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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Theoretical perspectives on clave in salsa music Bin Md Tarip, Muhammad Taufik Azri


Salsa music incorporates clave—a five-onset rhythmic gesture that exists in Afro-Cuban and Latin American music—as a primary rhythmic “skeleton,” meaning that the music must “fit” within clave’s rhythmic, metric, and rhetorical principles. However, several salsa genres, such as mambo, do not feature the clave explicitly. Instead, the clave is translated into other musical elements, such as melody and accompanying figures. This thesis investigates the operation of clave in mambo songs that do not explicitly present it. It first examines the rhythmic fabric and metrical structure of short introductory musical examples, and considers ways that they do and do not correspond to the clave’s rhythmic and metric processes. It then applies the theoretical apparatus to sections of “La Malanga” by Rudy Calzado and Eddie Palmieri and “Bilongo” by Guillermo Rodríguez Fiffé and Tito Rodríguez. The investigation reveals how each of a song’s elements reflects the clave pattern either strictly or loosely, and if there is any ambiguity. It shows how changes in the conformance with clave can give large-scale shape and direction to the sectional form.

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