If you’ve listened to, or played, much Brazilian music, you’ve certainly come across these rhythms regardless of whether or not you knew their names. I’ve written about partido alto and Bossa Nova in earlier posts, so today let’s look mainly at telecoteco, which serves the same role, and is essentially a substitute for, or variation of, partido alto.
The telecoteco rhythm shares a similarity with Cuban clave in that it has two “sides”. The rhythm is two bars of 2/4 long, and can be played starting on either bar. There is an “up side”, starting on the second 16th note, and a “down side”, which starts on the downbeat. As in Cuban clave, the melodic line of the song is directly connected to the direction of the telecoteco rhythm, and should not cross it as this creates some pretty unpleasant rhythmic tension. One place in which telecoteco differs from clave though is that improvisation within the constructs of telecoteco is perfectly acceptable, whereas in clave it absolutely is not, but more on that in the next post. For now, here are the most common variations of the rhythm:
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There are a few different approaches to telecoteco. In the more traditional styles of samba, such as batucada or pagode, the direction of the telecoteco does not change during the song under any circumstances. Getting on the wrong side of the rhythm (playing cruzado) will draw the ire of other players around and you can expect a fair amount of eye-rolling and ridicule. On the other hand in the more jazz influenced styles of samba in the 1960s and 70s where you’re more likely to see drum set and piano it seemed to be more acceptable to freely switch between the up and down side, the telecoteco being more of a vibe than a rule. I also feel like the more traditional styles of samba tend to play more on the “up” side of the telecoteco, whereas jazz-oriented (and gringo) interpretations tend to start on the “down” side.
In an enredo, or batucada ensemble you’re most likely to hear telecoteco being played on a tamborim. In terms of moving this to the set, the obvious approach is to play these rhythms on a rim click, or maybe snare drum or tom. Head back to the Jazz Samba Builder and try some combinations of right hand and foot ostinatos while adding these telecoteco variations in your left hand.