Mongo Santamaría and his ritmo sabroso: Africa aslant yet Africa strong

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A Quinto drum

A Quinto drum

The Quinto is the lead drum (tumbadora in Cuba, conga elsewhere) used in the various forms of Afro-Cuban Rumba.   It is also the smallest of the three.  These drums of Cuban slave-hybridized Bantu-Congolese / Lucumi-Yoruba origin – are tall (though the Quinto may be only one foot tall), narrow, and single-headed. The Cuban version of such tumbadoras is staved, like a barrel;  it may have originated from salvaged barrels at one time.   Rumba-quinto master and Latin-Jazz percussionist Ramón “Mongo” Santamaría Rodríguez (Havana, Cuba, 1922 – February 1st, 2003) demonstrated his creative skill on the Quinto in the classic 1959 recording Mazacote (“Sweet hodgepodge”):


To read “I Want to Be a Drum” by Mozambican poet José Craveirinha click the link below:

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