Solo, to music. Caribbean sway basic, atiempo embodiment rhythm. Single shaker, played to the campana-güiro backbeat rhythm (beats 4,4+ and 2,2+). The definition was augmented where:
- the güiro backbeat variation was defined as being played by one hand, oscillating in free space; and,
- the campana backbeat variation was defined as being played by one hand into the palm of the other.
During early practice of the campana backbeat rhythm, some participants expressed inability to get into the groove (i.e. state of entrainment). This was because they had inadvertently 'frozen' their upper body by keeping their receiving palm rigid in space; and both elbows close to the sides of the torso.
Freedom was regained using a rhythmic clapping action where both hands were accelerated to each other, and the elbows kept a distance away from the rib cage. As the participants achieved entrainment, I pointed out how the clapping activity could be used to calibrate the rhythmic engine carried in the upper torso. I further suggested that the shaker could be impacted against the side of the thigh, like tambourine players do.
The arising of the problem and its solution was a fortunate happenstance. It made everyone aware of how physical restriction stymies rhythmic freedom, and it allowed me to pose the question,
"What is the minimum individual space needed for rhythm?"
That certainly caused a period of individual thought and experimentation. To which I then added,
"Do you allow your partner that minimum distance when you dance? For example, in Rueda (de Casino)?"
As I've come to expect (and encourage), every participant expressed her/his own preference for the variations, and feeling for the groove.
Briefing: Maracas as a 'sexed-pair' instrument
Each pair comprises: a 'macho' [male] which is higher-pitched and more aggressive in tone, and an 'hembra' [female] which is lower-pitched and mellower in tone.
Briefing: How to hold maracas
The balance-point of a maraca should be slightly above the neck of the instrument. The neck is positioned between the first and second fingers of the hand, meaning that the head would tip over if uncontrolled. The first and second knuckles are the most stable in the hand, this allows for the most efficient transfer of force from the body, and the most control. Holding maracas by their necks is the shortest distance between the hands and the enclosed beads, without dampening the bead enclosure. It also allows the option for their handles to be played.
Exercise One: Playing the maraca backbeat rhythm
Solo, to music. Caribbean sway basic, atiempo embodiment rhythm. Macho in non-dominant hand, hembra in dominant hand. Macho tones on the backbeats (beats 4 and 2), hembra tones on the backbeat upbeats (beats 4+ and 2+); hence the basic maraca backbeat rhythm is played as macho-hembra couplets on beats 4,4+ and 2,2+.
Participants found the rhythm easier to play because tones are distributed across two shakers, and enjoyed the experience more. This is because:
- return of the beads to the shaker-bowl (and their collection) was no longer a rate-limiting factor i.e. they could initiate the upbeat tones (4+ and 2+) before the beads of the downbeat tones (4 and 2) had regrouped;
- the wave-length of actuation, formerly limited to the shaker to the elbow, could be extended up the upper limb into the shoulder and torso; and
- the greater involvement of muscle units provided more kinesthetic feedback to rhythm - participants could feel the rhythm better.
My response was, as usual, "it depends." The two main factors were: whichever the maraquero/a felt best suited the music; and whether the style of playing would help or hinder playing at higher tempi.
This session completed the basic vocabulary of back-beat rhythms for solares participants. A landmark moment. But we're just one step away from greater things.