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What do you think about a djembe grading system?

It's a great thing.
5
33%
It's a terrible thing.
2
13%
I dunno / who cares?
8
53%
User avatar
By korman
#38865
Now that the TTM curriculum has been around for 5 years, what do you all think about it?

I liked the idea at first, because there must be some logical sequence how to learn the rhythms, and it is important to acknowledge where the rhythm comes from and for what occasion it is played in its original context ..
However, when looking at the specifics, I have great deal of doubt about the way TTM have implemented this idea in practice.
User avatar
By Dugafola
#38866
korman wrote:
Wed Apr 04, 2018 12:12 pm
Now that the TTM curriculum has been around for 5 years, what do you all think about it?

I liked the idea at first, because there must be some logical sequence how to learn the rhythms, and it is important to acknowledge where the rhythm comes from and for what occasion it is played in its original context ..
However, when looking at the specifics, I have great deal of doubt about the way TTM have implemented this idea in practice.
i was a student of MKs for a long time. when the curriculum and grading system came about, TTM tried to encourage their existing teachers to start adopting the system along with many other organizational changes. at this point, the writing was on the wall for me. i disassociated myself from TTM.

about the actual program....it seems it's good for learning the MK syntax of "traditional" rhythms if that's what you're in to. the offerings seem very "surface" level to me....lots of breadth, not a lot of depth.
User avatar
By korman
#38869
Dugafola wrote:
Wed Apr 04, 2018 2:56 pm
about the actual program....it seems it's good for learning the MK syntax of "traditional" rhythms if that's what you're in to. the offerings seem very "surface" level to me....lots of breadth, not a lot of depth.
What approach do you use, if you teach?

I wish somebody created a better alternative, but no luck so far
User avatar
By Dugafola
#38870
i think the actual presentation of the material is fine. it's very clear and straightforward. my issue is more with the TTM content, it's very watered down.

i don't teach a regular class anymore but i do have private students that i work with weekly and small groups every so often as well. One of my students has been working on bundiani for almost a year at this point....all jenbe solo phrases, sangban and dununba variations and echauffments.
User avatar
By korman
#38877
OK, I’ve formulated my thoughts in more detail

Methodology
1) The building blocks of the system are "rhythms". It seems the curriculum was made by taking rhythm list from the "Life for the Djembe" book and trying to arrange it in levels.
This is problematic, because the building blocks of the djembe/dunun music are patterns. Most rhythms have easy and challenging parts. This is to some extent address this by splitting the djembe and dunun learning paths in the first three levels, but I think it is not enough.
This building of curriculum from rhythms has led to some strange choices. Like, ternary rhythms are introduced in the dunun part of the curriculum with Garangedon. While kenkeni part is not that difficult, the dundunba is a two bar cycle, and the sangban is mostly off-beat. Not the best patterns to start off IMO. I think the simple on-the -beat kenkeni should be the starting point in learning the dundun (and maybe even before the djembe).

Material (repertoire)
2) The choice of rhythms is debatable. Too many similar binaries, some culturally important ones not included, some popular dance class rhythms also not included. Also, there are a couple of inconsistencies - Balakulandjan and Sunun are in the djembe, but not in the dunundun curriculum.

3) The repertoire is too broad. Consider this - to complete the beginner's stage (levels 1-3), you need to know parts of 24 rhythms. In djembe curriculum this means 29 accompaniment patterns, and in dundun - 54 patterns. Learning this many patterns can be distracting from other important things, and give false sense of “knowledge”.

4) At the same time the material (just like the "Life for the djembe" book) is too shallow. It does not mention the echauffements, blocages, dundun variations, solo accompaniments and phrases, swing or “feel” … perhaps you’re supposed to learn all that later. Intermediate and advanced levels have the 12 “solo originals”, but not the other things.

Culture, Authenticity
5) It does not clearly say which parts are invented, and which – traditional. In fact, some of the listed accompaniments are more like lead djembe ride (aka solo accompaniment). Many of the kenkeni parts are invented as well (the bell on kenkeni – completely), as has been discussed on this forum before.

6) Very basic cultural information is given for each rhythm, but does not describe in much detail how actually each of the festivals occur - songs, dance etc. Last year there was an announcement that there will be a dance curriculum, but no further details are known.

7) The curriculum is meant to teach traditional rhythms, and the TTM academy, with its DRTM manifesto, is intended to preserve the traditional culture. Yet, one can wonder, which tradition is it, exactly? By now African ballet is also a tradition. The instructor testing requirements also include 10 breaks and teacher testing requires arrangement of “a pyramid arrangement of at least 3 traditional rhythms”. All the videos released so far are either from workshops or stage performances.
It might sincerely be MK’s understanding of what “culture” is, as he has been a performer all his adult life. The professional ballets lifted the music and dance to new levels of technical virtuosity, so in some sense they are the pinnacle of his country’s culture. I might be wrong, though, as I don’t know him personally.
Unfortunately, the modern civilization has lost most of its participatory traditional musical festivals and rituals, and the general public consumes professionally created music as passive audience. So, in a way, this curriculum is just a realistic (and business minded) response to these trends. The beginner levels of djembe curriculum seem oriented towards people who go to djembe classes as a form of recreation, and need variety of material to maintain their interest. Once past certain beginner-intermediate level, people want to perform before an audience (because that’s what musicians do, right?), and TTM system gives them some material for this: 10 breaks, 12 solos, but it is debatable whether that is "traditional".

