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2 Horizontal Dunun Technique

Posted: Sat Mar 12, 2011 2:55 pm
by batz
Please help me understand this. I sometimes see 2 dununs being played stacked horizontally by one person. I just assume its an adhoc setup useful when there is only one person playing dununs. But I wonder if this is even acceptable from the view of traditional rhythms and how they are supposed to be played? I only ever see Mamady Keita with either the three dununs played horizontally by 3 separate people or the 3 dununs played by one person in a vertical setup.

Here's an example of what I mean:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I484ErrX73Y

Further, most of the time I have trouble figuring out where does the pattern for this 2-horizontal-dunun setup come from? Is it just a combination of the dununba and sangban patterns pulled together with a single bell? But a lot of times what I've seen played in this setup doesn't directly translate from the traditional dunun patterns I know.

I want to understand this because I will be in a situation soon where there will only be 1 dunun player available, and I want to know how to properly play in this 2-horizontal-dunun setup and where the patterns come from.

Re: 2 Horizontal Dunun Technique

Posted: Sat Mar 12, 2011 8:03 pm
by michi
batz wrote:I sometimes see 2 dununs being played stacked horizontally by one person. I just assume its an adhoc setup useful when there is only one person playing dununs. But I wonder if this is even acceptable from the view of traditional rhythms and how they are supposed to be played? I only ever see Mamady Keita with either the three dununs played horizontally by 3 separate people or the 3 dununs played by one person in a vertical setup.
First up, Mamady isn't the only or final word in the matter. What you see when Mamady teaches is what Mamady prefers, and not the only thing that is permissible.

Mamady himself explains in his workshops that the number of dunduns need not be three. It varies by region and by the number of players, as well as with the affluence of the village. (Mamady mentioned that some villages cannot afford three drums and so make do with two.)

Whether the dunduns have a bell attached also varies by region. I forget where exactly, but in some areas, the kenkeni doesn't have a bell. And, as you move toward the Ivory Coast, the dunduns are played upright and without bells.

If there is only one player available, but you want two drums, the setup you saw is the way to play if you want a bell. Or put the two drums upright and play them with two sticks and without a bell.
Further, most of the time I have trouble figuring out where does the pattern for this 2-horizontal-dunun setup come from? Is it just a combination of the dununba and sangban patterns pulled together with a single bell?
In essence, yes. The idea is to play something that replicates the composite melody of the traditional dunduns.
But a lot of times what I've seen played in this setup doesn't directly translate from the traditional dunun patterns I know.
Probably because there are regional variations for the dunduns for many rhythms. Also, if one player tries to play the composite melody of the dundunba and sangban with one hand, it's often necessary to simplify things a bit. (By playing the dunduns upright instead, it's often possible to play a better approximation of the composite melody because the player has two hands available to play the skins.)
I want to understand this because I will be in a situation soon where there will only be 1 dunun player available, and I want to know how to properly play in this 2-horizontal-dunun setup and where the patterns come from.
I would not lose too much sleep over it. If you can play a melody that captures the feeling of the traditional version, you are doing the right thing. You could look at Fara Tolno's rhythm reference for inspiration too. It contains ballet patterns for many rhythms, some of which you might be able to adapt.

Cheers,

Michi.

Re: 2 Horizontal Dunun Technique

Posted: Sun Mar 13, 2011 3:25 pm
by dleufer
I've been thinking about this myself too since our sangban player is a on a 2 month holiday.
It could be cool to compile a list of rhythms which work well like this and maybe some tab/percussion studio files/actual recordings.
For me, some rhythms which work well like this are
Djole

Makru

Yankadi

Kassa (like the one from Bolokada's DVD)

Dja (also Nanalen which I tabbed before in Rhythm of the Month)

Sorsonet

Can't think of others right now but I'll come back to it.
I was going to tab some stuff but there's no Dununba/Sangban combo option available!

I generally find that any rhythms where the dununba rumbles/shuffles (e.g. o.oo.oo.oo.o) onbeat or offbeat don't translate very well (e.g. Soli, Soko, Dunungbe)
My solution to our sangban player going away has been to play with just sangban and kenkeni. It works really well and there's no simplicification. We've been playing Kawa, Bolokonondo, Takosaba, Numun, Madan, Mendiani. All these rhythms have strong sangban patterns so they work well without the dununba. As an example of what I mean by strong patterns is that the rhythm is recognisable without the dun whereas a rhythm like Makru would sound very different without the dununba.

Re: 2 Horizontal Dunun Technique

Posted: Mon Mar 14, 2011 11:50 am
by Paul
First time I learnt dununs it was three horizontal.. Its great fun but as leufer said it works best with longer phrase rhythms like yankadi, sorsonet and djaa I suppose..

I often saw this with people playing at night time when there were bungos (or bungomas) and the playing was reminiscent of bolon style..
michi wrote:(By playing the dunduns upright instead, it's often possible to play a better approximation of the composite melody because the player has two hands available to play the skins.)
Agreed... but by having the bell you can keep yourself in time better so while the melody becomes more spacious you have more possibility to improvise on the drums.. (depends on rhythm)... Mind you your often just putting an occassional lick on the kenkeni.. If you have the Tamani album have a go playing the improvisations on sorsonnet..

So I think if your comfortable with the melody and want to play around its good, if you want a very stable rhythm for a dance class perhaps go ballet..

