Saturday, December 23, 2006

La clave and the musical traditions of the world

Anyone who delves into the rich musical heritage of Latin America will have to come to grips with the clave. It's a five beat pattern over a four beat measure. For all latin music evolved in spanish speaking communities across the Hispanic world it is the foundation and its main building block. If you don't hear and feel it you miss the essence of salsa. Now I don't dance and never will, since I am part of the Northern Hemisphere where analytical contemplation is the way to approach art and music. But this rythm I understood. I started tapping it in my car every day until it became an 'archetypal' element of my brain.

Much to my surprise I've come across it in various places. The clave came to the West with the African slaves, but did anyone know it was transported much earlier to the east as well? Recently I was astonished to hear it while listening to the music of a well-known Bollywood production (Taal). There it was, the foundational rythm of an Indian movie love song.

More recently I stumbled upon it in one of the compositions of Metheny. When you listen to 'The Gathering Sky' on 'Speaking of Now', you'll notice that the song starts with a gentle lovely guitar theme. As usual the song evolves into a hectic piece. In the middle there's a haunting passage where you will hear the clave. Loud and clear. This time it's inverted so slightly hard to notice, but it's there. So there is Sanchez-influence there. Apart from the noticeable bossa nova touch there is also salsa intrusion into the work of Pat Metheny.



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