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Tambuco Percussion Ensemble of Mexico

About the Program:

Traditional and contemporary music inspired by the popular and folk music of Mexico.


As part of the Kennedy Center’s Celebrate Mexico 2010, Tambuco performs traditional and contemporary music inspired by the popular and folk music of Mexico. Using a variety of percussion instruments from bongos to vibraphones, Tambuco’s musicians demonstrate the unique sounds of their instruments, discuss the culture and traditions of Mexico as expressed through music, and perform in traditional costumes.

Tambuco is a percussion quartet founded in 1993 by four Mexican musicians—Alfred Bringas, Ricardo Gallardo (Artistic Director), Miguel Gonzales, and Raul Tudon. Playing drums, cymbals, bells, xylophones, and other rhythm instruments, Tambuco performs concerts around the world. The group has won numerous awards and prizes and has recorded four highly praised CDs. Tambuco’s Ritmicas was selected by Audiophile Audition as one of the best CDs recorded in 1997.

Tambuco’s performances weave music, instruments, and playing techniques from all over the world into a colorful tapestry of sounds, some familiar and some completely new. Most of the music performed by Tambuco was composed in the twentieth century, some of it as early as 1930. The quartet also performs music composed in recent years.

Since 1993, Tambuco has collected more than one hundred percussion instruments from a wide variety of cultures. From West Africa come two powerful drums—the deep sounding djun-djun and the higher-pitched djembe. From the Middle East comes the goblet-shaped drum that has been played there for 3000 years—the darabuca.

When collaborating with composers in the creation of new music, Tambuco encourages them to experiment with these and other instruments in new and unusual ways. The performers delight in presenting audiences with the resulting music: vibrant, exciting new sounds which are both fascinating and emotionally powerful.

Tambuco Percussion Ensemble of Mexico performs a wide assortment of music styles, ranging from structured percussion music to ethnic drum music and avant-garde sound interpretation. Using percussion instruments from bongos to vibraphones, this talented ensemble demonstrates the unique sounds of their instruments, discusses the culture and traditions of Mexico as expressed through music, and performs original compositions inspired by the popular and folk music idioms of Mexico.

Percussion Music

Percussion music, perhaps more than any other, is music of touch. Percussionists use bare hands, sticks, and mallets to strike, scrape, rub, slap, and tap surfaces of metal, skin, wood, or plastic. With great physical force they can make sounds of earsplitting intensity: Cymbals crash, big drums pound and boom! Or with the gentlest delicacy, percussionists can make barely-detectable sounds: Bells tinkle, rattles rustle, and whisper.

Percussion music is also music of the heartbeat. From the moment of birth, all people on earth depend upon the steady beats of their hearts to keep them alive. A simple, steady beat on a drum is reminiscent of a heartbeat. Percussionists can extend and embellish that simple heartbeat into complexities of rhythm.

Marching band drummers in sharp uniforms, casual groups of drummers in a city park, and hip-hop drummers on the radio all keep people listening and moving to their beat.

Percussion music is also old music. Throughout history people have created percussion music for personal expression, public ceremony, and pure pleasure. From log drums in Africa’s rainforests to tribal drums on Native America’s Great Plains to bronze gongs in ancient Southeast Asia, people made rhythms that enriched their lives. Many of these beats still go on today.

Be Percussionists

Find objects in your classroom that can serve as percussion instruments. For example, a pencil can serve as a drumstick which produces different timbres depending upon which part of the pencil is used to strike another object’s surface. A desktop, paperback book, or even another pencil can serve as an idiophone, an instrument made of solid, resonant material. When you have found an “instrument” you like, pair with another student and improvise (make up) a stream of rhythm. When you and your partner are happy with the result, form a quartet with another pair. See how large an ensemble you can create before keeping together in time becomes too difficult. If your whole class can play together successfully, congratulations!

Tambuco Percussion Ensemble of Mexico Returns

One of the finest percussion quartets of today, Tambuco Percussion performs a wide assortment of music styles, ranging from structured percussion music to ethnic drum music and avant-garde sound interpretation. Using percussion instruments from bongos to vibraphones, this talented ensemble demonstrates the unique sounds of their instruments, discusses the culture and traditions of Mexico as expressed through music, and performs original compositions inspired by the popular and folk music idioms of Mexico (recorded in 2010 at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC).

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