Get Adobe Flash player

This is a studio-produced recording, selected for the American Sabor Mixer to represent the style of conga. The dance known as the “conga line” originated in the carnival celebrations of the Cuban city of Santiago, where groups of musicians and dancers called comparsas represented their neighborhoods in the parades. It became an international fad in the 1930s. You have probably seen it at a party yourself, where people dance in a long line holding onto each other’s waists and kick in unison to one side and then the other.

If you isolate the cowbell, drums, and percussion you will hear steady interlocking parts. These instruments lay down a fixed (unchanging) rhythm, which helps keep all those dancers lined up and kicking in the same direction.

A different role is played by the saxophone, which performs changing melodies and rhythms to give the music variety.

How about the other instruments—how much do their melodies and rhythms vary?
This is a studio-produced recording, selected for the American Sabor Mixer to represent the style of Latin rock. Latin rock is a term people used in the 1960s and 1970s to describe the music of San Francisco Bay Area bands, including Santana, who fused rock music with Latin Caribbean rhythms and instruments.

One Latin Caribbean instrument that became especially popular through Latin rock is the conga drum. In the 1960s congas found their way into many rock and R&B bands. You can hear the sound of the congas here on the “percussion” slider.

Another Latin element is the montuno,, a rhythmic/harmonic pattern played by the piano. The piano montuno locks together with the bass to create a consistent rhythmic feel.

These Latin music elements are combined with rock-style electric guitar. The funky and distorted licks of the lead guitar wail above the Latin rhythm section. Other rock elements include the heavy “backbeat” on the snare drum (on the drums slider), and the funky rhythm guitar. Play with the sliders to create combinations of rhythm and melody that you like.
This is a studio-produced recording, selected for the American Sabor Mixer to represent the style of merengue. Merengue is a fast and energetic dance music from the Dominican Republic.

One of the important instruments in merengue is the güiro. The güiro is a scraper that provides a swishing scratching beat to thicken up the rhythm. In some parts of the Caribbean güiros are made from a dried gourd, but the Dominican güiro is made from metal, and scraped with a sort of wire comb. If you listen to the güiro by itself you can hear its metallic ring.

Another important instrument in merengue is a two-headed drum called the tambora. The drummer plays on one end with his bare hand and strikes the other end, and the side, with a stick. On this recording the tambora is on the same slider with the conga—at the beginning the conga plays by itself, and a few seconds later you can hear the tambora enter.

Accordion is a key instrument in traditional merengue groups, but in big band arrangements like this one the accordion is replaced by piano and saxophones. Listen to the fast and tightly coordinated lines of the saxophones on the “horns” slider.
“La Murga de Panama” is a salsa song recorded by bandleader and trombonist Willie Colón, who is Nuyorican (Puerto Rican born in New York). Hector Lavoe, from Puerto Rico, is the lead singer. This song is from a 1971 album titled Asalto Navideño, recorded on the FANIA label. The album refers to the Puerto Rican tradition of Christmas parrandas, in which people go from house to house singing aguinaldos.

Although FANIA was a New York label, their records were popular throughout Latin America. One reason for that was that salsa combined sounds and styles from all over Latin America. The rhythm of “La Murga,” for example, was inspired by carnival bands that Willie Colón heard while on tour in Panama.

The trombone melody you hear at the beginning of “La Murga” (on the slider labeled “horns”) is a famous trombone line in salsa music. Trombone is an instrument that makes salsa sound different from earlier Afro-Cuban dance styles like son and mambo.

Another distinctive instrument in this song is the Puerto Rican cuatro, played here by Yomo Toro. The cuatro is a type of 10-stringed guitar strongly associated with Christmas in Puerto Rico. Toward the end Yomo Toro improvises on the cuatro, but at the beginning of “La Murga” he plays a steady pattern called a montuno.

You can hear the montuno by isolating the cuatro on the slider labeled,“acoustic guitar.” Next add in the piano, which plays a slightly different montuno, and listen to the way the two weave together.

