chucka boom” pulse with a driving feel where the open tones roll into the pulse. When you alternate the voicing of the open tones you get an up and down feel, more like riding a camel! Drop the second slap for the essence of the Tumbao pattern. Replace the bass with a heel stroke and fill the spaces with touch strokes. Drop the last tone and replace it with a touch stroke for a nice variation. Here is the pattern shown against the clave for contrast. Notice how the two compliment each other!