Friday, February 27, 2009

In The Heart Of Change

Since the beginning of the year Cuatro de Diciembre has been adapting to a line-up change with Dan and Nathan both leaving for different pastures. That change happens isn't at all surprising and I've had than my fair share of her company at 4de12. Instead the best way to be with Change, as I've found over the years, is to embrace her warmly as Opportunity. And this time didn't feel any different.

My cunning plan is to hug the girl until she's blue in the face.

Without another lead singer, I'm taking on all the lead vocals. That might have daunted me a bit had it not been for my marathon training sessions over Christmas. This singer's now more than happy to handle two full sets plus encores; the only thing to keep an eye out for is the hydration level before and during performances. Actually, I'm rather looking forward to interpreting such favourites as "Corazón Fugitivo" and "En La Sangre" which had been necessarily relinquished to Nathan. The immediate impact on how the band plays is not massive; it's nice to have changes in vocal texture, and we can achieve the same result by re-arranging the set-lists to give a better scope for me to change my resonance bias from song to song.

In contrast, life without timbales is pretty different.

I miss its sonic texture, the thickness it adds to a song, its attack and the drive of its syncopated patterns. Not having it around does make some of our bigger numbers more challenging to play, but Change didn't come to us with doom and gloom packed in her bags; there've been a whole slew of positive surprises:
  • we're understanding each other better as musicians now that we can hear one another's musical subtleties (something we couldn't do before during practice due to the sheer volume of the drums);
  • there's a greater level of interaction between all of us i.e. a tighter knit between the melodics, rhythm and percussion;
  • Decemberists are all learning to play more propulsively - in effect a key role of the timbalero is being redistributed across the entire ensemble;
  • it's providing us with the opportunity and incentive to increase our knowledge base; and
  • we're exercising our creativity in altering our arrangements to maintain the same feel and drive in our repertoire.
I think I'd mentioned it before, that there was a danger of Cuatro de Diciembre reaching a plateau. Change, for all the reasons above, is making sure that we don't rest on our laurels. And as my good friend and salsa aficionado Christophe so astutely pointed out, Cubans have been playing propulsively, without the need for timbales in their line-ups, for more than a hundred years. As an old adage goes, "the more things change, the more they say the same".

Loo Yen

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