Re: 2 Horizontal Dunun Technique

Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 6:29 am
by bubudi
dleufer wrote:I generally find that any rhythms where the dununba rumbles/shuffles (e.g. o.oo.oo.oo.o) onbeat or offbeat don't translate very well (e.g. Soli, Soko, Dunungbe)
i used to play horizontal ballet dununs (2-3 strapped together with bell above the sangban) most of the time. it's a bit harder work than vertical dunun for sure, but it's good having the bell. some rhythms really depend on it. hamana/gberedu style, for instance, traditionally has 3 dunun played separately, each with their own bells (the patterns of which interweave more often than not). therefore, if you want to play dununba rhythms but only have one or two dunun players, it would work better with a horizontal ballet setup, with the sangban bell pattern (or adaptation of it) being played.

i've never had a problem playing soko, soli or dunungbe with horizontal dunun. many teachers teach the traditional dunun patterns (i.e separate sangban, kensedeni and dununba) for these rhythms (and many others). it's definitely harder going physically than on vertical dunun at first, until you get used to it (there's an element of pushing the rhythm a little bit), but i don't think that the vertical ballet setup is better suited to playing soko, soli et al.

Re: 2 Horizontal Dunun Technique

Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 12:34 pm
by Djembe-nerd
We have played a lot of Triba, Kuku and Sinte with Ballet style vertical dununs for the dance class.

No doubt, the 3 horzontal set up will be the best but these rhythms don't lose the basic melody either with the ballet style.

Re: 2 Horizontal Dunun Technique

Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 5:46 pm
by dleufer
Hey Bubudi,
I'd be very interested to hear a recording/see tab of what you play for those rhythms. For me it would involve either sacrificing a lot of the melody or else playing 5/6 notes in a row which would be a serious workout. Maybe I need to get a bit more hardcore!
Soli is manageable in that set up for me, I play
x.x.xx..xx.x
s.d.kk..ds.d
But I still prefer to play in on vertical duns.
I'd reckon Soko would involve playing a phrase like
dssdssdd with no gaps. Crazy.

Re: 2 Horizontal Dunun Technique

Posted: Wed Mar 16, 2011 9:22 am
by bubudi
d, of course you wouldn't play the notes of all 3 drums that way. you'd normally need an additional sangban or kenkeni player if you want the notes of all the dunun played... or else you'd play the melody (without all the notes) on a 3 horizontal ballet dunun setup. soko played in this manner can be either a sangban/dununba combo or a dununba/kenkeni combo, or even sabgban/kenkeni combo, played with single kenkeni strokes on the beat rather than double strokes. if we feel like playing some dununba rhythms but can only have one dunun player, i'd favour this horizontal setup, and skip the kenkeni. with some rhythms i'd favour sangban and kenkeni, and skip the dununba. as michi said, some rhythms were traditionally played with only one or two dunun. we need some threads dedicated to horizontal ballet dunun patterns in the 'rhythm of the month' forum!

Re: 2 Horizontal Dunun Technique

Posted: Wed Mar 16, 2011 6:59 pm
by dleufer
Whew! I thought you must have some serious arms bubudi! :flex:
That makes sense all right but for me I'd still rather just play sangban for dunungbe, bolokonondo etc and if there's another player get them on kenkeni or dununba. We've been playing Kawa, Bolokonondo, Takosaba, and Soko like this and it sounds great. I'd feel like the melody of those rhythms would be lost a lot in the combo and seeing as the sangban is really the heart of the rhythm (for a lot of rhythms) it makes sense to me to keep that intact and skimp on the others.
But maybe my imagination isn't grasping all the possibilities. I'll have a go at arranging some stuff and let you know.
I'm a bit confused by the phrase "3 horizontal ballet dunun setup" because for me ballet means dunun upright/vertical with no bell.

Re: 2 Horizontal Dunun Technique

Posted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:49 am
by batz
Thanks for all the great replies, which I'm still finishing reading. The funny thing is when I was first taught to play dunun parts, I was taught with 1 sometimes 2 horizontal dununs. But then when I started studying more seriously I didn't see anyone using it in the instructional sources I had, so I figured it wasn't too common/correct. I do remember MK saying that sangban is the most important part of a rhythm, so perhaps its good to focus on sangban's traditional part as the basis for a good 2 drum setup?

Would people be willing to post tab of 2-dunun (+ bell) patterns they use for various rhythms, so I can get a better feel? The only ones I remember are for Djole, which is the same played in the video I posted, and one for Kassa, but I'm having trouble putting into tab form correctly.

Re: 2 Horizontal Dunun Technique

Posted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 9:54 am
by bubudi
batz, as a teacher i feel it's better to learn the traditional way first, ballet later - it gives you a better appreciation of the essence and melody of the rhythm. once you develop this appreciation you'll naturally find yourself doing your own arrangements of the rhythms you play.

d, yes, with nearly every rhythm, if you had to play it with only one single dunun, it should be the sangban. note i say nearly - there are exceptions.
dleufer wrote:I'm a bit confused by the phrase "3 horizontal ballet dunun setup" because for me ballet means dunun upright/vertical with no bell.
ballets use both the horizontal dunun setup (2 to 3 dunun strapped together) or the vertical setup. nowadays the vertical setup is more popular in the guinean ballets and has caught on elsewhere in west africa. 20 years ago the horizontal ballet setup was the more common.

Re: 2 Horizontal Dunun Technique

Posted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 6:08 pm
by batz
I guess I didn't realize that playing two dununs horizontally with a composite pattern was considered ballet. I thought it could be considered traditional this way and be used for playing traditional dunun parts.

But point well taken about knowing the traditional rhythms well enough to understand their essence and be able to develop differing arrangements on your own. Its a concept that I understand with the djembe, but still not well enough with dununs.
bubudi wrote:batz, as a teacher i feel it's better to learn the traditional way first, ballet later - it gives you a better appreciation of the essence and melody of the rhythm. once you develop this appreciation you'll naturally find yourself doing your own arrangements of the rhythms you play.