For any readers whose curiosity was piqued by the conga videos in last night’s dump, allow me to provide a little more context via Lani Milstein, a NY-based ethnomusicubanist, who brought them to my attention —

Just a shout out to say thanks for being such an eloquent writer on reggaetón. I’m working on my thesis in ethnomusicology on conga santiaguera from Santiago de Cuba — I talk a lot about the tango-congo cell, which I can now thanks to you relate clearly to the rest of el caribe (tango-congo aka dem bow).

I don’t know if you know about conga santiaguera aka conga oriental but here’s the gist of it mixed with a popular music group called Sur Caribe:

actually in this video they don’t play the tango-congo straight up like they usually do, usually the tango-congo/dembow is played all together on the brake drums, but it’s reinforced by the 4/4 bass drum underlay, maintained by the biggest round drum, and the tresillo played by the smallest round drum.

And these dudes, Este Habana — they prove what I’m talking about in my thesis and what you mention: that it’s all Caribbean (actually Congolese, no?) in the end — here they mix conga with merengue, and then stick reggaetón on top for one giant tango-congo/dembow festival:

anyways, must admit i’m not the biggest fan of reggaeton but you never know … I’ve certainly got a better understanding of it now. thx!!

and then in a follow-up email —

The great thing about the video I sent you of Sur Caribe is that that song brought an eastern Cuban music to the forground of Cuban dance music. Havana kind of dominates that world with its timba sabrosa (that I looove), but this song won song of the year in 2006 and it was a big thing for Santiaguerans — as you can tell from the lyrics in Añoranza por la conga, conga’s a big source of pride for easterners (esp. Santiaguerans), it’s kind of their claim to fame (well except for son too, but that kind of gets lost in the paperwork). Habaneros refer to easterners/Santiaguerans as “palestinos” “guajiros” and generally consider them underdeveloped hicks — there’s a big rivalry between the 2 sides of the island. So the fact that this song pegó pero muchisimo was kind of like “Ha! we rock too you know..” and then a few Havana groups decided “hey this stuff’s kinda cool” and used it — like Este habana and good ol’ Clan 537-

this song was also super pegado this summer, it’s the same corneta china player as in the Sur Caribe video, from the traditional conga group los Hoyos (who I worked with this summer).

thx, Lani !