"Tresillo" is a more basic form of the rhythmic figure known as the habanera. It is the most fundamental duple-pulse rhythmic cell in Cuban and other Latin American musics. Tresillo was introduced in the New World through the Atlantic slave trade during the Colonial period. The pattern is also the most fundamental and most prevalent duple-pulse rhythmic cell in Sub-Saharan African music traditions. Anglicized pronunciation: "tray-see-yo."
The cinquillo pattern is another common embellishment of tresillo. Cinquillo is used frequently in the Cuban contradanza and the danzón.
"Tresillo" is a Spanish word meaning ‘triplet’—three equal notes within the same time span normally occupied by two notes. In its formal usage, tresillo refers to a subdivision of the beat that does not normally occur within the given structure. Therefore it is indicated by the number 3 as shown below. The top measure divides each beat in three: one, and, ah, two, and, ah. The bottom measure divides the span of two main beats by three : one, one-ah, two-and.
In sub-Saharan rhythm the four main beats are typically divided into three or four pulses, creating a 12-pulse , or 16-pulse cycle. Every triple-pulse pattern has its duple-pulse correlative; the two pulse structures are two sides of the same coin. Cross-beats are generated by grouping pulses contrary to their given structure, for example: groups of two or four in 12/8 or groups of three or six in 4/4. The duple-pulse correlative of the three cross-beats of the hemiola, is known in Afro-Cuban music as tresillo. The pulse names of tresillo and the three cross-beats of the hemiola are identical: one, one-ah, two-and.
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