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Oi Musica & La Timbala present... Cuban Big Band Workshop II

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Event description

The next in our new series of Cuban Big Band Workshops is here! For brass, reeds and vocals. 

We are delighted to be working with ethnomusicologist and Cuban music specialist Christian Weaver, director of Orquesta Timbala - a 25 piece Cuban Big Band founded in Manchester by La Timbala in 2005. Christian has researched and played music in Cuba and the UK since 1995.

These workshops aim to introduce you to the excitement and fun of playing Cuban big band music. They provide the opportunity to explore this vibrant dance music by working in a large ensemble with other, like-minded musicians, under the direction of an experienced Cuban big band director. 

Suitable for flute, clarinet, saxophones, trumpet, trombone, euphonium, tuba, sousaphone. The session will be accompanied by Cuban percussion.

Sight-readers, slow-readers, and learners-by-ear: all welcome.

Alongside discovering the ‘buzz’ of being involved in playing this hugely influential music, with its infectious rhythms and interlocking melody lines, the workshops will illuminate some of the concepts that shape and create it. As well as teaching and rehearsing the music we will make time to discuss the history and form of different genres (what is the difference between mambo and chachacha, or son and rumba?); the elusive and important rhythmic characteristics of the Clave; the function of each instrument in the ensemble; the relation of the melodies to the rhythms of the percussion; the importance of the song; and ‘timba’, that illusive element of swing, or attitude, that makes Cuban big band music so infectious, joyous, and danceable.

Each workshop will focus on a number of key tunes, with the aim of learning the different parts of the ensemble and putting everything together, to experience the joy and swing of the music. All scores will be provided for the melody players as well as historic recordings. We will break the music down to its component parts and then rebuild it to create the whole piece.

As an example, in October's workshop we looked at Corta y Clava by Pello El Afrokan

and Pongan Atención by Benny Moré 

What is Cuban Big Band?

The tradition of the Cuban big bands really took off during the mambo era of the 1940s and 50s, when national Cuban stars such as Beny Morè (the original King of mambo) and Perez Prado (who many claim was the inventor of mambo) came to prominence. Large 'orquestas' of brass or strings, or both, had been a feature of Cuban music since the late 19th century, or earlier. However, the term Cuban Big Band’ usually refers to the type of bands that were prominent from the 1940s onward. This movement was greatly influenced by the jazz orchestras and big bands of the USA. Earlier, in New York, Cuban arranger, Mario Bauza, was busy introducing leading jazz players to the rhythms of Cuban popular music and creating new styles within Machito’s big band (founded in 1940). Jazz performers, such as Dizzy Gillespie, was hugely motivated by travelling to Cuba (famously describing Cuban rumba as the most advanced improvised music in the world. Gillespie in turn shared this enthusiasm with other US players such as Cannonball Adderley. In Cuba, musicians took the format of the big band, adapted it to their rhythmic sensibilities and developed new musical forms through it. One thing that identifies the Cuban big band style is the continued central role of the song (singer), and its ‘danceablitiy’.

In many respects, learning about Cuban big band music is a case of learning how to recognize, and play within the rhythmic parameters that define each style, and each section of each style, all of which (with the exception of the earlier Danzòn) are based on, and controlled by, the Cuban clave.

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