Robert Fernández, Instructor of percussion and Latin percussion at California State University, Los Angeles, and an excellent percussionist, has been traveling regularly to Cuba to research and study Cuban music for around fifteen years. During these trips he has made contact with events, places and persons that are important parts in the evolution process of today's Afrocuban and Cuban music. This fact, together with his knowledge in the world of rhythm and percussion instruments has created in Fernández the necessary conditions to turn him into the ideal person to write a book on Cuban rhythms and musical instruments, that goes as far as to propose new transcriptions of this music made by himself.
Fernández offers in this book an exhaustive and detailed description of Afrocuban drums and their rhythms. Historical facts are used to present the drums while transcriptions offer us important information on the aesthetical behavior of the original African ethnic groups and the evolution of their descendents in Cuba. The idea of showing us different transcriptions to each rhythm leads to the understanding of different evolution lines, from African to Afrocuban music, as it happened in different territories in Cuba.
This book gives us information on the contributions done by the Yoruba, Bantu/Congolese, Arará and Calabar peoples to the musical culture of Cuba. Its structure shows us how the legacy of these peoples have survived in Cuba and in this way have given birth to an Afrocuban musical culture that in time began to influence strongly the rest of Cuban music.
In a second stage Fernandez approaches Rumba as a "non religious music and dance in Cuba"…"rooted today in the legacy of the African slaves". He describes the different musical genres belonging to Rumba -Yambú, Guaguancó and Columbia- and shows through his transcriptions essential differences between the Havana and the Matanzas style. Fernández grants the quinto in Rumba a most important role. Towards the end of this chapter he makes very good and detailed remarks on how to approach quinto performances by percussionists.
The knowledge provided by Fernández in this book is, without any doubts, a way to the know-how of using Cuban music and rhythms to enrich performance capacities of percussionists in many updated popular music of the world, like Pop, Funk and Jazz among others. The scores in the book open a possible way towards the schooling of Afrocuban music and Cuban rhythms and their use by professional musicians all over the world.
If you are a musician and show interest in Afrocuban music, I strongly recommend this book, read it thoroughly, I assure your knowledge and performance abilities will greatly improve.
Olavo Alén Rodríguez, Director
Center for Research and Development of Cuban Music (CIDMUC)
Sep. 15, 2004