Posts Tagged ‘Cuica’

A Cuíca can be surprisingly at home in contemporary EDM/electro, and I just produced a new track to prove it ;)

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

A cuíca (kuweeca) resembles a drum with the addition of a wooden or bamboo stick fixed to the middle of the drum membrane from the inside of the drum. Sounds are generated by friction from a wet cloth rubbed on the stick while placing a finger on the outside of the skin (where you’d normally strike the drum) to dampen the skin and obtain pitch variations. It generates an unique and expressive sound. To me it’s reminiscent of a bird squeak or a monkey or even a lion with its lower sounds (I have read that it in Africa it was used for lion hunting because its sound is reminiscent a female lion, thus attracting the male).

Some accounts trace the cuíca’s origins back to Angola (the pwita) and it travelled to Brazil via the slave trade in the 17th century. Other accounts claim that it came from North Africa or the Iberian peninsula (the sarronca). In either case, later on in the 1930’s the instrument became incorporated into the instrumentation of the Brazilian samba school (escolas de samba) playing the role of a pitched rhythmic ostinado (repeated pattern) along with the rest of the various drums.




Over the years the instrument has made it’s way into various non-native Brazilian music genres including jazz, pop, rock, funk, and reggae. Some of the cuíca’s most iconic non-Brazilian appearances are in Quincy Jones’ “Soul Bossa” from the Big Band Bossa Nova album of 1962 and Paul Simon’s “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” from his self-titled album in 1972.

I find it interesting that the type of pitch glides and rhythms that are natural to the cuíca are reminiscent of lead synth parts that have come into fashion in contemporary EDM/house genres such as Dutch house, etc. So it is only natural to me that the cuíca would sound at home featured in a modern EDM production! “Cuiqueiro” blends various Brazilian rhythms, samba drums/percussion, halftime/double time feels, 808/909 percussion sounds/programming, modern digital synths, and production techniques. (A cuiqueiro is a cuíca player.)