Afro Cuban Bembe
The Bembe rhythm we are playing here is a common AfroCuban music and dance form that has made its way into American music via Latin Jazz and Rock. The word "Bembe" means different things according to context. "A Bembe" is an AfroCuban religious ceremony where participants sing, dance, experience trance state, receive consultations, make offerings, etc. as part of the tradition known as Lukumi or Santeria. The sacred Bata drums are usually played in this ceremony. The Bembe rhythm we learned here on conga drums could also be played as well as the music known as Guiro ( see webnote 6 ). According to my first teacher, Nigerian Yoruba dancer/singer/drummer A. O Vidal, "Bembe" is a genre of rhythms from Nigeria. There is also a specific set of drums called Bembe in Nigeria and a different set by the same name in Cuba.
Web note 1:
The three evenly spaced tones of this pattern - Bass, Tone, Slap, fall in a 3 to 2 relationship to the main beat. Two repetitions of this patterns create the 6:4 feeling at the center of Bembe music and dance. Make sure you keep track of the 4 pulse as you play this pattern.
Web note 2:
Another common style of playing this pattern uses different hand work like this: ( two cycles)
The strokes are : Palm tip Tone Palm Slap - Palm tip Tone Palm Slap -
The syllables are WAKAGODMPA - WAKAGODMPA -
Web note 3:
This high drum pattern is tricky and deceptivly simple. Keep track of the 4 pulse as you play and make sure that the slap falls after the beat, and not on the beat or somewhere else. This is a common mistake with this pattern - to start correctly and dift off time into a different, perhaps more familier pattern. Learn to hear the pair of notes( tone, slap) as starting on the beat, not ending on the beat.
Web note 4
If you need help with this bell pattern and related rhythms, please check out my Clave Consciousness lesson. This patten is explained in detail in
Web note 5
This tumba pattern similar to the mid drum part we learned first in this lesson. When the mid drum is playing its first cycle, GN, GO, PA (bass, tone, slap), the low drum is playing GO, GN , PA (Tone Bas Slap). The slap is being reinforced and the other tones are hamonizing each other. Every other slap of the quinto part also aligns with the slaps in the other patterns.
There is another Cuban sacred music tradition known as Guiro that uses 3 shekeres and one drum. The parts played on the gourds (guiro in Spanish) are similar to the Bembe parts shown here.
Web note 7
According to the Cuban masters I asked, this pattern is actually part of Columbia, but it is often added to Bembe because it complements the melody. Many people use it as the basic pattern in Bembe in place of the first pattern we learned in this lesson.