Around The World

Samba Songo

Hybrid Grooves Blending Classic Brazilian and Afro-Cuban Patterns

The Afro-Cuban songo rhythm was created in the 1970s by the Cuban band Los Van Van and its drummer/percussionist José Luis Quintana, aka Changuito. After many years of studying and playing Afro-Cuban and Brazilian rhythms myself, and participating in a festival in the city of Recife in northern Brazil (where samba had its beginnings), I realized one night, while experimenting with a samba pattern, that I had the makings of a hybrid groove, which I call samba songo.

We’re going to take a look at two versions of the samba songo. Notice that the second groove has the ride cymbal playing quarter notes on the downbeats, just like it would in the basic Afro-Cuban songo. The first samba songo pattern, however, has quarter notes playing on the upbeats, which are the 8th notes that land between each beat. (On a personal note, I would like to acknowledge the influence of one of my former teachers, the Brazilian drummer Maguinho Alcantara.)

To begin, here’s an example of the most common Afro-Cuban songo pattern.

Around_the_World_Ex 1

The hi-hat foot can play on beats 2 and 4, beats 1 and 3, or all four. You can also play a 2-3 clave pattern for an additional layer of complexity.

Around_the_World_Ex 2

Now let’s drop in a samba surdo pattern on the bass drum while implying the songo phrasing with the hands. Start out very slowly (86 bpm), and work your way up to an up-tempo samba pace of 118 bpm.

Around_the_World_Ex 3
Around_the_World_Ex 4

Peter Magadini