Friday, July 12, 2013

Conga to Mozambique

Let me say up front that I'm always a little paranoid about venturing into Afro-Cuban music on the blog— I don't have a lot of field experience playing it with knowledgeable people, and have had to get my information on it mainly by inferior means— by listening and reading. But looking at the Wikipedia entry for the topic here, after I had this piece mostly written, I was relieved to see that I was not horribly wrong in my own research, and that the entry confirmed some things I had surmised, but wasn't going to hazard putting in the piece.

So, I want to look at the background of what is for drummers basically a semi-popular Latin groove, the Mozambique. In Afro-Cuban music, Mozambique is a style that evolved when Conga de Comparsa— a folkloric parade style— was moved into the popular music and then Latin jazz realms.

With Pello El Afrokan, the originator of the style, the connection with the original Conga is pretty overt, with similar instrumentation— percussion, voice (lead and chorus), horns— and, seemingly, much of the flavor of the parade music:

In New York soon after, people like Eddie Palmieri were developing their own version of the style with a regular salsa band instrumentation, and we start getting the elements that are more familiar now, including the bell pattern that appears to be definitive:

The very emphatic bombo rhythm in the percussion and bass also seems to be a feature of the style:

Continued after the break:

An early example of New York-style Mozambique, by Eddie Palmieri:

Here's a demonstration by Manny Oquendo, timbalero on the above track. Note that the bass line at the opening is identical to the “Mo-zam-bi-que” chorus from the Palmieri tune above (listen after 1:23), and rhythmically similar to the chorus of the Pello piece (listen at 1:45)— apparently it's a common motif.

Here's another smoking version by Palmieri, which we've seen on the blog before. Aside from the percussion, the connection with Conga de Comparsa seems more impressionistic:

And here's the version that will be most familiar to the greatest number of American drummers, played on the drumset by Steve Gadd, on Paul Simon's Late In The Evening. Here we're no longer dealing with Afro-Cuban music as such, instead lifting and adapting a drum groove from that music and placing it in a mainstream American pop song:

Gadd demonstrated the groove on his Up Close video, which is where I— and a lot of other people— first learned it. Again, the major elements of it are that bell pattern, with the bombo rhythm played on the tom toms:

In the next couple of days we'll have a page of stuff for developing this feel on the drum set. In the mean time, I invite anyone with further links, recorded examples, or more complete (or correct!) information than I've given, to share them in the comments.

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