A context for rhythmic anticipation in 6/8 time
Ned Sublette says of the zarabanda:
"The chord change in the second measure occurs an eight-note beat earlier than the chord change in the first measure, thereby causing the upper part of your body to move differently than the lower. Some people call it syncopation, though Africans certainly didn't have that concept. It's a version of that characteristic African undulation that Cubans later came to call the clave." From 'Cuba and its music', page 81.
What we can infer of the zarabanda from this passage is that there are two rhythms involved; since in order for a beat to be determined as occuring earlier, there has to be a comparison to a reference rhythm which causes the listener to expect the beat in a later place. We can also understand that one rhythm is interpreted by the upper part of the body, and the other by the lower part.
Instead of using 'syncopation' or 'rhythmic undulation', I use 'rhythmic anticipation' to describe a rhythmic phenomenon occurring earlier than expected (consistent with all tutorials on this site). I would contend, however, that the 'rhythmic undulation' as described by Mr.Sublette is a characteristic of the clave, and not the clave itself.
Since the zarabanda displays African characteristics that are faithfully preserved in its Cuban descendants, it provides an ideal case study of rhythmic anticipation closer-to-source. And being in 6/8 time, it allows a typical salsa dancer the opportunity to move in a different time-signature thereby expanding one's rhythm vocabulary.
6/8 time simply means that there are six quavers (or eigth-notes) in each bear (or measure) of music. Hence we will be utilising a six-count. If a rhythmic phrase spans two six-counts, I will still use only the numbers one through six and repeat them, so as to keep the counts monosyllabic (avoiding the two-syllable word 'seven' and the three-syllable word 'eleven').
Six is an interesting
number to have as a time-signature, as it is divisible by two as well
as three. So, we can have three evenly-spaced beats in a bar
(as found in the waltz):
5.1 Three beats in a six-count
Or we can have
two evenly-spaced beats in a bar, which is a trademark more of
African genres than European ones:
5.2 Two beats in a six-count
Establishing a lower-body pulse to 6/8 time
5.3 Afro 6/8 pulse rhythm
Establishing an upper-body rhythm to a 3-beat measure
5.4 Torso movement rhythm
Combining lower-body and upper-body rhythms
5.5 Torso movement and pulse rhythms combined
of the two rhythms become clearer if we place them in the context of
a common conga tumbao in 6/8 time:
5.6 Torso movement and pulse rhythms
We can see (above)
that the open tones still cue the steps, as do the slap strokes; and
that the anticipated movement of the torso occurs in agreement with
the slap stroke.
4 The Zarabanda context
chord rhythm comprises one bar of 2 even-beats; followed by one bar
of 3 even-beats, the third of which is a nul beat. This is represented
below by the torso rhythm (second row):
5.7 Zarabanda rhythm (torso) over Afro 6/8 pulse (lower body)
Looking at the torso rhythm compared to the pulse, we can see what Mr.Sublette means by:
"The chord change in the second measure occurs an eight-note beat earlier than the chord change in the first measure, thereby causing the upper part of your body to move differently than the lower."
We can achieve this very simply by moving the upper and lower parts of the body in the way described in Figure 5.7, and using the vocalisation:
Eventually to silence the placeholder vocalisations:
"bam - - - bam - - , bam - - bah-bam - - "
where the "bam"
syllable is the pulse beat and the "bah" syllable
is the anticipated torso movement. There are two things to remember:
what the torso anticipation feels like; and the incessant quality of
5 Rhythmic Anticipation In Son Clave
Both the zarabanda and the son clave have the pulse as a common reference rhythm. And since you now have the feeling of rhythmic anticipation relative to the pulse, and can already dance pulse to son clave, it is a simple matter to get the physical expression of rhythmic anticipation into 2-3 son clave using the same vocalisation:
"bam- - - -bam- - - , bam- - -bah-bam- - - "
where the "bam" syllable is the pulse beat, and the "bah" syllable is the anticipated torso movement occuring on the bombó. I find that the side-to-side and cucaracha basics provide a good context for side-to-side chest movements; and latin and cucaracha basics are useful for front-and-back chest movements.
it now becomes clear how the son clave rhythm, a Cuban creole
development, derives its ancestry from the older zarabanda.
6 Rhythmic Anticipation In Rumba Clave
Again, both the zarabanda and the rumba clave share the pulse as a reference rhythm. In addition to the bombó, rumba clave has a second point of rhythmic anticipation at the ponché. Hence the vocalisations would be:
in 2-3 clave
"bam- - - -bam- - - , bam- - -bah-bam- - -bah"
in 3-2 clave
"bam- - -bah-bam- - -bah, bam- - - -bam- - - "
where the "bam"
syllable is the pulse beat, and the "bah" syllable
is the anticipated torso movement occuring on the bombó
and ponché. If you are taking alternating steps on the
pulse beats, or even dancing the salsa step rhythm, you will find that
the second chest movement is performed in the opposite direction to
the first. Hence rumba clave is a symmetrical pattern
with respect to the physical expression of rhythmic anticipation.
©1999 Salsa & Merengue Society