Phrasing (Part 3): Son Montuno
At last we've come to the son's second evolution, the son montuno. Bearing a step rhythm with upbeat accentuation, it's rich with African influence, and is so versatile as to accommodate a wide range of phrasing ideas. It is the ideal context for your new-found rhythm skills.
4.1 Comparing the son and son montunuo dance rhythms
is immediately apparent is that two beats of the son montuno
dance pattern: the last step on the clave 2-side, and the first step
of the clave 3-side, are delayed to the upbeat. These changes create
an asymmetric pattern with upbeat accentuation that is highly
indicative of clave orientation. The
significance of the son montuno dance rhythm becomes more obvious
in juxtaposition with the guajeo
(a.k.a. montuno) rhythm:
4.2 Son dance rhythm accents
The resurgence of son in the form of the son montuno was due in great part to Antonio Arcaño and Arsenio Rodríguez, two iconic Cuban bandleaders of the early 1940s. By 1943 they had both standardised a method of playing rhythmic instruments (see Great Salsa Timeline), the pattern later becoming known as the guajeo or montuno. Arsenio called it playing with 'mambo' feeling.
the son contratiempo style to suit, by delaying their last step
of the clave 2-side and the first step of the clave 3-side to coincide
with the montuno rhythm as highlighted in figure 4.2 above (beats
4+ and 6+ respectively). Thus
they gave rise to the son montuno dance pattern.
real world music, I find the son revivalist group Sierra Maestra
to be very helpful. As for classic son montuno, you can hardly
do better than to go directly to the source: 'Antonio Arcaño
y sus Maravillas' and 'Arsenio Rodríguez y su Conjunto'.
the son dance rhythm to a slow-to-medium tempo clave-only track:
4.3 Son step rhythm to 2-3 son clave
Delay the third step of the 2-side and take it just before the
first beat of the clave 3-side sounds:
4.4 Son montuno dance rhythm 2-side to clave
Note that the rhythmic position of this beat is just before the beginning of the next bar; precisely the same relationship that the rumba clave's ponché has with its following bar of music.
is a point of rhythmic tension, but unlike the usual cases where sound
of the clave's bombó is resolved by a physical
step afterwards, the converse happens: the physical step occurs to generate
the tension, which is resolved by the sound of the clave. In other words,
your footfall anticipates the clave beat, instead of the clave
beat anticipating your footfall.
Delay the first step of the 3-side and take it with the bombó:
4.5 Son montuno dance rhythm 2-side and 3-side to clave
Both the sound of the clave and the first step of the 3-side coincide on the bombó to generate rhythmic tension, which is then resolved by the second step. This is a special instance, as it is the only time rhythmic tension is both made and resolved in the step rhythm.
your son montuno step rhythm
4.6 Son montuno dance rhythm, "mambo" phrasing
accents fall on arguably the two most important beats of the clave:
the first beat of the 2-side, and the bombó. Hence stressing
the first step of each bear is the equivalent of stressing clave. However,
this would overlook the importance of the last step of the 2-side (modified
to beat 4+). The
phrases are tied together by two consecutive points of rhythmic tension:
the 2-side phrase ends with one, and the 3-side phrase begins with another.
4.7 Son montuno dance rhythm, "son" phrasing
This phrasing interprets the clave principle more closely, that is, there is a fuerte [strong] side and a debil [weak] side. The strong phrase contains both points of rhythmic tension; while the weak phrase contains steps aligned squarely on the whole beats (without upbeats) and is identical to that of modern son. I think of this as a call-and-response pattern between an African phrase containing upbeat accentuation, and an European phrase which does not.
important highlight of the last step on the 2-side is accented, as is
the ponché. But the bombó is only weakly
stressed, as the phrase ends on its resolution.
Loo's Serving Suggestion
4.8 Son montuno dance rhythm, Loo's preferred phrasing
For me, it affords the best of all worlds. I can:
clearest disadvantages are that smoothness is sacrificed because phrases
no longer span over bars of music; and there is diminished call-and-response
in the phrasing.
One of the joys of dancing is in experiencing someone else's interpretation of music. And if you dance with like-minded people, then the converse must be true; that they would enjoy experiencing the phrasing of your dancing.
Thankfully, as so long of both dancers adopt compatible step rhythms, phrasing will remain a very personal and independent facet of the dance phenomenon - the ultimate expression of individuality in a partnered world.
©1999 Salsa & Merengue Society