(Excerpt from the self-study book entitled Tradtional Afro Cuban Concepts in Contemporary Music Rhythms for Drum Kit, Multiply Congas, Timbales and Bongo, by Arturo Rodriguez – Mel Bay Publications)

There are many styles of music in the world

that use twelve and sixteen-space matrix’s to
create rhythm. So what separates one from
another? The answer is both cultural and
environmental, but the end result is a
fingerprint that uniquely identifies the
origins of the music.
In the contemporary styles we will explore in this course, the phrase that is the key to understanding the music lies in the rhythmic pattern called clave (pronounced “clah’- vay”).

Clave is a five-note phrase that repeats
after every fourth down beat. The clave
phrase syncopates the pulse and begins to add
swing to the music. Clave is the key to
understanding how Afro- Cuban music is
arranged and flows. There are many types of
clave rhythms each of them specific for that
certain style of music.
Clave is much more then just a rhythmic
phrase that must be learned though. It is a
concept that is fundamental to Afro-Latin
music. Clave is to Afro- Cuban music as the
backbone is to the human body or roots are to
a tree. Without it, a human or a tree just
couldn’t stand up! But clave is also a
complicated concept to understand, especially
for those who have never had an upbringing
that was infused with Afro- Cuban music. Here
are some very important points about clave
that will serve you well though:
 Clave is inherent in all aspects of Afro- Cuban music

…From rhythm to melody, in order to
understand completely an Afro- Cuban
musical piece, you must learn it first
from the perspective of the clave pattern.

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An accomplished musician, author, teacher, and DJ, Arturo has performed worldwide, sharing the stage with such music legends as Tito Puente, Dave Valentin, Paul Horn, Pete Escovedo, Brandi Carlile, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and many more.
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