Rock Drumming System

6/8 Afro Cuban Music (Bembe)

Afro Cuban music has been around for many years. It incorporates many styles that all mold together to create one form of music. One popular form of this is the 6/8 Afro Cuban Bembe. Any style of music played in 6/8 time signatures takes on the characteristics of the Bembe. The style originates from the word Bembes, which are religious gatherings which involve singing, drumming, and dancing. In fact, this is more of an African beat then anything else. This was originally played with bongos, shakers, bells, and other rhythmic instruments; however, it can be played on the drum set as well.

Let’s take a look at what can be done on the drum set to get that Bembe feel. First off, you need to know that you can incorporate many different Latin styles into the 6/8 Afro Cuban beats. For example, the 6/8 clave is a great pattern to add on the cowbell or the rim shot. But before we get into that too soon, let’s start with the basic bell pattern. This pattern is very close to the Cascara pattern, so try not to get the two mixed up. When playing this, remember to count out loud, or you will mess up for sure! This is in an uncommon time signature, so it may take a few times to get. Remember these are all quarter notes that can be played on the bell of your ride cymbal. Try this:

Now let’s add the 6/8 clave on the rim shot. This will give you a tight Latin feel. This is actually not too hard to do because the bell pattern lines up nicely with the clave. Try this:

Once you have that going fairly smoothly, its time to spice things up a bit by playing a basic Afro Cuban 6/8 groove. This will incorporate the bass drum as well as the snare. *Remember you can always change the voices on the drum set*


There is much more to the 6/8 Bembe, but these are the basic beats that you must first overcome. Take your time when doing this as it will not come easy. The best way to learn is to surround yourself with this style of music. So try and find a few great Afro Cuban albums and listen to the drums.


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