Historias de la Música Cubano

Join HMNS this Friday from 6 – 10pm at Mixers, Elixirs, & IMAX while we experience the latest in latin music with Siakara, Houston’s premiere Cuban band.  

There is no melody like the layered music of Cuba; it is organic and natural like stalks of sugar cane growing steady and tall in the sunlight. Several instruments make this music unique and traditional: the bata, the cajon, the conga, the marimbula, and the tres.

Creative Commons License photo credit: ghostdad

The cajon is a box-shaped instrument made out of thin plywood that has a hole cut out of the front face; the cajon is played by slapping hands on the front face which creates a drum sound. This instrument is most commonly used to play the Afro-Cuban dance/songs of the rumba, but has also been incorporated into dance music such as the flamenco.

The bata actually consists of three tapered cylindrical drums of various sizes. The largest is lya, the middle is itotele, and the smallest is onkonkolo. These drums are often used for sacred religious rituals if they are created, blessed, and “introduced” to an older set of bata. When used for religious purposes and treated as such, the drums are believed to carry the spirit of Ana – a living deity – and much care must be used in how they are treated and what music can be played upon them. The first public broadcast of the drums being utilized in music other than for religious purposes was in 1935 – they were used to play traditional Cuban folkloric music. Having crossed that barrier, the drums today are used in Cuban timba, jazz, and hip hop.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Näystin

The marimbula consists of springy metal plates attached to a resonating box; the sound of which is layered into a band by playing the role of the bass guitar. The marimbula provides rythmic and harmonic support. The instrument goes by many names and can be augmented by adding more “keys” or metal plates and also by changing the size of the attached resonating box. This instrument is integral in playing changui or son music which is rapidly gaining popularity across the US.

The Cuban tres is a combination instrument that borrows elements from the guitar, tiple and/or bandola. This three course (or group), six-stringed instrument might look like a guitar but is never played like one. You will never hear the tres being strummed and you’ll rarely hear chords being played – you will hear this plucked instrument acting as a drum within a song. Popular in changui, son, nengon, and kiriba – this instrument has earned its way into the hearts of musicians with its convenience, practicality, and the rhythmic complements it provides to its counterpart instruments.

Click on the video below to listen to the sounds of Siakara, and see them live this Friday night at the museum.

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