Columbia (9 videos)

Rumba Columbia is by far one of the most difficult styles of Cuban music to master. It is a style whose time signature is almost impossible to determine, as it is played entirely in between a triplet and a duple feel. It is played in what I call “fix”—it is neither  “in four” nor “in six”, but rather in “fix” (check out my book “The Conga Drummer’s Guidebook” for an in depth discussion of “fix”).  For those of us raised outside of Cuba this is a very difficult concept to understand and execute properly, as we are so trained to feel a piece of music in a specific time signature that to play in the middle of two feels at the same time takes quite some getting used to. The best place to start is to try to play the gua-gua and the 12/8 bell pattern together, and slowly get used to the idea of feeling them as one composite, rather than two separate and “conflicting” parts. In essence, it is not that different from certain jazz playing, where the feel is somewhere in between a straight eighth and a swung eighth note. The support drum parts of Columbia are usually fairly straight forward, and are generally played in a 12/8 feel along with the standard bell pattern. But the addition of the gua-gua in 4/4, and in turn the style of the quinto is what creates the difficulties.

The dance form of Columbia is totally unique---It traditionally is danced by men only, and is an opportunity for each dancer to really demonstrate his own special talents. Sometimes it is mimetic in nature, sometimes very acrobatic, and frequently makes reference to many of the other folkloric forms of Cuban dance---Yoruba, Abakua, Arara, etc. Many Columbia dancers make use of “props” when they dance—a handkerchief, a hat, a cane, a bottle—all can become a vehicle for drama and expression. Once again, the quinto player must “mark” these movements, and engage in a dialogue with the dancer, marking both the rhythmic movements of the feet, and both commenting on and inspiring him to greater artistry. This is a skill that takes years to acquire, and here on the site we will do our best to get you started. But the best way to learn is to listen and study the quinto and overall feels of the recordings of the masters of Cuba!