Afro Cuban Cascara History And Development Drummers Guide

In Cuba, two of the most common names for 6/8 styles are "Bembe" and "Abakwa" (also spelled "Abakua"). Bembes were religious celebrations which included music and dance, while Abakwas were exclusive organizations formed in Cuba by slaves descending from the Calibar area of western Africa. Both influences had a profound effect on the development of Afro-Cuban music. It is now quite common to hear 6/8 rhythmic styles interchanged with authentic Cuban styles (such as Mambo, Guaguanco, Songo, etc.).

So, it is highly useful to develop the ability to flow from one feel to the other. The Afro-Cuban 6/8 pattern for drum set replicates a signature melody of the conga drums along with the conventional 6/8 bell pattern. The main bell pattern itself is based around the 6/8 clave rhythm (containing two additional notes which are usually played more softly).

The pulse is most commonly felt on each downbeat (played by the hi-hat foot). However, the same pattern may produce a different feel by changing the pulse to six beats within the pattern. Although the 6/8 bell and drum set patterns are written as one measure 4/4 patterns, the Afro-Cuban 6/8 does contain two sides" similar to the son and rumba clave (3-2 versus 2-3).

It's good to develop the ability to start from the third beat of the 4/4 measure, creating a reversed order of the 6/8 pattern. Unlike Mambo, Cha Cha, and other types of Afro Cuban music, Cascara is not a musical style but a rhythmic pattern copied from another pattern called "palito" ("little stick"). The word Cascara means "shell,"' which indicates where the pattern is played: on the shell of the timbales. During the early part of the 20th century, the instrumentation of Son music expanded to include timbales (fairly wide but shallow single-headed drums). The use of this instrument led to the introduction of the Palito Cascara pattern in Afro-Cuban ensembles. When adapted for drum set, the Cascara rhythm is commonly played with the ride hand on either a closed hi-hat, the shell and/or rim of a floor tom, or a cowbell or ride cymbal bell.

The snare hand plays a rim click or a wood block, while the bass drum plays a Tumbao pattern. The Cascara is a two-measure pattern which complements specific sides of the clave. Though it may be played as a 3-2 or a 2-3 clave (rumba or son), the position of the clave remains consistent with the notes of the Cascara pattern.

This pattern is played in a wide range of tempos, depending on the style of music. The Cascara pattern can be used as a substitute for other patterns or styles (such as Mambo, Guaguanco, etc.) so as not to duplicate the parts of other percussionists and can be effective when playing during the softer sections of an arrangement. The Cascara pattern may be substituted for any groove as long as it coincides with the clave pattern of that groove or the song itself (e.g.

, a Guaguanco should continue to have a rumba clave feel when it features a Cascara, a Mambo a son clave, etc.) And when playing the Cascara rhythm on a surface other than the closed hi-hat, the hi-hat foot may play beats I & 3 or 2 & 4 of both measures.

By Eric Starg. Eric is using Drum Pads manufactured by Roland Drums and Sonor Drums. Eric is an active member of Drum Solo Artist where he is answering drum related questions, and helping drummers with tips and advices.

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