Latin Roots

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Latin Roots #5 - Tumbao - March 8, 2012

Tom Moon looks at tumbao - what the pianst does, and muntuno - the beat that the other musicians play. Montuno is a kind of syncopated piano vamp often used in traditional Cuban music. A 'vamp' is a repetitive musical accompaniment or phrase, often found in jazz, gospel, and soul. A 'vamp' is to those genres as a 'riff' is to rock music or a 'loop' is to hip hop. The literal translation of montuno is 'from the mountains', and it is often at the heart of Cuban dance music, giving piano players a range of harmonizing phrases to use.

David Dye talks with music journalist Tom Moon as they play a couple of montuno-based songs from well-known artists such as Rodrigo Y Gabriela and Eddie Palmieri. Tom Moon is a well-known writer and musician whose work has been featured in big name publications such as GQ, Rollingstone, and Vibe. He's also a professional saxophonist, and he's received accolades such as the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Music Journalism award. Given his experience playing Latin music, Moon gives insight into what it takes to reshape traditional music into something new.

Listen to the archived session at WorldCafe.NPR.org. And, check out the Tumbao Spotify playlist.

Session Playlist

  • Show Tracks:
    • Eddie Palmieri, "Conmigo"
    • Rodrigo Y Gabriela, "Diablo Rojo"
  • Listen to the Playlist:


Latin Roots is made possible by a grant from the Wyncote Foundation.

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