AUDIO COMMENTARY

Cha Cha Cha

Time: 5:24 minutes
Excerpt: "The instrument that really delivers that cha cha cha rhythm is the güiro. The güiro is a long gourd with grooves that are scraped with a stick or a wire comb."
full transcript

“Oye Como Va” - Carlos Santana 1970

[LISTEN]

Carlos Santana’s soulful electric guitar attracted new audiences for this song.  It was originally written and recorded by Tito Puente in New York in 1963…

“Oye Como Va” - Tito Puente 1963

[LISTEN]

“Oye Como Va” is a cha cha cha, a dance music that started in Cuba in the early 1950s.

“El Bodeguero” - Orquesta Aragon, 1950s

[0:00-0:40] =40

The cha cha cha was first played by a small orchestra called a charanga. A charanga HAS piano, flute, violins, and a miniature version of the orchestral timpani drums, called timbales--a pair of drums mounted on a stand, and played with sticks. You can hear the timbales’ sound in the break, just after the singer starts singing.

[LISTEN]

The instrument that really delivers that cha cha cha rhythm is the güiro.  The güiro isa long gourd with grooves that are scraped with a stick or a wire comb. “Chevere” - Tito Rodriguez, 1960sListen to THE GUIRO in this more modern cha cha cha by Tito Rodríguez. 

[LISTEN](play and say ‘cha cha cha’)

The cha cha cha was a huge dance craze in the U.S. in the 1950s.  Since then, its rhythm has worked its way into almost every corner of American popular music.  Listen to THE CHA CHA CHA feel IN THIS Marvin Gaye SONG.

“Got to Give it up” - Marvin Gaye 1977?

(‘cha cha cha’ in voice, cross fade with music)

[LISTEN]

“Louie Louie” - the Kingsmen, 1963

This cha cha cha was made famous by the Kingsmen in 1963.

[LISTEN]

“Louie Louie” was WRITTEN  in 1955 by Richard Berry, an African American singer who learned about Latin music by playing with Chicano musicians in Los Angeles.

“El Loco” - Renée Touzet, 1950s

Berry’s inspiration for “Louie Louie” was this recording by Cuban bandleader René Touzet.  Listen to the steady beat of the cowbell here—‘toc toc toc toc’

[LISTEN twice through progression]

That steady beat played on the cowbell was borrowed from the cha cha cha by rock and R&B musicians.  Listen to Patti labelle, for example.

[cross-fade to Marmalade]

“Lady Marmalade” - Patti Labelle

[LISTEN]

The cha cha cha rhythm is so common in American music today that it doesn’t always sound “Latin” to us.

“That Don’t Impress me much” - Shania Twain

Does this 1997 song by Shania Twain sound “Latin” to you? 

[LISTEN]