Timba Goodness from Sweden !?!

 Playlist for September 2015

Song (iTunes)




Somos Calle Real – Calle Real  Calle Real Timba Sweden
Pesadilla (feat. Daniel Baro) – Petter el Chocolate  Petter el Chocolate Timba Sweden
Mambo Con Puente (Remastered) – Tito Puente  Tito Puente  Mambo USA
El Mismo Sol (Salsa Version) – Single – Croma Latina  Croma Latina Salsa Italy
Salsa & Choque (feat. Ñejo) – ChocQuibTown  ChocQuibTown  Salsa Choke  Colombia
Abrazame (feat. Anthony Santos) – Elvyn Soto  Anthony Santos, Elvyn Soto Bachata  D. Republic
Te Vas – Single – Grupo Extra  Grupo Extra Bachata D. Republic
Bésame Siempre – Henry Santos  Henry Santos Bachata USA
A Que Te Pego Mi Mania – Grupo Mania  Grupo Mania  Merengue D. Republic
Rico Boogaloo – Ray Lugo & The Boogaloo Destroyers Ray Lugo & The Boogaloo Destroyers Boogaloo USA

Calle Real New Album

Calle Real is back… For Real

Europe is not the first place people think of when the topic of Salsa comes up and especially the topic of Cuban Salsa or Timba.  The reality is that there is a vibrant Latin music and dance scene on the other side of the Atlantic.  This is attested to by the number of music and dance festivals held throughout the continent, the large number of Latin bands and artists that frequently tour there as well as the number of talented bands that are native to Europe.  One such band has been a favourite of mine since I first got into Latin music, the Stockholm based Calle Real.  Not only does Calle Real make fantastic music but they are one of the few bands outside of the Americas who make Timba that actually sounds like Timba.  There are a number of great European based Salsa/Timba bands but, in my opinion, many of them fall short when it comes to delivering Latin music that sounds ‘authentic’.   Timba is a rare beast; beautifully melodic, highly energetic and a lot of fun to dance to but also very dynamic and full of multiple rhythms, which can be overwhelming and even confusing to the uninitiated.   Because of this some would argue that only Cuban musicians who have studied music on the island and have grown up surrounded by Afro-Cuban culture can compose and perform genuine Timba.  Calle Real is the type of band that would prove those people wrong.   Granted they have one Cuban member, Rickard Valdés son of the great Cuban piano player Bebo Valdés.  However, the rest of the 12 members come from other parts of the globe and all of them grew up in Sweden.   Despite their mostly non-latin background, Calle Real is without a doubt the best Timba band in Europe.

Calle Real is, hands down, the most explosive salsa/timba band to ever come out of Europe. They take command as the leaders of the globalization of salsa/timba music, and their vision for their music has revolutionized the genre itself.” DJ Melao (Miami)

In addition to making great Timba, what really sets Calle Real apart is their ability to mix non-Latin elements into their music without losing the Cuban style.   That may help to explain why in Sweden their audience is not limited to Latin music connoisseurs and dancers but also includes people who are normally drawn to other genres such as hip hop.   In reference to this phenomenon the band’s founder Patricio Sobrado said “Of course we are influenced by Charanga Habanera, Michel Maza, Pupy, Los Van Van, Paulito, Manolito, Manolín and the likes since we like to listen to them, but being raised over here we have other influences as well. We are glad people think we play Timba ’cause that’s one of our influences we respect, but …our sound comes from having a need to express ourselves musically, and we use the Cuban music style to do it.”

That quote about “having other influences” wasn’t true though when the band first got started back in 1999 with 3 members and a repertoire devoted to traditional music similar to what had been popularized by the Buena Vista Social Club.  Thankfully, the band moved past this ‘copy-cat’ stage, got some more members and changed their focus to Timba.   By 2003 they were making a name for themselves in Sweden and around Europe and by 2006 they were ready to record a debut album – Con Fuerza (released by a hip hop label of all things).  Their second album, Me Lo Gane, followed shortly there after in 2009.  Both of these are fantastic and packed with a number of highly dancable tracks.  Con Fuerza was even nominated for a Latin Grammy for “Best Salsa Album of the Year” and picked up the title of  “Best Album” and “Best New Artist” from the popular Cuban music website FiestaCubana.net.  And then for 6 years nothing.  The band was touring and such but no new material was being made or at least it wasn’t been recorded.  That’s about to change.  Calle Real’s Facebook page has had a number of posts over the last few months with teasers of new material and just a couple of weeks ago at Stockholm Kulturfestival the band performed a few new tracks.  The word on the street is a new album entitled ‘Dime Que’, will drop later this Fall.

That is still a few weeks away so for those of you who can’t wait that long the next best thing might be the latest offering from Petter el Chocolate Linde.  Linde, a trumpet player who has performed not only with Calle Real but also with the Soneros All Stars has just released his first material as a solo artist.  I’ve included one of them , Pesadilla, in this month’s play list – definitely worth checking out.  Regardless, new Calle Real music is coming soon and if we’re lucky the next blog post may even include a track or two from it.

