3.- Latin for Drummies – Playing Candombe!

Now we all know what to play…but…How to do it!?

(This is an explanation of a very “hybrid” typical way of start playing. Every group has its own ways depending on his culture, companions, etc.)

Really easy…5 steps!


Step nº1 – Everybody on tune

As we read in the first page, the “Madera” figure is used for calling the other drummers, asking them to join this reunion at a certain time and intention.

When that happens everybody is “on tune” and ready to start.

Step nº2 – Calling the Chico Drum.

This is made by the Piano drum. It usually makes this figure to start:

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Note where is placed and where it ends. After a couple of times everybody playing the Chico drum understands which is the first pulse of the bar and can start playing without doubts.

Step nº3 – Starting with the Piano Drum.

After the Chico drums started playing; now it’s the turn of the Piano drum.

In Candombe, and in every African-based music. It’s all about dialogue.

See how the Repique drum “calls” the Piano drum by playing his one-bar base rhythm. This is enough for the Piano drummer to understand that he has to start playing and where to do it. 

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Step nº4 – Now…the Repique Drum.

At this point the Chico drummer is playing, the Piano drummer too and the Repique drummer is playing the “Madera” pattern. Now is time to play on the head!

For this he can wait for the Piano drummer to make some variation (like the one it used for starting) or start playing his base rhythm.

Usually the Repique drum makes short interventions, for example, from 8 to 12 bars.

Of course, not playing the very same rhythm in every bar.

You can make different variations by repeating, continuing, resting or adding figures, some examples:

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Playing this “base” continuosly…

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An 8 bar intervention. First of all playing the “Madera” figure. Making a little improvisation and ending with the “Madera” figure.

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Step number 5 – Ending.

There’s a particular and concrete way to end Candombe.

The explanation: The Repique drum, in this case, will be responsible of the ending. First of all, he starts playing the “Madera” figure.

Then he makes a one-bar phrase that ends in the first pulse of the next bar.

Usually this phrase is preceded by a sign or a spoken phrase such as “it ends!” (Clearly, uh?)

It’s really important to end at the very first pulse of the bar.

This is another mainly aspect of Candombe. Check it:

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