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Mini-Guinea Singapore, Sep 2010, Day 5-6

Permanent Linkby michi on Thu Sep 16, 2010 2:03 am

Day 5:

Jeremy did his djembe re-skinning demonstration and also gave an intersting talk about the different types of wood that are traditionally used and their respective characteristics. He also talked about the importance of matchintg the skin to the type of wood. Intersting stuff...

For the reskinning, he used a stitching method to hold the skin tight over the flesh ring instead of the rope loop method I've been using. I can see how the stitching will achieve somewhat higher tension on the skin when it is wet, before doing the wet pull. But then, the method is more labor intensve, and I'm not sure it's worth the extra effort. I think I will stick with my tried and true method for the time being.

Another thing that came as a surprise to me was that he did not use any wrap at all on the flesh ring. In fact, Jeremy claimed that doing so makes it more likely rather than less likely for the skin to slip.

This doesn't match my own experience, but I can see that wrapping too thinly around the flesh ring can cause the worst of both worlds: the cloth wrap is thick enough to cover the corrugations in the rebar, but not thick enough for the skin to press into the wrap and form dimples, causing skin slip. So, it seems that you either don't use any wrap at all or, if you do, make sure that it thick enough for the knots to cause dimples in the skin so it is locked in place.

Looking at the skin over the rebar after Jeremy fitted it, the corrugations are clearly visible where the skin is stretched over the flesh ring. So, provided there is enough tension, the corrugations serve the same purpose as thick wrap: the skin deformes around the corrugations, which helps to lock it in and prevent slip.

Jeremy was adamant that a smooth polished type flesh ring is useless: "Throw it away and get one made out of proper rebar." I agree with him.

Following Jeremy's demo, we had a two-hour Q&A session with Mamady. Fun and intersting stuff. We got Mamady's bio (of course), which I've heard several times before. But, every time I listen, new details come out and I learn something new. We had an interesting discussion around Cola nuts. It turns out that these are very common and not a rare item, which is interesting in the context of using Cola nuts for all ceremonial occasions, such as when asking a blacksmith to make a djembe or asking a father for his daughters hand. The gift of Cola nuts is purely symbolic, to show respect and to underscore the seriousness of the occasion, not because Cola nuts are valuable. After all, if someone comes to me with ten Cola nuts and asks me to make him a djembe, the nuts themselves are not very interesting when there are 500 more growing on the tree in my backyard...

I asked why it is ten Cola nuts, rather than nine or eleven. Mamady didn't know, but said that, for truly important matters, such as a marriage proposal, it has to be ten. For less grave occasions, the number might be five or seven. I'd be interested in learning how the number ten came about. I'm sure there is good mythological reason for this. If anyone knows, please let me know!

I also asked whether Cola nuts are seasonal, and Mamady said "yes". I then asked "Well, so when Cola nuts are out of season, no-one can get married?" Mamady replied "Don't you worry about that--plenty Cola nuts when we need them." :-)

The pyramid class was fun. The break and arrangement are coming together nicely, and things are starting to sound quite good. The fourth rhythm in the pyramid is Kedu, one of Mamady's compositions. It"s a ternary rhythm, with a nice conversation between the dundunba and the Sangban, and nice spectacular intro. I learned that rhythm previously, at the Mini-Guinea last year in October, but it was good to go back and play it again.

Day 6:

The intermediate class reviewed Kono and then moved onto Yankadi/Macru. Mamady taught the parts for Yankadi (no solo original) and moved on to Macru, including the break.

The advanced class completed Soboninkun (the echauffement). Many people were struggling with the base/slap flam technique in that echauffement. Mamady then started to teach Djagbe, including his solo technique. I think the class got through the first four solo phrases before it finished, so I expect we'll complete that today. I learned that solo previously, so I ended up playing kenkeni instead of djembe. (Also did a fair bit of kenkeni and sangban for the intermediates the past few days, which is fun.) Mamady also said he'd show us the dundunba and sangban variations for djagba (as opposed to djagbe). I look forward to finally getting a clear distinction between the two today.

The pyramid class added the fifth rhythm: Soliwulen. Mamady made up an intro on the spot with a bunch of solo phrases. The first two are played by the entire class, and the remaining four or five are played by eight advanced people chosen by Mamady, while the rest of the class plays a holding pattern. I'm again impressed by Mamady's sklil at making up a spectacular performance that really gives a lot of fireworks to the audience, while at the same time avoiding to overtax his students. He always perfectly matches the techniques to the skill level of his students.

On a personal note, after I had just asked Mamady about the third slap, the day after, before Mamady's Q&A session, I sat down and tinkered a bit with my djembe. Within five minutes, I had found the third slap, after about a year of trying on and off. Now that I have figured out how to do it, I'd say that it really should be called the "second tone" rather than the "third slap". The technique is closer to a tone than a slap (at least for me). It will take me a few months to perfect this, so the sound comes out louder and purer, but the basic technique is finally there, so I just need to practice it a lot. For me, it was worth coming here just for having finally found the third slap alone :)

Michi.
Last edited by michi on Fri Sep 17, 2010 12:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mini-Guinea Singapore, Sep 2010, Day 5-6

Permanent Linkby Djembe-nerd on Thu Sep 16, 2010 5:05 am

Thanks Michi for all the information.

What did Jeremy tell exactly about "the importance of matchintg the skin to the type of wood. Intersting stuff..." I am interested to hear the details
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Re: Mini-Guinea Singapore, Sep 2010, Day 5-6

Permanent Linkby michi on Fri Sep 17, 2010 12:40 am

Jeremy ranked the woods in order of hardness/density. From hardest to softest: Hare, Djalla, Iroko, Lenke. (These are the woods Jeremy works with.) He says that, for a really hard wood, you need a thicker skin, for a softer wood, you can use a thinner skin. Combine a thin skin with a hard wood, and you tend to get pingy metallic sound; combine a thick skin with softer wood, and you tend to get a warm conga-like sound.

My experience matches what Jeremy says: I've tried really thin skins on Djalla and Hare, with dsappointing results. I got a sound that was more like a doumbek than a djembe.
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Re: Mini-Guinea Singapore, Sep 2010, Day 5-6

Permanent Linkby Djembe-nerd on Fri Sep 17, 2010 3:17 am

Yes, that is what I have heard from interacting with different people also. The surprose for me is that he ranked Iroko harder than Lenke. I have an Iroko that is surely not harder than the lenke I have.

Hypothetically then the choice should be

Hare : thick
Djalla : thick
Iroko : Medium
Lenke : Medium

Thin ones are a problem in any one I guess.
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Re: Mini-Guinea Singapore, Sep 2010, Day 5-6

Permanent Linkby Paul on Fri Sep 17, 2010 2:09 pm

Good stuff mate.. Jeremy uses horse on his own drum, I had a play on it this summer and it took awhile to get used to. I put it on james´s drum for him too and it sounded great.
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Re: Mini-Guinea Singapore, Sep 2010, Day 5-6

Permanent Linkby James on Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:45 pm

Ooo ooo... how exciting... I want a second tone too...

I met a young American guy in Conakry who was giving out to me for not bringing kola nuts to Famoudou when I arrived... I have no idea who it was though....

Anyone tried chewing them?
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