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7 Responses to “JOE CUBA SEXTET / “El Pito””

Kayvon Says:
October 10th, 2006 at 11:06 am

I’d just like to take issue with your last point about "swing" being an African-American rhythmic concept. Obviously "swing music" was borne from African-American jazz musicians but surely swing is a natural rhythmic concept and one that has been present in many musics across the world for thousands of years. Also, I’d guess that these concepts come and go to fulfill different purposes. I should imagine that, for arguments sake, had classical music been swung in a similar sense to what we know as "swing music", African-American musicians would have placed their emphasis somewhere else so as to define themselves and their experience.

           you are agreeing with me         

First, you state: Obviously "swing music" was borne from African-American jazz musicians… but then you say …but surely swing is a natural rhythmic concept and one that has been present in many musics across the world for thousands of years. Well, which is it? Was swing "born" in the 20th century of African-American heritage, or did swing exist for "thousands of years"? I believe swing started as you first state and that swing did not exist prior to that.

Similarly, the saxophone as a specific instrument did not always exist. However, once the instrument comes into existence anyone can play the instrument. I believe anyone can swing now that swing as a concept is established. I’m not sure what your real argument or disagreement is. Neither saxophones nor swing existed for thousands of years, or do you have some information to prove the existence of the saxophone thousands of years ago, and ditto with "swing" as a rhythmic concept? If you have the evidence, lay it on us.

I bring up saxophones as a concrete example of the basic argument. "Swing" is difficult to define, so to keep from getting hung up in a semantical argument about the definition of swing, I offer the saxophone as another example to clarify my point.  


Kayvon Says:
October 10th, 2006 at 11:17 am

Forgot to say thanks for the website. I’ve started writing replies a couple of times but never actually posted.

Also, big thanks for introducing me to Donny Hathaway.


Kayvon Says:
October 11th, 2006 at 11:58 am

Hi Kalamu, I guess what i’m trying to say is that I find it hard to believe that before African slaves were forcibly taken to the Americas, say for instance, even African musicians didn’t swing their music. I just would have thought that it would have been something that has been done for thousands of years and that it had also been picked up on by other musicians around the world. I think there must be certain themes and devices, especially rhythmic, that have been with us for a long time but that have not always been played in the same setting. ie maybe musicians had never played four beats in a bar with uneven 16ths, but certainly I think that musicians would have done a similar thing by catching notes late in relation to a regular pulse or displacing beats against one another. That is only my belief and not something I can categorically prove. To me it just seems more likely than not. So in as much, I don’t believe swing is a 19th/20th century African-American concept but I believe it is something that early musicians would have happened across in their pursuit of musical expression. Who were these first musicians and where did they come from? Well if you believe that life started in Africa then you can bet it was there where this musical phenomenon was first cultivated and expressed.

          all of history is specific         

that’s what makes it history, whether we know it or not, whether it is recorded or not, something specific happen. i do not believe in eternity, that something specific always existed. in fact, our life is nothing but a series of specifics. just because human life started in africa that in no way proves or even implies that everything humans have produced started in africa.

part of what i hear you doing is making a distinction between social production and material production. music is a product of social product. specific musical instruments are a product of material production. while most of us can easily accept that specific musical instruments came into existence at specific points in human history and that not all instruments were first produced in africa. when it comes to social production, however, we sometimes make metaphysical arguments, arguments based on ideas rather than on specifc social and material reality.

i do not argue beliefs with folk. believe what you want to believe. but if we want to argue facts, opinions, philosophies, ideologies then let’s bring it on. you admit that you have a belief and can’t prove what your believe. i was arguing about the production of a specific musical culture and my opinion about where that culture (i.e. swing) came from and when swing came into existence. to counter my argument, which makes you a bit uncomfortable, you present a belief and not one piece of evidence.

i think the discussion per se is over…


Kayvon Says:
October 11th, 2006 at 9:32 pm

I suppose I was being a little difficult just for the sake of argument. I tend to debate (or is that wildly speculate?) with intellectual/philosphical people like yourself in an effort to try and gain a better understanding of the world around me. Music is not exactly where I find the most answers, but it’s where I find the most relief.

This site is a great supplement to my music studies at the moment (I reccommended your site to my uni class) so I hope in the future we could do some more talking about black music as it’s valuable to be able to converse with people like yourself that have such an extensive knowledge of the topic in hand.

Nice one for entertaining my thoughts for a second, vague speculations I know but in the absence of hard evidence I guess that’s how you do things.

Looking forward to more music and writing,


Giancarlo Rosa Says:
February 11th, 2007 at 5:54 pm

I just want to make a correction on the story about Joe Cuba. The gentleman that was the bassist his name was ROY ROSA not Ray. I should know because he was my father. His birth name was RAUL ROSA. He’s no longer with us, he passed away on Mother’s Day 1964.

        Mtume says:       

Giancarlo, thank you for the correction.

FJ Says:
February 10th, 2012 at 10:44 pm

I think the ‘issue’ of the origin of swing is moot…

First, I have undertaken both study of European “Classical” music in a university setting and learned many “performance styles” associated with semi-ancient ‘musics.’ Embellishments are a key concept of Baroque (hundreds of years ago) music, and others. But I’ve also learned some of the great tradition borne of the Mali Empire (many hundreds more from the distant past), specifically, the techniques and rhythms of west African “Classical” music. Note that such music is primarily drumming, and always associated with dance. Dance music MUST swing, becausee dancers aren’t robots that can instantly change tempo… they express emotions subtly, and hence so do the music makers producing their soundtrack.

“Swing” as a term in musicology was born in the U.S. and refers to a style of music that is Jazz and yet involves subtle changes in tempo that form an expression similar to how Africans in Africa do it. They will stretch and stress the rhythm in complex yet subtle, intriguing ways. So does the U.S. music we call Swing with a capital S. Hence to me, there is no argument. Unless someone claims it wasn’t invented by so-called “black” people. Heck, it was Africans, however you choose to describe them. All I’m saying is we know for sure that swinging has been happening in Africa (and notably India and elsewhere that dance and music are married) for several hundreds of years (and likely millenia). Peace!

FJ Says:
February 10th, 2012 at 11:00 pm

And it’s not simply subtle changes in tempo, swinging is primarily a way of re-interpreting and playing simple figures (rhythmic “motifs”) in what could simplistically be called “stretchy” ways.

This means whereas a simple figure of 6/8 time called the dotted quarter + eighth (quarter note aka “crotchet” worth two “quavers” or eighth notes) produces a poetic Trochee (DUM – da) [continuously repeating] pattern that may have either a strict 3 “feel,” as written, or a swinging feel where the quarter note gets an extra dot and the second note is halved, or some other mutation that gives the rhythm a different flavor. There are other variants… see Cuban music for more, e.g.

The key to swing music notation is that subtle stretching of the rhythms need not be notated for experienced players, just as figured bass notation need not be explained to experienced continuo (harpsichord, cello/bass) players in order for them to interpret it well.

Sorry, long explanation for a simple concept. Dancers know the difference without all the technical explanation and know what they like about it (there is implicit emotion in swinging any number of ways–check out Flamenco and Romantic Classical styles [“rubato” is only a part of the latter] for more of this, too). 🙂

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