22 minutes
Year Written:
2020 (rev. 2022)
3(I=picc).3(III=Eng. horn).3(III=bass clar.).3(III=contra) - 4.3.3(III=bass).1 timp+perc(3) - harp - piano - strings
ACO Event:
Oregon Symphony EarShot Readings
Purchase & Rental Information:

I grew up in a large Mexican family with great party dancers and I was the weird kid in the corner who thought he was too cool for dancing. After much verbal torment from my cousins throughout my teenage years, I decided to take up salsa dancing lessons. Despite my awkward beginnings, I started to really enjoy myself after a few months of practice. Suddenly, eager to partake in the mating rituals, I spent a summer visiting the local Latin Dance Club, aptly named TUMBAO, where I further proved myself to be a "true" Mexican. At the time, the three most popular genres of Latin Dance music were Salsa, Bachata, and Reggaeton, so each movement of this Latin Suite for Orchestra explores their musical possibilities. Having become acquainted to this music through dancing, it became extremely important to me that my music felt authentic, not just another Latin-inspired avant-garde classical music composition. Therefore, this music retains the catchy melodies and infectious rhythm of Salsa, Bachata, and Reggaeton. If you know your Latin Pop music from the early twenty-first century, you might even pick up a few references to great visionary Latin Singers such as Daddy Yankee, Romeo Santos, Oscar de León, among many others. 

The term “Tumbao” refers to the basic rhythm played by the bass in Afro-Cuban genres of music. However, it is also a term that has become intricately associated with Latin culture. It is comparable to the word “swag” or “flow” and it can be used to define someone who has a lively vibe to them. It is a word that represents the spirit of Latino culture, one with an unmistakable lust for life.

Educational module

In addition to my work as a concert composer, I also produce and write Latin Music hits with a variety of urban music performers, so sharing part of this world with students will be very engaging and cover a wider range of musical tastes and interests. Since each movement of Tumbao pulls from distinct and colorful musical cultures from various places in Latin America, I think it’s ideal for didactic purposes. Here’s an educational video I made explaining the building blocks of salsa music, which I used to compose the first movement of Tumbao. I have also performed this monologue as a prelude to live performances of Tumbao, with the orchestra providing the musical cues. I am open to doing this with any orchestra that programs the work.

Aside from the video, I shall also share the Logic Pro session (digital music production tool I use to produce Urban Music) with the students, showing them the exact way that Latin music is composed, arranged, and mixed together to create excellent recordings. Alongside the video, the module considers how each Latin dance form is built and what distinguishes them stylistically, with a particular emphasis on the history of Afro-Cuban music and the ways that certain instruments create a sense of groove. Additional classroom strategies include references to popular recognizable songs that have been influenced by Latin music, a discussion of the social use of these dances, and an exploration of how they relate to students in the classroom. It also asks students to assign words to distinct rhythms, like clave patterns, and has students compose and perform their own claves with percussion.