Now, finally, the last question to consider for me on my journey trying to understand Yankadi is the question of it's feel, if it is binary or ternary and how to notate Yankadi, which seems to be the topic of an endless discussion in the djembe community.
here on the forum, we have it discussed on two different threads with at least two different opinions. Michi wrote:
michi wrote:Whether you notate it as a binary or a ternary is somewhat arbitrary. Personally, I prefer the binary version because that version comes closer to what the real thing sounds like. (In Mamady's book, it's also notated as a 4/4 rather than a 12/8.) I think of Yankadi as strongly swung 4/4.
Bubudi, in another post on another thread a couple of years before Michi's comment, described it as being rather the other way round:
bubudi wrote:to my ears it's between 4/4 and 12/8, somewhat more towards the latter.
if you think of yankadi as a 12/8, you'll find that in the dunun patterns, djembe patterns and many of the solo phrases, those strokes that are played on an offbeat are usually on the second offbeat, i.e:
. . x . . x . . x . . x
When coupled with the beat, the pulse is like this:
x . x x . x x . x x . x
which is precisely how the dunun bell patterns go.
also all the various calls for yankadi pretty much follow that same pulsation: x . x x . x x . x x . x
that pulse is like a swung version of the 4/4: x x x x x x x x
that's why all the parts have been so easily transcribed as a 4/4. i believe this practice began with mamady keita's book, which was actually written by uschi billmeier, who was responsible for the notations of the rhythms.
it's also worth mentioning that the yankadi call played by mamady keita (as can be heard on his cd "nankama") is a swung version of the common call used in so many 4/4 rhythms: prem petem pem pete patapa... that too is notated in 4/4 in the book and on the wap pages.
all these things go to support the argument of yankadi being a swung 4/4, which of course has some merit, but in reality this pulsation is still quite different to the usual feel of rhythms from west africa that are played more or less in 4/4 time (even when taking into consideration the swing of those rhythms).
Both Michi and Bubudi think the feel of Yankadi is somewhere between 12/8 and 4/4, but differ in their estimation on which side it rather leans to.
Since it's feeling isn't straight binary nor straight ternary, it can be argued that it is somewhere in between. But I think the demonstrations of the inadequacy of a straight ternary version of Yankadi by Michi and Jon in the ROTM section cannot hold as an argument in this question, since I do not know any ternary rhythm in West Africa that is played without some kind of swing. Take the usual SML or rather SLM family (or just SFL for short-flexible-long, as Rainer Polak calls it) and you will find pairs of dunun attacks towards the beat with some microrhythmic deflection.
The most versions of Yankadi that I listened to have this kind of ternary feel. But there are exceptions, and the most important and influential one is Mamady Keita. On the instructional CDs for djembe rhythms that originated in his cooparation with Rainer Arold in Munich, the ensemble plays Yankadi with a binary feel that is to hard for a 12/8 rhythm of the SFL family. The other example that I actually can post a snippet of is a version of Yankadi played by some guys from Guinee for dance classes in the Gambia and might be influenced by MK:
These two versions of all the versions I know do feel rather binary. As for Mk on the learning CDs, I have no clue why it is so binary. If you listen to MKs version of Yankadi on his album Nankama
, the feel is rather ternary to my ears. Did the ensemble for the project with Rainer Arold played it as Mamady liked it or not? In the description for the CDs, Rainer Arold (on his homepage) writes that
Die Djembe- und Basstrommelbegleitungen wurden per MIDI-Sequenzer aufgenommen. Dadurch können die Rhythmen in unterschiedlichen Geschwindigkeiten und absolut zuverlässigem und stabilem Tempo zum Mitspielen wiedergegeben werden.
meaning that djembe and dunun accompaniments where recorded with a midi sequencer so as to ensure an absolutely reliable timing at different speed. this reliability, I think, results in artificiality, since the swing of a rhythm is usually connected to the tempo.
EDIT: I just called Rainer Arold and he said he would put more swing into the groove if he would do it again. but on the other side, MK didn't complain either when he played his solo on top of the groove.
So, if the feel is different in different version of Yankadi by MK already, no wonder we end up in some confusion. But I rather go with the Nankama
version than with the midi sequencer version produced by Rainer Arold.
The ensemble as MK has it perform on Nankama
certainly feels different and is rather ternary to my ears
. But that is just a subjective feeling, no proof.
So here is an analysis of the first cycle of Mks Yankadi on Nankama
the percentage of the durations of the pairs of attack of the bell from the 3rd to the 1st pulse of a beat are between 36.3% up to 44.7%, with an average of 39.1%. That is completely in accordance with the SFL family as Rainer Polak analysed it for Majanin
http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.10.16. ... s.php?id=5
http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.10.16. ... s.php?id=7
http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.10.16. ... .php?id=27
a binary swing would tend to an average of 44%:
http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.10.16. ... .php?id=31
just like the ternarized Malian rhythm Woloso
http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.10.16. ... .php?id=33
So, Yankadi is usually just in the normal span of swing in ternary rhythms of the SFL family - even MKs, who is a bit more binary than other versions. If it would swing less (in a binary sense of swing) it would be considered to have a rather binary feel.
If you consider what MK does in his soloing, that is straight 12/8 stuff, too. His binary patterns (N° 20 + 21) are binary over ternary, not just binary. It would be much to complicated to notate all that in 4/4. It's fair and simple, on the other side, in 12/8.
Still, Yankadi has calls known from 4/4 rhythms and its songs and some of its accompaniments are structured by the cascara, a binary pattern. That reminds us that even though most of its aspects are 12/8, there is this deep binary layer of Yankadi, which MK brings out to the open more than others. On his CD Nankama
, there is only one bell and the dundun. I cannot hear a sangban nor a sensedeni. There are other instruments, among them probably a boté, with that musical role.
With his transfer to the standard Hamana set of 3 dunduns, he clearly put a more binary feel into the rhythm. It is often said that the call might have induced Uschi Billmeier to use the 4/4 notation, but I think it is rather the kensedeni and the sangban with their binary bell structure that compelled her to do so. With those two patterns, I would have used 4/4 notation as well. The only other source I know of for such dundun patterns is Epizo Bangoura on his instructional DVD. All other sources I found equiped their dunduns with only 12/8 bell patterns.
It can be speculated if Yankadi is a ternarized 4/4 rhythm or a 12/8 rhythm flavored with some binary aspects according to its model of the Cuban guaguanco (wah-wah-nko). I cannot tell. We would have to know about the old Yankadi as it used to be played as a ceremonial rhythm.
As it is now, it has a rather ternary feel to it, IMO, but the binary aspects are undeniable, though in a different form than in other rhythms like Sogoninkun
. It is not so much the microtiming, but rather of the structure behind the rhythm that has a binary feel. And the advanced second pulse on the second "2" is just one of its characteristics that makes it special.
EDIT: After some consideration, I think I know the reason for the advanced second pulse on the second "2". It's just a reflection of the same quality in the call t.t|s.t|t.s|t.t|s.b|ss
And I changed my mind about the notation. Though I still would use, for practical reasons and in order not to overcomplicate things, a 12/8 notation, t I just learned from David Penalosa (The Clave Matrix
, p. 226) that the same ambivalence between a binary and ternary feel is found in the Guaguancó. The same discussion is going on there (see p.251, note 26), with many arguing for a ternary structure.
But Penalosa has a good and convincing argument for a binary foundation. He differentiates between two pulse structures, one primary, the other secondary. While all Rumbas are in between these two pulse structures, he makes clear that only Columbia has a ternary pulse structure as the primary pulse structure, while the binary pulse structure is superimposed on that. With Yambú and Guaguancó it's the other way round. Because I see Guaguancó as the model after that the modern Yankadi is shaped and noted that Yankadi is structured along the cascara, it would be technically
correct to notate it in 4/4.