Questions, comments, requests? Send me an email



Cha Cha vs Son Montuno – Part 2

Latin Tracks for April 2015

Song (iTunes)




Mas Bajo – El Rey  Tito Puente Cha-Cha USA
Lindo Yambu – Leyendas De La Fania Vol III Eddie Palmiere Son-Montuno  USA
American Sueño  La Excelencia Guajira*  USA
Regalito de Dios – La Vuelta al Mundo  Havana d’Primera Timba  Cuba
Tu Loco Loco y Yo Tranquilo – La Herencia Roberto Roena Salsa  Puerto Rico
Las Nenas Lindas (Version Salsa)  Jowell y Randy Salsaton Puerto Rico
Quiero Estar Contigo – Single – Ivan Venot  Ivan Venot Bachata Italy
Me Enamore – Lo Mejor de Lo Mejor  Kiko Rodriguez Bachata Dominican Rep.
Ma meilleure amie – Ma meilleure amie – Single  Kaysha Zouk Zaire

*Depends who you ask (see link)

cha-cha vs son montuno3

Recognizing Cha Cha and Son Montuno

In my last blog post I introduced the idea that some of the music that people like to dance cha-cha to is, musically speaking, not actually cha-cha.  In that post I highlighted the origins of cha-cha music and that of another genre commonly used for dancing cha-cha, son montuno.  In this post I am going to dig a little deeper into the musical differences between these two genres.  Now, I am not a musician so I’ve focused on musical traits that I think are relatively easy to understand and that the casual listener can identify.

I’ve included in this month’s play list a cha-cha by Tito Puente called Más Bajo.   A great track for dancing cha-cha and a great track for highlighting the musical characteristics I’m going to describe below.  If you really want to hear these traits in the music, I highly recommend getting a copy of the song and listening to it a few times with a pair of good headphones. Ok that said, let’s get to the details.

  1. Cha-cha music does not typically make use of the clave rhythm.

  2. Traditionally, cha-chas are always played in a major key (Más Bajo for example is in the key of C)

  3. Cha-cha music features the standard conga tumbao pattern, which typically uses open strokes on beats “4 &”. This is also common in other Latin genres. However, in cha-cha music these beats would often be emphasized by additional instruments such as the piano, bass and possibly horns.

  4. The basic pulse of cha-cha is double that of a Son Montuno. This rhythm is emphasized by a bell (campana) on the 8th notes (dancer’s count) and is potentially played by the timbalero (timables player)

  5. In addition to the basic pulse mentioned above, another common rhythm found in cha-cha is the following one, which usually starts on the first beat of the bar.

    1. (1)daaaa – di daaaa – di di (1) daaaa – di daaaa – di di etc.

  6. In cha-cha the piano often plays repeated short, simple passages of music (also known as vamps).

There you have it, 6 basic characteristics that you can listen for in a song to see if it’s cha-cha. Again, take a listen to the song I mentioned earlier, Más Bajo by Tito Puento, to see if you can identify any of those traits in the music.

Son Montuno
Let’s move on to son montuno.  For this discussion, as our point of reference we’re going to be listening to a song by Eddie Palmieri called Lindo Yambu.  Here are some of the characteristics that you are going to listen for.

  1. Unlike cha-cha, son montuno makes use of the clave rhythm (either implicitly or explicitly).

  2. The basic pulse of a son montuno is emphasized by a bell (campana) which tends to play beats 1, 3, 5, 7

  3. You may hear the piano or bass or conga accenting the “4 &” beat, but not as much as in ChaCha. The default emphasis will be just on beat “4” (as is typical for son).

  4. The dominant bell pattern, often played by the bongo player, goes something like this

    (1)daaa – dee – daaa – di di (1) daaa – di di – daaa – di di

  5. The piano player will play a syncopated pattern during the montuno section of the song.  These can be quite elaborate piano riffs.
  6. Like cha-cha, son montuno can be found in a variety of tempos – including tempos typically used for salsa dancing. So, as a point of clarification, the tempo of a song does not distinguish it as either cha-cha or son montuno.

Ok, now that you have the details take a listen to the Eddie Palmieri track I mentioned above and see if you can hear any of these is the song

There you have it, a few of the musical differences between cha-cha and son montuno.  But a warning, these differences are rough guidelines at best.  The fact is that they only seem to apply some of the time.  It would appear that musicians are not too concerned about paying attention to the rules that define a genre.  They may borrow elements from on style or another and end up with a composition that resembles cha-cha or son montuno.  They may even go as far as to label a song as one particular genre or another. Case in point, the song Llegó Miján by Tito Puente (which appeared in last month’s playlist) has in the lyrics repeated references to ‘cha-cha’ so you could easily be forgiven in thinking it was a cha-cha. However, in the track listing on at least one album where this song appears (Tito Puente’s Dance Mania), it has been classified as son montuno.  So the question is, does it really matter? Composers will write what ever the like and dancer will dance steps that best fit that music. At the end of the day, there is not right or wrong.  

One final note, much of the information I’ve presented in this post came from two sources.  One was  a multi-page thread over at SalsaForms.com where people were discussing the differences between cha-cha, son montuno and some other genres.  It is very entertaining and at times heated discussion that is worth reading if the topic interests you.  This other was this discussion over at the rec.music.afro-latin newsgroup.  

Questions, comments, requests? Send me an email

– clavecito



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