Songo – The Introduction of the Drum Set

Last month we discussed a little about the Cha-cha drum set pattern and the fact that the drum set part comes from the conga, timbale, bongo, bells, etc. We touched on the fact that there are some latin styles that have the drum set as an original instrument in the line up. The Songo is an Afro-Cuban style that was developed in the 1970’s. Jose Luis Quintana ( “Changuito” ) and Juan Formell are credited for introducing the drum set as an “equal” to the other percussion instruments. Changuito and Juan are members of the group Los Van Van. Juan is a bassist. Changuito is a drummer/ percussionist/ conguero/ timbalero. In fact, Changuito has a number of videos and a book called, A Master’s Approach to Timbales. All worth checking out for multiple reasons, other than him being an incredible percussionist!

The Songo is influenced by rock, jazz, and funk and has a little more of a free feel to it. Songo also is a combination of Son and Rumba styles as well. It tends to be more free from repetition than some of the son styles of music and therefore is a bit more syncopated. The Songo is probably the most imitated Afro-Cuban style. Following is one of the many variations of a Songo drum set pattern.

The top notes on the staff are played on the hi hat. The next notes down are played on the snare drum as rim clicks. The very bottom notes are played on the bass drum. Also keep in mind that this pattern is written in 2-3 rumba clave so be able to start the pattern in the first and in the second measures. Keep in mind that there are several other variations that are spread across the entire drum set incorporating the toms, bell of the ride, side of the floor tom, hi hat operated with the foot, and different rhythms altogether. This is a great pattern to start with and get a feel for the idea of the groove. Have fun with it!

Meg Thomas Bio
Meg Thomas, percussionist from Chicago, is an active performer and teacher who received her Bachelor of Arts in Music from Millikin University. Meg performs and teaches several different percussion instruments such as congas, drum set, bongos, timbales, djembe, tabla, cajon, darbuka, berimbau, cuica, bodhrán, and other percussion instruments.

Meg is involved in several original music projects as well as being an avid performer in the festival and jobbing band circuits. Meg has played in numerous bands over the years, playing in venues that range from House of Blues to Alpine Valley to The Park West to The NBC/Disney Holiday Parade to thousands of clubs, festivals, and bars. Meg has performed on local and national TV, and has also been on local and internet radio. She has experience in a plethora of genres: rock, soca, pop, calypso, blues, punk, fusion, latin-jazz, metal, salsa, world, folk, classical, reggae, disco, R&B, percussion groups, dance ensembles, etc.

In addition to being an active performer, she plays sessions at recording studios, puts on world percussion seminars, facilitates drum circles, teaches private lessons, and writes the Drum and Percussion Tips of the Month column for the webzine, Meg received a drummie award for runner-up “Rising Star Percussionist” in Drum! Magazine’s 2010 Drummie Awards. Meg is part of the Vic Firth drumstick and mallet company’s Education Team as a Vic Firth Private Drum Teacher and has endorsements with Sabian Cymbals, Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets, and Evans Drumheads, LP Percussion, and PureSound Percussion.

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