New Album from Verny Varela y La Tropa - La Rumba No Se Acaba - Salsa Dura de Colombia
Música tropical de Cuba y Francia - Rubén Paz y Chéverefusión
LA TIMBA LA TRAIGO YO - Nuevo Disco de Robert Armas y los Conquistadores de la Salsa
Beyond Salsa Piano is a history and anthology of the role of the piano in the Cuban rhythm section – from its first appearance to the present. In a broader sense, it’s a study of the tumbao – the art of creating music from layers of repeating rhythmic and melodic phrases. Whether these syncopated figures are called tumbaos, guajeos, montunos, riffs or vamps, this Afro-Cuban concept lies at the heart of nearly every popular music genre from salsa to rock , funk, R&B, hiphop and jazz.

While presented as a set of method books, the series doubles as a history course and record collecting guide for listeners, dancers, and players of instruments other than the piano.

Perhaps the most important goal of the series is to provide a comprehensive understanding of how tumbaos are constructed, their central role in the texture of Latin music of all eras, and the endless possibilities they provide for creative composing and arranging.
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El Charanguero Mayor

Artist:   Charanga Habanera

Style Released Album Tracks Charts
Timba 2000 12 0
Buy_now

$11.99

© 2000 JM Music. All rights reserved.
Audio album download includes album tracks, liner notes and cover art.
All audio tracks in MP3-VBR format. About LPM album downloads.
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# Name Play Time Info
01  Tema Introduccion
Alternative text
1:17 Aned Mota y Noel Díaz - Cantantes
02  Sube Y Baja
Alternative text
6:13 Dantes Cardosa - Cantante
03  Cristobalina
Alternative text
5:01 Tirso Duarte - Piano
04  Charanguero Mayor
Alternative text
7:00 Herder Jesús Rojas - Teclado
05  El Cantinero
Alternative text
5:55 Randolph Chacón - Bajo
06  Riki Ricon
Alternative text
5:21 Yulién Oviedo - Timbal
07  Senora
Alternative text
6:32 Orlando Lázaro Mengual - Congas
08  Bla Bla Bla
Alternative text
6:14 Lázaro Jesús Mengual - Bongo
09  Le Menti
Alternative text
5:56 Carmelo Andrés Llanes - Trompeta
10  Pa Lo Que Me Importa A Mi
Alternative text
5:18 Juan Manuel Jiménez - Trompeta
11  Popurri De Antano
Alternative text
5:29 Junio Romero Valdés - Trompeta
12  Tema Despedida
Alternative text
1:17 Osmani Collado - Saxo
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Newly re-formed and post-breakup, David Calzado and his new principal collaborator Tirso Duarte forged onward and created a bold new musical style, as different from the first Charanga as that group was from its predecessors, releasing this powerhouse album that contains some of Charanga's most popular songs.

The original Charanga Habanera never recorded again after "Tremendo Delirio". They broke apart in two stages. In the year that passed between the departure of González and Lozada to form "Dany Lozada y su Timba Cubana" and that of the rest of the group to form Charanga Forever, quite a bit of new material was developed, but David Calzado never recorded any of it. In the summer of 1998, he and Michel Maza started completely from scratch, and then Maza himself left the group a few months later.

To form his new group, Calzado more or less had his choice of the best young musicians in Havana, and he made the most of the opportunity, making sure that each player had stage presence, great dancing skills, and, most important, almost superhuman musical abilities. (For more on the new and old members, see Majela Serrano's series of articles on them by clicking on the Members button above). The band continued to be called "Charanga Habanera", to open its shows with Earth Wind & Fire's "In the Stone" and to play crowd-pleasing hits from the first four albums such as "Lola", "El Temba", "Charanguéate", "Usa Condón", and others. Stylistically, there's no doubt that the new young players were huge fans of the earlier Charangueros, and especially of Michel Maza, whose style can be heard popping through frequently, even on the newer songs. Of course, one could also say that both Maza and "Los más menores de la Salsa" were influenced by David Calzado himself, as it was he who conceived of many of the guías and other vocal stylings.


But if the flavor of the live show was modeled on the previous Charanga Habanera, the new music itself was anything but an imitation. Calzado and his new principal collaborator Tirso Duarte forged onward and created a bold new musical style, as different from the first Charanga Habanera as that group was from its predecessors.

The music of "Charanguero Mayor" is built around a drastically different kind of tumbao, so before getting into the album itself, let's take a brief look at Tirso Duarte's piano style and its role in the development of Timba piano playing.

