Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Humbled Part 2: Found the Tune

I love it!

My partner who is referenced in the previous article talked to the DJ and found a link to the tune that confused us. (Thanks Disa!) Now that I hear it outside the heat of the dancing, it is much clearer to me.

Click here to play the tune. Select "Elio Reve Jr - 1999"

This is normal; while you and I may be confused by a tune or a feel the first time, once we figure it out, it seems pretty simple. Most of the tune is more obvious, although in the middle it gets interesting. We will rarely be fooled by a tune with a similar feel once we have heard this type of tune enough times. For some people, this tune may take twice and others may have to listen thirty times or more time to get it right.

Note that there are some additional variables. When I hear it sitting at my computer, I hear the start of the tune, which already gives me 99% of the info I need to find the one. In the club I was still walking toward my partner so I didn't pay attention to the start, and rarely is that an issue for me due to my musical background. In most tunes, once the introduction is over, the time is pretty obvious. In this tune that is not the case for me.

I have multiple computers and the one I'm using has OK speakers, but I can't hear the clave at points; on my other computer with great speakers, I'm sure things will be different. You may have great speakers so your first listen will be easier (or harder) depending on your setup. We all should listen to music on different systems, but when listening for learning purposes, it's helpful to be on the best system possible.

Listen to the song from different computers and you'll see what I mean. You get different clues from different systems.

While I can hear the percussion laying out the time, I confirm it with the vocals, the guitar/piano grooves and the horns. Once I got a feel for the bass player's groove, it lays really nice, but after dancing for a few hours with lower blood sugar, caffeine bottoming out and getting toward the end of the night, it was unclear to me.

I have the tune playing in the background while I type this and just past the 1:17 mark, it gets interesting for a couple of 8 counts. If I'm not paying attention I have to re-orient myself. But once the feel and time are established, even if I get away from it for a few eight counts it's easy to pick up again.

That's one of the great things for everybody. Once you figure out a set of tunes, other tunes with a similar feel become easier. While we may get fooled the first few times, once we get it, it's ours and we are much harder to fool in the future.

This song feels totally wrong for my normal LA slot-style salsa. For me, dancing LA style to this tune makes about as much sense as trying to do a ballroom foxtrot. Sure, we could do it, but it feels all wrong. If we have a partner who also knows the feel, an Afro-Cuban style makes much more sense to me.

Contrast this tune with the next one in the play list (Conjunto Massalia). That tune is also very Cuban feeling, but the time is so easy because the clave and percussion section mark the time so clearly. A totally different feel.

As I sit here and type I am drawing a blank on the specific name of this feel. I'm sure someone reading this will fill in the blank for me. Let me know what you call it and also name the style of dance that comes to mind for you when it's playing. I'm sure we will all learn something.
A critic is a man who knows the way but can't drive the car.
-Kenneith Tynan


  1. Aye... Such a tricky song! I swear, at times it feels like the horns, vocals, and bongo don't all agree with where the 1 is. The bongo in particular makes a valiant effort to throw us off! LoL


  2. Hmm, I don't find this confusing at all... but that's probably because I know the song in a different version. It is on "A lo cubano" by Orisha's (titled 1999).

    Definately something I would want to dance rueda to. I'd probably class the version of 1999 that you posted as timba (tho not an expert!). It is very cuban in feel (I'm not sure what makes it that, but I feel a heavy pulse on 1 and 3).

    The second track, Conjunto Massalia, no idea what you would classify that as. It seems like it has a 3min intro, before dropping into more classic cuban salsa (reminds me of Compay Segundo etc.)

  3. This is one of my favourite Timba tracks and I get to dance to it in our clubs almost every week, sometimes more than once.

    Elio Reve are one of the most popular touring bands right now.

    The reason the sound is somewhat alien even to those who might listen to Cuban salsa often is probably because of the Changui influence.

    Each Timba band in Cuba has their own style often based on genres of music that go back 30-50 years.

    Check out these articles for more info:

    Elio classes their sound as "contemporary changui", however you can hear the rap and reggaeton influence coming through strong and it is one of those Timba songs that make me want to add lots of Rumba and Tembleque to my Cuban salsa.

    The beat is constant throughout and can be followed easily by listening to the piano (montuno). It's the seductive nature of the rapping, Juan formell influenced Jazzy elements and lyrics that make you lose control. Love it.

    -- Azzey


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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero