Discuss traditional rhythms, singing etc
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By James
#963
So people not born into this music tend to get obsessed with numbers like 1 and time and such.

One teacher in Africa told me to forget about time. That there is not time. The dun duns are the time.

Ok so the traditional kenkeni for kassa is just on the time.... ;)

So I didn't really believe him, after all, I've seen great players bouncing their legs occasionally and surely the dancers must dance on something.

But dancers often dance off the time so that argument doesn't really stand.

I was thinking recently about the the 3:2 clave, which is off the time, but from my (admittedly somewhat ignorant) understanding it is the base from which all other instruments work off in some Latin music.

So couldn't the dunduns act in exactly the same way?

Wouldn't we have better understanding by forgetting time (a human created concept)?

Traditionally there is no call, that's just a ballet thing, so technically there's probably no one either?

What do you reckon? :?
By komadich
#966
Well, I've been told the same things. Some of African teachers even tend to explain things in different ways, some of them don't know how exactly to translate some words into their language. For instance, I've been playing this:
S--SS-TT
and the teacher told me to "change tempo" and he showed
S-TS--
whitch was in the same tempo, actually, but different measures. He still got a point, if you see what I mean (there is a short article about it, even if a little confusing at http://t-tt-t-tt-sss.blogspot.com/2007/ ... plets.html).

What I want to say is that I think this is how we understand things, it is how we learn. They learn differently. There is ONE, there is TEMPO... for us.

Now, we are not able to speak their languages as they do, most of whites never will. But you can't say "there is no writing" and "there is no capital letters" only because some people don't know how to write.

On the other hand, I have been learning from excelent drummers from Mali, who knew where ONE is - they have been working with many whites in the past:)
User avatar
By James
#974
I guess I'm wondering aloud if the best way to learn is to continue to try and find the beat or time, or just to let go of that idea all together.

It has been shown time and again that the concepts we're discussing often don't sit too well in the shapes we've created for it.

For example if you're soloing you'll have greater harmony with the dun duns if you are feeling them and not grasping for a pulse somewhere.... :)
By komadich
#979

For example if you're soloing you'll have greater harmony with the dun duns if you are feeling them and not grasping for a pulse somewhere.... :)
I think you are right. But the question remains how to understand what others are playing in the first place.
By amakepeace
#27629
Given that we're adults, and that we're from a Western culture, I think asking "Where's the one" is a legitimate way to approach the music. When teaching, I take a fairly mechanical, analytical approach, and I find it quite successful. But that's because I'm teaching adults. If I were teaching little kids, I'd take a different approach: I'd present the music to them largely by ear, and encourage imitation.

By analogy to language, if you are teaching little kids, you don't need to take an analytical approach. You just talk to them, and they grow up learning the language perfectly. But if you're teaching a language to adults, simply talking to them won't succeed. You need to have them examine the language more mechanically (grammar, spelling, contrived sentences, etc).

So it is also with drumming when teaching adults. You need to break rhythms down into chunks, analyse them, and reconstruct them. This includes counting. So "Where's the one" is an entirely reasonable question, at least in this context.
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By rachelnguyen
#27630
Since I had very little music training when I started studying drums, I didn't have to try and translate what I was learning into a western framework. I have no idea where the one is with any of the pieces I play. In essence, I play completely by ear. I know how to start after a break. I know how to resume after a little solo phrase. But in no case do I know where the start of the phrase actually is. In fact, once, when I was struggling with learning the ballet arrangement for Madan, my teacher started me in a different place and it all came together. I think I am starting on a pick up, at this point.

Another thing I notice is that when I am playing at a good clip, with kenkeni and dununba ballet style, the sense of the phrase shifts sometimes. I find a different groove from where I started. I think you might say that the ''one'' shifts in my head. Someone watching and listening may not perceive the shift, but the cycle is different in my head.
By djembeweaver
#27631
By analogy to language, if you are teaching little kids, you don't need to take an analytical approach. You just talk to them, and they grow up learning the language perfectly. But if you're teaching a language to adults, simply talking to them won't succeed.
Hmmn...I'm not sure about this. I think this is a common misconception. I 'learned' french formally right the way through school and hardly picked up anything. Then I lived in francophone West Africa and just started copying whole phrases rather than trying to understand the grammer. That was my turning point. I'm quite fluent now.

Similarly I'm not sure to what extent learning music theory makes you a better musician. Some of the best musicians I know are not formally trained, and every classical musician I've ever met struggles to improvise...
By bkidd
#27634
Thanks to the recent posters for putting this interesting topic on my radar.

The notion of a "one" in music can be a helpful marker for getting everyone on the same page, but clearly it's not essential for playing the music. It's utility depends on how a person learns and sometimes having a marker such as "one" can clue a person in to how the patterns fit so they can play with the ensemble in harmony.

What seems to be more important is having a clear sense of how the parts fit together in an ensemble. To avoid total chaos and cacophony, everyone has to know their "phrase" and how it fits with everyone else. While many African artists don't naturally think of a "one", they clearly have a strong sense of the beats (down and up).
James wrote:
I was thinking recently about the the 3:2 clave, which is off the time, but from my (admittedly somewhat ignorant) understanding it is the base from which all other instruments work off in some Latin music.

So couldn't the dunduns act in exactly the same way?
The clave is an engine that provides a stable marker for Latin rhythms. In the case of the 3:2 clave, hits are both on and off the time (two of the five hits fall on "down beats"). In some sense, this base is very grounding for all the other musicians. :)

The dununs can also provide a stable marker, although they tend to be more complicated than clave patterns.
Wouldn't we have better understanding by forgetting time (a human created concept)?
[\quote]
Music is also a human created concept. ;)
Traditionally there is no call, that's just a ballet thing, so technically there's probably no one either?
Rachel wrote:
Another thing I notice is that when I am playing at a good clip, with kenkeni and dununba ballet style, the sense of the phrase shifts sometimes. I find a different groove from where I started. I think you might say that the ''one'' shifts in my head. Someone watching and listening may not perceive the shift, but the cycle is different in my head.
The perception shift in music is really fascinating. It's neat how syncing up with different phrases or tempos can change how we perceive the music, even if we're mechanically playing the same thing. What's cool is that we still manage to play together even when we might be perceiving the patterns in different ways.

An interesting question that has come up for me as a result of this thread is whether different musicians need different listening skills depending on their part. It seems clear that playing an accompaniment requires a different level of attention to the ensemble than improvising.

-Brian
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By rachelnguyen
#27638
I think one thing that has happened for me, after a few years of playing, is that I just KNOW when the parts are fitting together properly. I will hear the accompaniment and just kind of know how a solo fits with it. Or I'll come in with the dunduns and fit into the pattern without needing a break to get in. It doesn't always work, but little by little, I am 'hearing' how the parts all connect. It is pretty cool.
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By e2c
#27639
The duns/bells (if the latter are used) play melodic call-and-response phrases; the djembes work with - and around - that.

I think that getting a feel for the downbeat needed to keep djembe parts on track is far more helpful that trying to find "the one." This music is both rhythmic and melodic; Western concepts are somewhat limited when it comes to music like this, or samba, or...

I agree regarding trying to learn a language in a class vs. learning it "by feel" while visiting a country where it's spoken. It does seem to come in phrases, or (for me, with song lyrics and movie subtitles) a word or very brief phrase will jump out at me once I've learned it, whether I intended to actually "learn it" or not - kind of hard to explain, but for me, it's had everything to do with getting my ears attuned to whatever it is, be it djembe/dun ensembles or spoken/sung languages.

If i ever teach (doubt I will, but you never know!), I would *not* want students to be focused on things like "the one." My hunch is that singing or humming a given part over and over is far more helpful.

My other thought is that it really helps if people take a bit of time out and stand back by the duns - or play one of them - because it's much easier to hear the djembe parts clearly when you're not sitting in the midst of a group of people hammering away at djembes. (Not to mention the fact that the dun melodies will become clearer as well.)
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By e2c
#27640
rachelnguyen wrote:Another thing I notice is that when I am playing at a good clip, with kenkeni and dununba ballet style, the sense of the phrase shifts sometimes. I find a different groove from where I started. I think you might say that the ''one'' shifts in my head. Someone watching and listening may not perceive the shift, but the cycle is different in my head.
I found this starting to happen while playing bass djembe for dance classes; also while playing sangban, but it's happened to me playing djembe as well. It can be distracting, but once you start to become comfortable with it, I think it's easier to stay in the groove.

Also, for me, this shift allows different aspects of the melodies to come to the fore - I guess it's hearing varied aspects (almost micro-phrases) within the patterns. it's very hard to put this into words, though!
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By michi
#27641
Whether we call it the "one" or something else makes no difference. Every djembe player and, by implication, dunun player must know where the one is. Otherwise, the djembe player couldn't place a call correctly, and the dununs couldn't enter correctly after a call.

If you want to call the "one" something else, such as "this is where the call goes" or "that's the start of the cycle where the dancers change", it's still the "one", and I have to know where it is.

Cheers,

Michi.
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By e2c
#27642
michi - I disagree about that space (whatever you want to call it) being "the one." As far as I have experienced, the sense of "the one" in Western music (of most any kind) is pretty rigid - and clear.

After all, most pop music today is in 4/4. So finding "the one" isn't difficult at all.

Djembe and dun patterns don't necessarily begin or end on "the one." My take is that they have a beginning and ending, but it's just not the same as playing a basic backbeat in Western music at all.

That said, i do take your point! :)
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By michi
#27644
e2c wrote:Djembe and dun patterns don't necessarily begin or end on "the one." My take is that they have a beginning and ending, but it's just not the same as playing a basic backbeat in Western music at all.

That said, i do take your point! :)
Well, the point is that there is a distinguished place in the cycle where the call has to go, and all players have to be aware of that place. Whether we call that place "one", or "foo", or "twenty-seven" makes no difference; that's just an arbitrary label.

But note: all calls I am aware of start on a particular pulse and end on the fourth pulse (or on the third pulse for kotedjuga and konkoba). In other words, the call is like counting to four. (If you want to be pedantic, the Guinea Fare call can be seen as counting to eight.)

The point is that the call is a count, and that count fits into the overall cycle in only one place. So, there is a definite beginning and end of the cycle. Whether we perceive the call as lining up with the cycle or being shifted relative to it again makes no difference. I can choose to feel a phrase as starting on the "4" and ending on the "3" if I like (as I do for the Soli Rapide sangban), while someone else might be feeling it as starting on the "1" and ending on the "4". But that's neither here nor there. Here is what matters:

There is a distinguished pulse in the cycle that starts the call, and that pulse is special and different from all the others.

Given that to say that the "one" is arbitrary or that African players have no sense of a "one" is wrong, in my opinion, because there is only one place for the call and all musicians in the ensemble must understand this.

So, in this sense, I object to this distinction of the "western" and "African" view of the music. An African musician is every bit as aware of the special place in the cycle as a western musician. The African musician may not intellectualize as much about it, but they each know and understand that special place. We might as well call that place "one". If you prefer, call that place "Frobotz"—it'll still be that same special place regardless :)

Cheers,

Michi.