The Conga in Salsa & Mambo
In most common salsa patterns, the conga marks eight notes in one bar of music, spaced at regular intervals in time, with two notes for each salsa basic step. The rhythmic feel to it is generated by the distribution of the accents, that is, by the fact that some notes are louder than others, as well as by the fact that the conga can generate notes of different pitch. The strong accents are on the even beats (2 and 4). Follow the conga pattern on track 3. Beat 2 is marked by a note of high pitch and a strong accent. Beat 4 is marked by two strong notes of low pitch. The easiest way to 'find the beat' is by identifying these two notes. Also, follow the vocal instructions in track 2 to understand the basic conga pattern.
Tracks 3-8 play the basic conga pattern rhythm at three different speeds; slow, medium and fast, with and without the voice-over count. Use them to learn to listen to the conga, to find the beat on which to start dancing, and to practise your timing.
When a complete salsa band is playing, it may be hard to distinguish all eight notes of the conga. In most cases you will hear only the accents. In tracks 9-11 we have 'summarized' the conga rhythm by playing only the accented (loud) notes. Try to listen and practise to these tracks. If you learn to listen to this basic rhythm you will distinguish it easily in a complete salsa arrangement, and you will also be able to follow it in your dance.