To wrap-up, I sincerely agree to what djembefeeling said 7 years back – that an internationally recognized system might help in raising the quality of djembe music, so that it is taken more seriously by the general public. However, this particular curriculum has quite a few drawbacks, and an alternative would be really welcome!
User avatar
By Dugafola
#38878
i think your summation is pretty much spot on.

being able to regurgitate parts isn't knowing how to play a rhythm musically with feel etc.

also, most of these tests are with the the tubabu students of TTM as well....not MK himself.

Also, there are a couple of inconsistencies - Balakulandjan and Sunun are in the djembe, but not in the dunundun curriculum.
his sunu arrangement is just not it.
3) The repertoire is too broad. Consider this - to complete the beginner's stage (levels 1-3), you need to know parts of 24 rhythms. In djembe curriculum this means 29 accompaniment patterns, and in dundun - 54 patterns. Learning this many patterns can be distracting from other important things, and give false sense of “knowledge”.



4) At the same time the material (just like the "Life for the djembe" book) is too shallow. It does not mention the echauffements, blocages, dundun variations, solo accompaniments and phrases, swing or “feel” … perhaps you’re supposed to learn all that later. Intermediate and advanced levels have the 12 “solo originals”, but not the other things.
like i said, lots of breadth...no depth.

Culture, Authenticity
5) It does not clearly say which parts are invented, and which – traditional. In fact, some of the listed accompaniments are more like lead djembe ride (aka solo accompaniment). Many of the kenkeni parts are invented as well (the bell on kenkeni – completely), as has been discussed on this forum before.

6) Very basic cultural information is given for each rhythm, but does not describe in much detail how actually each of the festivals occur - songs, dance etc. Last year there was an announcement that there will be a dance curriculum, but no further details are known.
yes i wish this was clarified more. IMO, it's clear that he learned alot when he was already abroad in europe. he was taken out of the village at such a young age. i remember him saying that he'd never ever been to Mali (post independence) before. he probably learned alot of his malian repertoire from being exposed to guys like francois dembele, mare sanogo, drissa kone, soungalo etc.....same with his ivorienne repertoire that he learned from Dr. Djobi.


To wrap-up, I sincerely agree to what djembefeeling said 7 years back – that an internationally recognized system might help in raising the quality of djembe music, so that it is taken more seriously by the general public. However, this particular curriculum has quite a few drawbacks, and an alternative would be really welcome!
he was definitely responsible for bringing jenbe to the masses!!! no doubt about it...and he also paved the way for many younger artists to make jenbe playing a profession both in africa and abroad.
User avatar
By Marshall
#38879
korman wrote:
Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:28 am
The building blocks of the system are "rhythms"
...
This is problematic, because the building blocks of the djembe/dunun music are patterns.
Would you be willing to elaborate on this? I am a total noob in this music and what you just said seems fundamentally important.

Thank you
Marshall
User avatar
By korman
#38880
Dugafola wrote:
Fri Apr 13, 2018 3:27 pm
he was definitely responsible for bringing jenbe to the masses!!! no doubt about it...and he also paved the way for many younger artists to make jenbe playing a profession both in africa and abroad.
Of, course! I don't mean to belittle his accomplishments, or him as a musician. My critique was just against the TTMDA curriculum ...
User avatar
By korman
#38881
Marshall wrote:
Sat Apr 14, 2018 12:40 am
korman wrote:
Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:28 am
The building blocks of the system are "rhythms"
...
This is problematic, because the building blocks of the djembe/dunun music are patterns.
Would you be willing to elaborate on this? I am a total noob in this music and what you just said seems fundamentally important.
Well, each "rhythm" (or better call it "piece") consists of rhythmic patterns. More often than not these patterns will be of different level of difficulty. Also, some of these patterns repeat across pieces.

For example, the TTM curriculum lists Soli:
- in level 1 djembe, but actually the "pa-tipa--" pattern is used in many ternary rhythms. It is important to learn, and a good starting point, but why call it specifically Soli (rapide)?
- in level 3 dunun, but actually the three dunun parts are of different difficulty,
-- dundundba is a fairly easy shuffle (certainly easier than Garangedon which is listed as a level 1 dunun rhyhtm),
-- sangban is more difficult, because it combines a shuffle and 2-over-3, and
-- kenkeni is the most difficult, because it's totally off-beat.
So, each of these patterns should have been on a different level.
User avatar
By Marshall
#38883
Korman,

I think I get what you mean. Have you seen other teachers or materials that use the patterns-as-building-blocks approach when teaching?

Marshall
User avatar
By korman
#38887
Marshall wrote:
Mon Apr 16, 2018 8:25 pm
I think I get what you mean. Have you seen other teachers or materials that use the patterns-as-building-blocks approach when teaching?
No, I haven't seen anything like that. Running a mixed level class is more difficult, but I've been to a few and it can be nice if there are no egos determined to play parts above their ability:)

Something like that has emerged in my group (since I only have one group) where beginners, would play accompaniment, and intermediates would play dunduns and me and one other guy would solo. Of course, time for solos is limited by the need to demonstrate and supervise the accompanying parts.