REMO 10" TIMBAL review Contemporanea timba reviews

Brazil instrument reviews

Timba? timbal? timbau? whassup wit all this?

Sorting out a confusing Drum history

The Timba was until very recently a sedate and relatively unknown member of the Brazilian tan tan family, to be played across the lap with one hand on the head and the other playing the shell. The tantan family was developed in Brazil by contemporanea and others starting back in the seventies for use in Pagode, a close relative of Samba, but not so loud, often played in household and other indoor situations.

However Brazilian Artist Carlinos Brown & Timbalada began to use the big timbas much as one would use djembes, and they coined a new term for the drum: Timbal, (pronounced in Portugese "cheem-bau").

Well, the word "timbal" may eventually cause confusion as it comes north because of our familiarity with the Cuban timbales. Some people have changed the spelling to more accurately reflect in English spelling our pronunciation of the word (Timbau). This may help; who knows?

The instrument known as timba is also not to be confused with the Cuban musical genre known as 'Timba'.

Another attempt to be clear is notable in Contemporanea's USA pricelist which lists the Timba with the phrase (Atabaque Pagode) in parentheses. This indicates, i suppose, that the timba may to be played in the style of an atabaque (below).

Mouse over this traditional atabaque to read more about it.(I.E. only)
Of African origin, and made of jacarandá wood in a conical shape. A calfskin head covers the top of the drum. It is used a lot in capoeria and candomblé and umbanda rituals all over Brazil. There are three kinds of atabaques: Rum, Rumpi, and Lê. Rum has the deepest sound and is a solo drum; Rumpi has a medium sound, and Lê is the highest. These three hold the beat.

(atabaque image and text
thanks to brazilianpercussion.com)
As a side note, atabaque is a generic Moorish word for 'drum', and it's use dates to the moorish occupation of Portugal.

Still the Contemporanea timba comes with two places at either end to attach the strap with two clips, for those who want to play it in the old style across the lap.

Playing tip for the timba/timbal: Rather than putting much of the hand on it for tones and slaps, it behaves more like a big bongo drum in that it responds well to much less hand being put on the drum, with fingertip slaps. Play into the head, with the hand remaining for an instant upon the head after the stroke. This dampens the ring of the nylon head, and the sound can thus be controlled with varying degrees of open and closed strokes.



10" Remo Timbau / 10" Contemporanea Timba
by Eric Stuer

A few years back, in 2001 actually, we picked up a little 10" REMO timbau at a sale at Brook Mays Music. immediately it became a favorite drum: light, portable, it schleps so easily and is effortless to play (once we figured out how to play it.) This REMO was our introduction to the timba/timbal.

We had never played Brazilian made instruments. So, when Contemporanea drums began to be more widely available here in the states, we'd heard so much about them. we couldn't wait to see how their 10" timbas stacked up to our favorite little REMO.

The two brands represent very different approaches to this style of drum. The first thing we notice about the Contemporanea drums is the incredible lightness, especially in the case of the wood shell drum. It is featherweight, like an acoustic guitar body, really, although it is well reinforced with an extra layer of wood from inside, where the screws are and down the seam. It also has a chrome strip around the bottom to help keep it in round. Both the metal and the wood Contemporanea are lighter than the REMO by a solid margin.

Tied in with the issue of weight too, of course, is the matter of sturdiness or DURABILITY. The Contemporanea wood timba's shell is reasonably sturdy, given it's extreme lightness; The Contemporanea metal shell is a little heavier, and clearly sturdier. The REMO shell is heavy, but very strong. I actually laid it on one side and stood on it (i weigh over 200 pounds). I don't think I should try that with either of these other drums ;-) Remo's covering is more resistant to scratches too. The REMO is probably the most durable [heavy duty], kid proof drum of the batch..these are ALL well made products, mind you, and should withstand normal wear and tear..

Contemporanea Timba
list US price: $107 Wood $135.00 Aluminum
The clear winner in weight and price, with a short and punchy bass, and good projection. An exceptional deal right now, because of currency rates..both the wood and the aluminum are a real pleasure to play. We are particularly in love with the aluminum one, a different beast altogether than what we have played in the past. It is sitting with us as we type this.. :-)

REMO Timbal
list US price $305.
More than twice the money and almost twice the weight, but very durable, with a rounder, fuller low end and magnificent tone. This is an exceptional drum, and we'd LOVE to see REMO make them in 12" and 13" inch sizes.



  • Contemporanea Wood: 4.44 lbs
  • Contemporanea Metal: 4.74 lbs.
  • REMO: 7.98 lbs.

Chrome? Remo no Contemporanea yes

Rubber rim on bottom? Remo yes Contemporanea no

Shell: The concepts here differ considerably. The covered REMO Acousticon shell is more durable than the Contemporanea wood timba, equal perhaps to the aluminum, but heavier than either the wood or the metal Contemporanea shells.

Hardware: Cable tuning mechanisms on the REMO are fastened at the bottom plate by a single screw as opposed to 3 screws on the Contemporanea.

The top tensioning rim is black metal on the REMO and Chrome rim with J-hooks & lug nuts on the Contemporanea. The black metal ring to which the Remo cables attach is thin, but the aluminum ring built into the head adds strength. Both systems took a high amount of tension.

Heads: A deep collar and what appears to be a Legacy head on the REMO; Nylon with a relatively shallow collar on the Contemporanea drums
(Note to any REMO guy who may read this: what is this head made of? Is this mylar?)

In Summary, then, Remo has a way of reinventing traditional instruments that distinguish the REMO versions from the drums that may have inspired them. The REMO timbal is no exception. The Acousticon walls are much thicker, the collar deeper, and the tensioning mechanism is based on cable lugs, something you do not see on Brazilian drums of this type..The associated REMO head has a very deep collar compared to the shallow collared nylon head used on the Contemporanea drum. The REMO is BASED UPON the idea of a Brazilian timba/timbal, but they are not quite the same as the original instruments, of which the Contemporanea drums are elegant examples. Apples and oranges, really.

When we sat down with these three drums, we intended to qualify one as the "winner", the best drum of the three. This just is not practical. Our ultimate advice? Do as we have done, and buy one of each :-)

STU - December 2004


Listen to the three drums trading 8 bar phrases.

See if you can discern which drum is which. First it's the Wood timba for 8 bars, then the metal, then the REMO timbal. Each drum takes three rides, nine in all.

This sound file was recorded in close quarters at the computer desk, on a concrete floor, with a $30 Labtec microphone going straight into the back of the computer. Our apologies for the low end which is really lacking in this recording due to recording limitations. It has handicapped the REMO just a bit, because that is the drum's strong point.

We tuned the aluminum drum down and the wood timba up for this recording, to show you the range of available tunings. If we had reversed the tunings, you'd have seen a dramatic difference in sound.

We played a moment, switched drums, played a bit more, switched drums. On into the afternoon we went..each time we changed to a new drum, we soon found some very comfortable stuff to play on it. Each drum felt so good that, in the end, we could not make up our mind.

They are simply different. The Brazilian drums are tighter, punchier sounding, with a shorter sustain than the REMO. The REMO seems rounder, warmer, with a bit more breadth of EQ. It helps the low end on the Contemporaneas if you resist the urge to tighten them down too much. Playing with a sort of closed stroke on the tones and slaps gives a lot more control over the sound without cranking it up too high..

It is difficult to compare these two products and declare an actual winner, because they are all so nice. Suffice it to say that they are like apples and oranges, and that we will find interesting uses for all three..

The background groove isa loop made with an Aluminum Contemporanea Rebolo.

Below: Ricky "bongo" Carthen at the pepsi Kid Around in September 2005, playing a Contemporanea aluminum timba.


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