Duarte, like all Timba pianists, was influenced by the original Charanga Habanera pianist, Juan Carlos González, but other aspects of his playing are just as heavily rooted in the style of another pianist with the same apellido, Iván "Melón" González. JC González, like virtually all pianists prior to Melón, almost always played the same rhythm with each hand, but Melón, and later Sergio Noroña and others began to create incredible tumbaos that utilized, among other things, a different rhythm with each hand -- with the left hand filling in the gaps of the right and the right adding occasional rapid-fire arpeggios on top. Duarte uses this second approach and, also like Melón, his tumbaos sometimes incorporate elements of classical piano music. But the biggest similarity between Duarte and Melón is their dissimilarity! Each is shockingly original. Neither one sounds remotely like any other Latin pianist and almost any tumbao by Melón or Tirso carries the unmistakable mark of its creator. Each plays different rhythms with each hand, and each draws inspiration from classical music, but their final creations are drastically different, not only from each other, but from one tumbao to the next.

Tema introducción - form & lyrics
Charanguero Mayor bolts out of the starting blocks with "Tema Introducción" -- 75 seconds of riveting Timba played at a blistering clip of 112 beats per minute. At least on the surface, like several songs on this album, this song is part of the entertaining musical "war" of lyrics that raged between Charanga Habanera and Charanga Forever. This was certainly a mock war in many respects, like two boxers dissing each other before a big fight to create publicity, but there was also some real animosity, not so much between the musicians, but between Calzado and his former Charangueros.

Sube y baja - form & lyrics
"Sube y Baja" is the album's most direct foray into the Habanera/Forever controversy. Although it's sung by Aned in the first person, there's no question that the song's real protagonist is the composer, David Calzado, "singing" his message to Charanga Forever through Mota's voice. This approach is used several times on the album. The songs are also cleverly written so as to have two possible interpretations. One could imagine, (to an even greater degree with "El Bla Bla Bla") that it's Aned singing the lyrics to his female love interest, but it could just as easily be Calzado singing to his former Charangueros. Writing lyrics which are open to two or even three legitimate interpretations is a very interesting nonmusical aspect of the Timba art form, used brilliantly not only by Calzado, but by Klimax, NG La Banda, and of course the undisputed masters of the double-entendre, Los Van Van.

Cristobalina (el chupa chupa) - form & lyrics
"Cristobalina", all jesting aside, is almost undoubtedly the most beautiful and elegant piece of music ever written on the subject of blow jobs. It has four of Tirso Duarte's most serious and sublime montunos, combined with lyrics that would make even Los Van Van's Pedro Calvo blush. I myself was reveling in Tirso's MIDI tumbaos from this song for quite some time before I even heard the song itself, and when I first heard the lyrics, I assumed that "cristobalina" was Spanish for "crystal ball" and the other Spanish words I recognized were the names of nearly every major Timba band (except Charanga Forever of course). So I assumed that the lyrics were talking about the past and future of Cuban music, using the idea of a crystal ball as a metaphor.

Well, as it turns out, "crystal ball" is "bola de cristal" and "Cristobalina" is the name of the girl Aned wants to take on a date, but she only wants to hear the aforementioned top bands, and he can't afford any of them, but thinks he has a better way to amuse her, which is where the alternate title comes in.

El Charanguero Mayor - form & lyrics
Three songs into the album, it's clearly evident that Calzado has emerged from the great Charanga breakup in triumph. This music is drastically different from Tremendo Delirio, just as Tremendo Delirio was drastically different from Hey You Loca, but what's common to all three is a relentless outpouring of creativity. A great deal of it came from González, Duarte, Limonta, Piloto, Manolín and many others, but the greatness of David Calzado, like that of Quincy Jones, can simply not be denied. He surrounds himself with brilliant musicians, but adds, along with his own significant musical input, a meticulous attention to detail which results in virtually every measure of every Charanga Habanera track containing some sort of musical gem.

This brings us to the spectacular title track. The first three arrangements are built around Duarte's tumbaos but this is his first full composition for the group, and one of the first songs that the new Charanga Habanera debuted when they first played live in Cuba in late 1998. Michel Maza was the only original Charanguero to stay with Calzado and it was he who originally sang this song, and another beautiful Duarte composition called "Confianza" which was inexplicably never recorded. Maza did record a radio demo of "Charanguero Mayor" however. We have a partial recording of this which you can hear in the timba.com mp3 collection. (Look at the upper left hand column of this page for this and other full-length Charanga Habanera songs). Our dub of the radio demo fades before the end so we don't know how that version ends, but in concert, Michel's version ended with a series of dramatic transitions from very soft a capella versions of coro 3 to raging reprises of coro 2, leading eventually to a sometimes extended vocal cadenza from Michel. We're still trying to track down a complete, high-quality live recording of the Michel version of this song, but here's an excerpt from a really low-quality cassette we picked up on the streets in Havana. The sound quality is horrible but you can get the idea of how great this must have been in concert on good night.


