The drums known as timbales are yet another example of the uniquely Cuban inclination to mix European instrumentation with African rhythms. Timbales fuel Cuban dances like the Danzón and the Mambo, and are widely used in Salsa music, Latin jazz and rock.
Timbales evolved from the European tympani, as a more portable version of the kettle-drum. They’re tunable, played with sticks or hands, and you can play the shells, too–they even have a name for the specific rhythm played on the outside of the drum: cáscara (shell, husk).
Timbale sets include the larger drum called the hembra (female), the smaller drum called the macho (male) and usually have at least one cowbell and a cymbal attached to the stand.
Here’s a lesson from the very talented George Ortiz, timbalero for Poncho Sanchez’s band:
And Tito Puente, El Rey (the King) of Timbales, shows us all how it’s done:
Hear timbales, Poncho Sanchez, Tito Puente and more on Jazz Caliente, Thursdays at 2pm on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz.