timbales

A pair of small, high-pitched drums mounted on a stand (usually with a cowbell) used in Latin American music. Descendant of the round-bottomed kettle drum (tympani) that Italian opera companies brought to Cuba in the nineteenth century, the timbales found their way into Cuban military brass bands, orquestras típicas and came to their present portable construction in charangas, where performance techniques became increasingly virtuosic. Among Afro-Cuban drums, the timbales have a distinctly high-pitched, metallic tone and in modern salsa ensembles, they carry the fundamental beat while providing contrast against other percussion instruments with their rapid-fire solo passages.

Masters such as Tito Puente have exploited their range and timbral possibilities by using the hands and sticks to play on every surface of the instrument.

timbales