Sube y baja - form & lyrics
"Sube y Baja" is the album's most direct foray into the Habanera/Forever controversy. Although it's sung by Aned in the first person, there's no question that the song's real protagonist is the composer, David Calzado, "singing" his message to Charanga Forever through Mota's voice. This approach is used several times on the album. The songs are also cleverly written so as to have two possible interpretations. One could imagine, (to an even greater degree with "El Bla Bla Bla") that it's Aned singing the lyrics to his female love interest, but it could just as easily be Calzado singing to his former Charangueros. Writing lyrics which are open to two or even three legitimate interpretations is a very interesting nonmusical aspect of the Timba art form, used brilliantly not only by Calzado, but by Klimax, NG La Banda, and of course the undisputed masters of the double-entendre, Los Van Van.

El Cantinero - form & lyrics
There are those who complain that the cuerpos of Timba are too different in style from the montuno sections and for them, "El Cantinero" is not the starting place! But for others, a Timba arrangement such as this is like a seven course meal - its contrasts are part of its appeal - and this one runs the gamut from mellow pop to some of the most aggressive Timba on the album. These drastically different musical approaches are joined together by a unifying lyrical idea -- an homage to a figure present at virtually every Charanga Habanera concert -- the bartender ("cantina" + "-ero").

The cuerpo is written by Alina Torres, the pianist and director of "Dacapo", the vocal quartet in which Vannia Borges of Bamboleo began her career. Torres also wrote "Y no me explico lo que tienes" for Los Van Van. The final line of "El Cantinero", "el cantinero es un cancha", is a paraphrase of the earlier song, which begins with the line "el cantinero es un cancha". [audio example 42b] In this case the word "cancha" translates roughly to "a cool dude".

But "El Cantinero" sounds almost as if it could have been written by Cole Porter! The ABAC form, and the melodies themselves, especially in the "B" and "C" [audio example 43] sections, are very reminiscent of the Broadway show tune style, and the lyrical idea is right up Cole Porter's alley -- subtly poking fun at the cantina customer's affection for his bartender (or is it his affection for the alcohol itself?)


Riki Ricón - form & lyrics
Dantes Cardoso was the last of this crop of Charangueros to enter the band, replacing the last of the original members, Michel Maza. David Calzado had introduced the 16-year old Michel on Charanga Habanera's third album, and quickly molded him into one of Cuba's most popular performers. Maza has a unique and deeply-resonant voice and huge amounts of natural charisma and star quality, but Calzado's choice of material and dedication to perfecting each vocal performance was just as important to Michel's meteoric rise to fame. And of all the songs Calzado ever wrote or arranged, the one most perfectly-suited to Michel would have been "Riki Ricón". Ironically, by the time the band started playing it, Michel was gone! Dantes Cardosa was given the task of replacing his phenomenal voice and sex appeal and his first assignment as a lead singer was "Riki Ricón" -- a musical descendant of "Lola" with a challenging set of lyrics about the trials and tribulations of being the biggest hunk in Havana. To Cardosa's credit, the song became one of the album's biggest hits. It's still being played in concert in 2002 and "Riki Rikón" has become Cardosa's nickname.

The song is very much based on the funky "Temba/Lola groove" -- the tempo is a bit slower than normal Timba and the bassline begins with 4 marchlike 8th notes, the middle two coinciding with both hits of the 2-side of the clave. There's no common term for this rhythm yet, but there probably will be eventually if Calzado continues to use it generate hits. One of the best songs on the new album, "Ella es como es", also uses this type of tumbao.

Señora - form & lyrics
Francisco Céspedes is one of Cuba's most beloved pop songwriters. His most famous composition, "La Vida Loca", not Timba by any stretch of the imagination, has been covered by everyone from Manolín to Charanga Habanera itself. Tirso Duarte, much as he did on "El Cantinero", shows his versatility by smoothly and faithfully singing cuerpo as Céspedes had written it and then overseeing its metamorphosis into Timba with his fiery guías and complex chromatic tumbaos.

