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Rhythm of the Week...

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This Week's Lesson:

Lesson Three: Workshops


Dance workshop
At the Argenta (B.C.) Fall Faire on the fall equinox weekend, drummers and dancers enjoyed a workshop designed to match basic dance moves with particular rhythmic effects. A circle of 15 dancers warmed up to

_____ _____ _____ _____
| | | | | | | | | | | |
G - g d g d G - g d - -

mp3 drum samples Click for sound: RealAudio - Track2-1

Then breathing to a count of two, in and out, slowing to a four count, for relaxation and internal timing.

The first dance sequence used the same rhythmic form as the warmup above, but alternating with all bass notes for a while, while dancers moved close to the ground, and all high rim notes, while dancers flung their arms into the air and whirled stretching high.

Next the dancers explored side-to-side and forward-and-back movements, to a rhythm with a swing feel:

_______ _______
| | | | | | | |
G d P - - D g d

mp3 drum samples Click for sound: RealAudio - Track2-2

This rhythm, normally an Afro-Latin fast rock piece, was played at a moderately slow tempo; then as dancers

_______ _______
| | | | | | | |
G d P - G d g d

mp3 drum samples Click for sound: RealAudio - Track2-3

The final movement sequence alternated between contraction and expansion. In Bob Moses' organization of rhythm patterns (see his book, Drum Wisdom), "Contract" is a term for patterns that emphasize the second beat of four (example: Candombe); and "Expand" rhythms emphasize the fourth

_______ _______
| | | | | | | |
G D - - G D g d contract

       mp3 drum samples Click for sound: RealAudio - Track2-4

G d g T - d g d expand

       mp3 drum samples Click for sound: RealAudio - Track2-5

Dancers wheeled freely now in a fast melee, while drummers accelerated the pace of the expansive rhythm. Finally dancers went into freeform while drummers and percussionists jammed on a samba. Most dancers then drifted back into the world of the fair, while a few dedicated sprites carried on, inspiring drummers

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David Thiaw Workshop:
David is a Senegalese master drummer now based in Calgary. In early October he gave a great 3-day workshop in tiny Johnson's Landing, B.C. We were a mixed class of 15 drummers ranging from no experience to six years. Within the first session he had us all learning a dozen new patterns and playing them well together, moving back and forth among them with dynamic flexibility. His approach was unique to workshops I've taken in this aspect of combining traditional rhythms creatively in new compositions. We had all learned to play thirty new rhythms and breaks by the end, fluidly and together and with rapid recognition between them.

Here is a sampling of the rhythms David Thiaw teaches. While he discourages written notes during the learning, he uses cue cards with the names of the rhythms as an integral part of his teaching. And he offers notated rhythms with personal sets of cards (and tapes) to those interested, after the workshop. My

_______ _______ _______ _______
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |    Iba (8-bar):
D g - - - - D g D g - - - - - -
D g D g D g D g D g - - - - - - 

_______ _______ _______ _______
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |    Dribble (8-bar):
d g   d g   d g   d g   d   g
D G   D G   D G   D G   D   G   

_______ _______ _______ _______
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
D g     D g     D g D g D g        Duké 
D g D g D g g                      Duké Duke Dukeke 

_______ _______ _______ _______
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
D G D G D - - g d - g - d - g -    Merengue 

_______ _______ _______ _______
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
D - - g d - g - D - g - d - g -    Makru  

_______ _______ _______ _______
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
d - d g d - d - - - d - d - - -    Door 

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Three Universals:

In drum jam situations, as well as in composing arrangements of rhythm patterns, it's most useful to have a repertoire of flexible tools. Among the most serviceable are the following: the "universal break," and two all-purpose accompaniment

The universal break can be useful either as a crisp ending, or as a transition between patterns, or simply

_______ _______ _______ _______
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
g - g d - d - d g - d - g - - -

       mp3 drum samples Click for sound: RealAudio - Track2-6

Djembe master Mamady Keita plays it like this:

_______ _______ _______ _______
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
g - g d - d - d g - P T P - - -

This pattern is versatile. The hand order is not important. The basic four bars above can be extended with four more (a note on the one followed by rests) as follows:

_______ _______ _______ _______
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
g                                

or, these patterns can be doubled or tripled. David Thiaw teaches an extended Universal Break that uses the basic eight bars above twice, then a repeat of the first four twice, finishing with

Moving to the accompaniment parts, the following are said to be the original djembe rhythms, which may be true judging by their widespread use in African and Latin rhythmic ensembles. These are basically the same rhythm, notated slightly differently

_______ _______
| | | | | | | |
P - - T P - g d

       mp3 drum samples Click for sound: RealAudio - Track2-5

_____ _____
| | | | | |
P - g T -(D)

       mp3 drum samples Click for sound: RealAudio - Track2-8

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Sevens

I like sevens because they combine the dynamics and feel of fours and threes, and because they cut between the expectations of twelve and sixteen beat phrases. Note the grouping of notes into 4-4-3-3, then 3-3-4-4. These divisions are rather arbitrary but follow some of the internal patterning of notes. Another way to see the time signature is as 7/8: but to look for seven regular beats doesn't quite capture all

_______ _______ _____ _____
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | 
D g d - D g d - D g d P d G
D - T g - P T g - P T P T g  
D - - P - g T g D - D g d g    
D - - d - - g - D - d - g g   
D - d - - g d - D - d g d g  
   (T)     (T)         (T P)
_____ _____ _______ _______
| | | | | | | | | | | | | |
D g d G d g - G d g D - d g
T - T g d P - g d g D g d g

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Mix and Match

During this week's practicing and jamming, a couple of interesting combination patterns came up, mixing parts from Aconcon and Koukou. For those who don't mind taking liberties with the traditional pieces, try these for some novel effects, starting with two or three djembes:
(P, T = slap; g, d = rim; G, D = bass)

_______ _______
| | | | | | | | 
P T P T g d P      Koukou  1
P   G   P     d    Aconcon 2 (reversed)
-------------------------
_______ _______
| | | | | | | | 
P T   P T   g d    Aconcon 1
P     d P   G      Aconcon 2
P T P T g d P      Koukou  1 
            

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Return to Rhythms of the Week, Page One

Return to Rhythms of the Week, Lesson Two

Go to Rhythms of the Week, Lesson Four

Go to Rhythms of the Week, Lesson Five

Go to Rhythms of the Week, Lesson Six

Go to Rhythms of the Week, Lesson Seven

Go to Rhythms of the Week, Lesson Eight

Go to Rhythms of the Week, Lesson Nine


See lots more rhythm notation and drum lessons in my Roots Jam rhythm books, with optional audio files (CD or mp3). And read my latest tips and insights about drumming: African Drumming Blog

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