Drum Talk: Rhythms from Cuba and Brazil

Part of the CSU Summer Arts Festival 2014 @ CSU Monterey Bay
Course Dates: June 30 to July 13, 2014
Application Deadline: May 2014

This percussion course is a “reunion” and conversation between the African derived music traditions of Cuba and Brazil. Master drummers John Santos and Mario Pam will lead an exploration of various traditional Cuban and Brazilian genres such as rumba, comparsa/conga, bembé, batá, samba, ijexá, baião, and maracatú as well as experiment with fusions of these distinct but related rhythms.

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  • Students will perform a range of music styles from Cuba and Brazil: including sacred rhythms of Candomblé and Santería, samba, baião, maracatú, bembé, rumba, comparsa, and others.
  • Students learn from and play with master artists: Grammy-nominated percussionist and bandleader John Santos and Mario Pam, musical director of the famous percussion group Ilê Aiyê, direct from Salvador, Brazil.
  • Students will develop familiarity with a variety of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian percussion instruments, learn performance techniques, and understand the role of each instrument within the music as a whole.
  • Students will understand the socio-historical contexts in which the rhythms were born, the current environments that sustain them, and the intimate connections between these two great traditions.
  • This course will culminate in a public performance of student work.


Undergraduate: MUSIC 420, 3 units

Graduate: MUSIC 620, 3 units



The focus of the instruction in this course is on percussion. All students will learn techniques, rhythms and context for a variety of percussion instruments as well as key concepts in Cuban and Brazilian music.  The instructors will also share their experience and vision of how and where the great traditions of Brazil and Cuba intersect. Ideally, students should have at least an intermediate level of proficiency in percussion. Accomplished musicians with expertise on other instruments will also benefit and are welcome to apply.  Performance experience in Cuban, Brazilian or other Latin or African music styles is a plus, but not necessary.


Registration and scholarship application information

Please submit:

1) A statement describing your musical experience, background, training, and skill level (250-750 words)

2) A brief statement about why you are interested in this course (150-500 words)

Note: applicants may also choose to share a work sample, but this is OPTIONAL. Youtube clips, Cds, or DVDs are suitable media.

Send materials via email to jsharp@calstate.edu

OR   Mail to:

CSU Summer Arts Registration Office
CSU Monterey Bay
100 Campus Center
University Corporation, Suite 211
Seaside, CA 93955


Professor Umi Vaughan


Mario PamMario Pam of Ilê Aiyê

Mario Pam is from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, and began his musical career in 1991 as a founding member of Ilê Aiyê’s youth percussion ensemble. In 2000, he became one of the Percussion Directors of the adult group. Since then he has been creating innovative repertory and directing 150 percussionists for the annual Carnival celebration in Salvador. Mario founded and currently directs an international samba group called Tambores do Mundo (Drums of the World). He has participated as a featured performer and instructor at events in Brazil, Europe, Africa, and the United States.

Visit www.ileaiye.org.br/.

Ilê Aiyê was founded in 1974, and was among the first “bloco afro” or black samba organizations in Salvador, Brazil to revolutionize the genres called samba afro and samba reggae. This distinctive style fuses samba with sacred Afro-Brazilian rhythms like ijexá, as well as music styles from throughout the Americas and Africa such as merengue, hip-hop, and soukous.


John Santos

John Santos

U.S. Fontanals Fellow and San Francisco Latino Heritage Arts Awardee, John Santos, is Resident Artistic Director of the San Francisco Jazz Festival and a five-time Grammy-nominated producer and percussionist.  He is one of the foremost exponents of Afro-Latin music in the world today. Born in San Francisco, California, he was raised in the Puerto Rican and Cape Verdean traditions of his family, surrounded by music. The fertile musical environment of the San Francisco Bay Area shaped his career in a unique way. His studies of Afro-Latin music have included several trips to New York, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Brazil and Colombia. He is a founder of San Francisco’s yearly Carnaval (1978) and has performed and recorded with numerous giants of Afro-Latin music and jazz such as Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie, Cachao, Max Roach, Eddie Palmieri, Armando Peraza, Carlos Santana, McCoy Tyner, Omar Sosa, Bobby Hutcherson, Giovanni Hidalgo, Joe Henderson, Regina Carter, Orestes Vilató, Miguel Zenon, and Andy and Jerry Gonzalez. He is known for his innovative use of traditional forms and instruments in combination with contemporary music, and has earned much respect and recognition as an educator, composer, bandleader, and record and event producer. He has conducted countless workshops, lectures and clinics in the U.S., Latin America and Europe since 1973.

Visit www.johnsantos.com