The singing in “La Murga” is in the form of call and response, an important feature of salsa music. Hector Lavoe is the sonero (on the “lead vocals” slider), and his lyrics alternate with a repeated coro (on the “background vocals” slider). He starts out singing prepared verses, then towards the end he sings shorter improvised ones.
This is a studio-produced recording, selected for the American Sabor Mixer to represent the style of latin jazz. Latin jazz is a term that includes a wide range of music, and this example includes diverse style elements not everyone would consider “jazz.”

Latin jazz often features a drumset that adds to or takes the place of the multiple Latin drums used in Latin Caribbean music, such as congas, bongos, and timbales. Listen to the drums slider and you will hear the bass drum, snare, and high hat. The rhythm of the drumset alternates between a sort of funk beat and a Cuban drumset rhythm called songo.

The piano plays a pattern called a montuno. Add the piano and you can hear that the piano montuno changes with the drum pattern, creating two different rhythmic grooves that alternate in this recording.

One part that doesn’t change is the cowbell, which plays a variation on the Cuban clave rhythm the whole way through. “Clave” refers both to an instrument (a pair of wooden sticks that are struck one against the other) and a rhythm. It is an important organizing rhythm in Latin Caribbean music, a reference point for the other instruments and singers.
This is a studio-produced recording, selected for the American Sabor Mixer to represent the style of salsa. Salsa is a music that developed in New York in the late 1960s, and is rooted in Afro Caribbean musical styles.

Salsa dancers depend on a steady groove, created by interlocking and repeating parts. If you isolate the bass, piano, and percussion in this example you can hear how their repeated patterns fit together to create the groove. The piano plays a repeated pattern called a montuno, while the bass plays another pattern that combines with it. On the “percussion” slider listen to the steady tumbao rhythm of the conga drum: “pum-pum ......pum-pum ......”.

The combination of piano, bass, and conga makes a rhythmic foundation for other instruments to ride on top of. The bongos and flute improvise and provide variety, and the horns add drama and color to the arrangement.

This is a studio-produced recording, selected for the American Sabor Mixer to represent the style of Latin soul. Latin soul is a very flexible term that came into use in the 1960s to refer to music that blended R&B with Latin rhythms.

The most obvious Latin flavor in this recording is created by the percussion and the piano. On the “percussion” slider, listen to the on-beat pulse of the cowbell, and the scraping rhythm of the güiro: “cha cha cha-a-a, cha cha cha-a-a…”

The piano also plays a cha cha cha pattern most of the time—on-beat chords in the right hand (high notes) with a pulsing off-beat answer in the left hand (low notes).

The organ, guitar, and horns help create the feel of a romantic rock or R&B ballad to go with the cha cha cha rhythm.
Song For Cesar was written by musicians Abel Sanchez and Jorge Santana to honor the life and work of Mexican American farm worker and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez. It is in the style of Latin rock, which was popularized in the San Francisco Bay Area by Santana and other groups in the late 1960s and 1970s. Latin rock combines Caribbean percussion rhythms with the rock instrumentation of electric guitars, drums, bass, and organ.

One common Caribbean rhythm heard here is tumbao, played on conga drums. To hear the tumbao rhythm, isolate the congas. Next add in the bell pattern played by the “timbales” player (timbales are a pair of drums played with sticks, along with bells that are mounted on the same stand). The high hat and kick drum on the “drums” slider complete the energetic percussion.

The most prominent rock feature in this song is the lead electric guitar. The lead guitarist here is Jorge Santana, the brother of Carlos Santana. Add the lead guitar into the mix to hear how its distorted and wailing sound combines with the Latin percussion. Then add the organ to hear the combination of organ with electric guitar, an important sound in Latin rock.

Finally, when you bring in the rhythm guitar, bass, and vocals you’ve got a dense, cooking mixture of rock instruments and Latin rhythms. Play around with the instruments and levels to find combinations that you like.