After an extended cuerpo in a very smooth, "easy listening" Bb major, the beginning of the montuno section is shocking. It plunges abruptly to Bb minor and then the piano tumbao weaves back and forth between minor and major every two measures! There's only this one hypnotic piano tumbao in the whole arrangement [audio example 56].And listen to the coro! ("señora, a veces la vi-da") Now listen in slow motion [audio example 57] On "vi" the lower harmony is on Db, the note which defines the key as being minor, and on "-da" the top voice drops down to D natural, changing the key to major for just that instant. It changes back to minor on the very next note and then back to major again before repeating the cycle. We stay in this twilight zone tumbao for the duration of the track. The rapped middle coro has several bloques and second voice harmonies to enhance the guías. [audio example 58] and in the final coro Tirso and the coro start quoting Cuban nursery rhymes and singing about a television show magician named "Jotavich".

It's hard to think of another piece of music in any genre which is remotely similar to this harmonically. To fully appreciate the otherworldly montuno section and abstract beauty of the way it finally fits in with the cuerpo took me quite a few listenings, many of them in Havana Café Cantante, where the soundman plays this song literally every night before the live music starts.

El bla bla bla - form & lyrics
"El Bla Bla Bla", one of the first new originals to come out after the breakup, could be interpreted as singer Aned Mota's rant to an estranged lover, but all of Havana knew that the real protagonist was composer David Calzado and that the "bla bla bla" was really a reference to the trash talk that was being leveled at Calzado by his former Charangueros.

The song's message is "all right, enough talk, let's get down to the music" -- and the music is as inspired as anything Charanga Habanera has ever done -- one gorgeous guía after the next floating above stately melodic basslines, and technicolor piano tumbaos glistening through the tapestry of the rhythm section. Duarte recorded three different tumbaos from this song in my very first session with him, and although I'd never heard the song itself, the tumbaos captured my imagination immediately and I had listened to them over and over before I ever heard the rest of the song.

Listen to the opening of the track. Where did Duarte get that piano tumbao come from? It's not really classical -- it's not jazz -- it's not Earth Wind & Fire -- it's certainly not salsa -- and it's not like any other Timba piano part. It's a miniature piece of music with a life of its own, with enough hooks that it can be listened to over and over by itself, and yet malleable enough that it fits like a glove with that majestic chromatic bassline and then with the skillfully harmonized coro.

Le mentí - form & lyrics
Le Mentí, Noel Díaz' solo number, is the album's most extreme case of genre-mixing. It stays in a light pop vein through the cuerpo and the first coro, then segues into a brief reggae episode before suddenly turning to dark Timba mixed with rap and the first of Charanga Habanera's experiments with the "Boyz 2 Men" choral approach. Listen to the piano as the band makes the gear-grinding transition from the shuffle triplets of the reggae into the Timba tumbao.

Pa' lo que me importa a mí - form & lyrics
If "Le Mentí" is bit of a patchwork of different genres, "Pa'lo que me importa a mí" is a seamless flow of musical brilliance. In many salsa and timba tracks, you can "hear the arranger thinking" -- "let's trying mixing a bit of this with a bit of that" -- "okay, we'll throw in a mambo and then go to a shortened version of the first coro...". But with "Pa' lo que me importa a mí", like so many of Charanga Habanera's best pieces, concepts like genre and arranging techniques are irrelevant... each musical idea grows organically from the one before it. It's easily one of Calzado's best arrangements and one of the band's most masterful performances. They had played it hundreds of times at rehearsals and gigs before going into the studio and this version has the electrifying feeling of a live concert. To top it off, Tirso Duarte turns in one of the best vocal performances ever recorded on a Timba album -- effortlessly combining complex chromatic melodies with raw, fiery rap. The singer is Duarte, but once again protagonist of the lyrics appears to be David Calzado, launching his final salvo in "La Guerra de las Charangas".

Mix de Antaño - instrumenatal
"Mix de Antaño" is the most adventurous of Charanga Habanera's four "retro-charanga" recordings, in which they pay tribute to their roots as a "real" charanga band. This time, instead of doing a full song like "Pare Cochero" or "A mí que", Calzado takes a number of snippets from the past and combines them into an interesting arrangement which is often played live with instrumental solos, making it a favorite among the musicians, who get to stretch out, especially Yulién and the Mengual brothers, each of whom plays an extended percussion solo in the live version.

--excerpts from the comprehensive analysis of Charanguero Mayor
by Kevin Moore of www.TIMBA.com