Latin music originated in the Caribbean back in the 18th century. African slaves coming to the Caribbean Islands brought along their instruments like congas, cowbells, djembe and timbales. Originally, they used these instruments as means of communication between different ethnic groups. Cuba became a hot-bed for various instruments. This collection of instruments later became the percussion section of Latin music. The most important thing to remember in Latin music is this: there was no drum set back in the day. With this in mind, contemporary drummers have to merge the style of a drum set with the exotic percussion instruments in the original Latin music instrumentation.
A typical drum set in Latin music merely replaces the percussion instruments that should have been there. For example, toms will simulate the conga pattern while the cymbals will duplicate a timbale’s bell pattern. The bass drum will play along the bass guitar’s line while the snare drum replaces the clave or conga part.
Playing drums in Latin music is beneficial because you learn different beats, melodies and patterns not found in contemporary music scene such as rock and pop. Along with these patterns are the 2-3 Rhumba Clave beat, the 3-2 rumba clave beat, the Son Clave beats, Bossa Nova beats and many more. These beats and patterns are also found in different forms of swings and jazz. But the difference is the percussion they use for making these rhythms.
To get the best out of Latin music, you need to learn authentic Afro-Cuban instruments. If you can, try your hands on congas, djembes, cowbells, bongos and timbales. Sometimes, a Latin song requires you to get-off your stool and into the percussion section. A typical Latin percussion section consists of congas, tambourines, cowbells and wood blocks. Welcome the challenge of playing these instruments because the knowledge you will gain is very valuable once you get back in your drum kit.
Lastly, listen to different types of Latin music; open up to a different kind of flavor coming from Salsa, Rumba, Bebop, Cumbia and Samba. Get a copy of Santana’s albums and study the techniques of his drummers such as Karl Perazzo and Paul Rekow. Surprisingly, jazz and Latin music have a lot in common. Maybe because of their African roots, both genres share the same patterns and grooves not found in other music such as blues, rock and country.
Latin is a whole new ball game for you. Trying your hands on salsa, rumba and Bossa nova presents opportunity for your development as a musician. What you will learn has a great impact to your development as a drummer and as a musician. Your whole outlook in different instruments, techniques and rhythms will help you in creating your own style.