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Cascara Rhythm: The Super Power Beat of Latin Drummers

Have you ever noticed that Latin drummers are unnervingly happy? If you take a look at the great Latin drummers, they have a totally different vibe when drumming than so many other percussionists and musicians. They’re in the groove so hard, they almost become the focus of the song. Latin drummers are the sound of Latin music, and those rhythms are what make us all want to jump up and groove right along with them.

One of the great things about Latin music is that the same basic rhythms are foundations of the various Latin drumming beats we love today. These foundation rhythms, or rudiments, are essential to developing your own Latin drumming style and technique since they pretty much define the sound of Salsa, Mambo, Samba, Bossa Nova and more.

If you look at the Cascara rhythm, or, rather, if you feel the Cascara rhythm, you’re well on your way to playing a great Salsa beat that will have the crowd up and moving. The Cascara is a complimentary rhythm to the Son Clave, another foundation (if not the foundation) of Latin music. Like peas and carrots, these rhythms are easily interwoven, especially when played on different types of drums or percussion instruments. In fact, within both the Son Clave and Cascara rhythms, there are variations that can be layered over each other by different drummers and/or drums to create a life-changing polyrhythm.

It is the versatility and flow of the Cascara and other rudiments that make those lengthy Latin drumming solos (think, Santana!) possible: because ain’t nobody ready to quit when that groove is so alive, so real, and just so damned sexy.


The Cascara rhythm is perfect for drums like the timbales, or for any cutting, “metal” sound: hi-hats, rim shots on a snare and cowbell all bring out the punch and slight syncopation of the beat. The name means “little shell,” in fact, but, the sound and effect are huge. The Cascara rhythm is both mellow and funky, with a crazed fervor that can knock over even the most accomplished Latin drummer or percussionist… in a good way. Possibly, in the best way imaginable.

That’s why Latin drummers and percussionists smile so much (well, there’s a lot of other reasons, too, but, we’re going with it). Latin drumming is fun, it brings out the best in people and to be the person who makes that happen for others is one of the most intensely blissful experiences on the planet. Just ask a Latin drummer about Latin drumming, they’ll back us up on that. Plus, after learning the basic rhythms like the Son Clave or Cascara, a Latin drummer can pretty much bring anyone to their feet. It’s almost like a superpower, and pretty great to behold. Not that we’d ever use that particular superpower for anything but to benefit the world, and really, how can a Latin rhythm ever be wrong to play?

Never doubt the power of an addictive beat to change the world, or, at least your audience’s frame of mind. The Cascara is a rudiment of Latin drumming, but that does not mean it is simple. It is one of those rhythms that you should know in your sleep because it is so versatile, so perfect for the stage, studio, your living room or drum circles and drum jams. Plus, playing it will make you smile, and that’s one of the best benefits of drumming any rhythm: how it makes you feel.

Ready to learn the Cascara? Check out the video below!

20th Nov 2014 Kristin Stancato

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