Latin for Drummies #02 Candombe Drums

Candombe is the heritage of enslaved Africans in the Rio de la Plata area. Originally forbidden and confined to a small room, it is proudly played in the streets nowadays and continues to reflect the deep identity feeling that makes it born and raised.

What to Play

1. – Madera:

“Madera” is a figure played with the stick on the drum’s shell, and because the drum is made of wood, that is where the meaning of the name comes from (“Madera” means wood in Spanish).

The director, usually the most experienced and vibrant drummer of the group, starts playing this figure on the shell of their drum. Then, when everybody hears the speed and intention, they start copying it with their own drums, which is the way of getting “in tune” with what is being played and how to play.

The “Madera” figure and it’s relation to the pulse.

(Yes! It is similar to the Cuban – Son Clave, which is not a coincidence (we are talking about the same roots!). They also have the same function: getting everybody “aligned” in time and pulse.

2. – The Chico drum.

This one, the highest pitched drum, is the most important drum in Candombe because what it plays gives identity to this language. It is also easy to understand what it plays… but also really hard to!

Here you can check its relation with the “Madera” and pulse:

Note the accent played with the hand on the second sixteenth note in every beat… This is the identity of this drum and one of the main aspects of Candombe!

3. – The Piano drum.

This is the lowest pitched drum, and it has a solid-base function. The drummer can make some variations but always stays “on tune” without attempting the groove.

Check the base rhythm of the Piano drum and its relation with the “Madera” and pulse:

Note that the first open tone happens simultaneously with the second note of the “Madera” figure. The second open tone is placed between the fourth and fifth note of the “Madera” figure. This is the identity of this drum and one of the main aspects of Candombe.

4. – The Repique drum.

Last, but no less important. This drum has the improvisation role. It basically works on two different “states”. First, playing the “Madera” figure with all the different variations, and then the “improvisation” part, where the drum has a “base” and starting in that figure, free your mind to the infinite combinations and beautiful rhythm phrases!

Check the base figure related to the “Madera” figure and pulse:

Note where the hand-played notes are placed. Some happen simultaneously with the Chico drum, emphasising it… some of them no… So, pay special attention to the one placed similarly to the last note of the “Madera” figure and pulse number 4.