> History

> What's the name, cha-cha or cha-cha-chá?

v Cha-cha rhythm

If you listen carefully to authentic Cha-Cha music, you will hear clear accents (played on the congas) on the four-and-one beats. (Note: nowadays Cha-Cha is sometimes danced to disco or country music, where such accents do not occur.) This is where you do the cha-cha-cha steps, and that places the break (or rockstep) on the second beat of every measure. [Victor]

Does downbeat backbeat terminology apply?

> The musical accent is NOT on the downbeat, it's on the backbeat (the evens). If
> you find a cha cha song that accents the downbeat (the 1), it is not a cha.

I'm not sure I agree with that. Strictly from an orchestrational standpoint (and that is where you're coming from, right?), Cha Cha is quite heavy on the downbeat.... much more so than Mambo.

Authentic Cha uses instruments such as the Cowbell, Cascara (side of the Timbale), Clave, Conga, and Guiro. The Clave, Conga and Cascara rhythms are basically the same in Cha as they are in Mambo, but of these three, only the Conga is definitively back-beat. And while the Conga stands out quite a bit in Mambo, it's not nearly as prominent in Cha Cha.

The two instrument rhythms which really set Cha Cha apart from Mambo are the Guiro and the Cowbell. The Guiro is very prominent in authentic Cha Cha music, and accents 1 and 3. The cowbell is present and prominent in both Mambo and Cha Cha, but the rhythm is different. In Mambo, the cowbell is highly syncopated, while in Cha Cha, it plays a very sturdy downbeat on all 4 counts.

It should be noted, also, that these days we're hearing more and more modern Cha Chas, which sometimes have no hint of Latin orchestration in them at all. You may not consider them Cha Cha, but that doesn't stop the people from dancing to them. The songs that have been passing for Cha Cha lately have also been very heavily downbeat, sometimes with a kick drum on all 4 counts.

My point is this: Authentic or not, I have rarely heard a Cha Cha that truly accents the backbeat. If I heard one that did, I'd probably just think it was a slow Mambo. [Jonathan Atkinson]

> That infernal break step...

> Eight count or four count pattern?

> Pachanga cha

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Last modified on: 2000, Sunday December 24.