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Alternative terms for "rhythm"?

Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 11:09 am
by korman
Hi everyone,

Sometimes I have to explain to other people that, for example, "B-TT--S-" is not "Kuku", or "S-TS--" is not "Soli" and I have wondered why the terminology is so confusing.

In fact "S--TS--" etc. is a rhythmical pattern and other than "accompaniment populaire" I am not aware of any patterns (in mande djembe music) that have names. Then, what is usually called "rhyhtm" is a set of rhythmic patterns played together on a particular set of instruments, for a particular occasion, originally coming from a particular ethnic group/region.

However, sometimes "rhythm" is also typically sung with a particular song/s, and/or danced with particular dance steps, so actually it is somewhat misleading to call Kuku, Soli, Balakulanyan, Moribayassa etc. "rhythms".
So a question to those with understanding in musicology/ethnography - is there a better term that describes this combination of rhythm/song/dance/occasion? How do mande people themselves call it, if they do?

Re: Alternative terms for "rhythm"?

Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 12:00 pm
by michi
I've never heard names for djembe accompaniments used in West Africa. Instead, people demonstrate or voice the pattern ("ga-gada, gidiga-gada").

Quite often, the rhythm and the occasion share the same name (such as Guinea Fare), or the song and the rhythm share the same name (such as Balakulanya).

I'm not aware of a better term than "rhythm" for all this. I suspect that Mande people infer whether what is meant (song, rhythm, dance, or occasion) from context. Or, to disambiguate, they might add "foli" or "don" to denote the rhythm or dance.

Michi.

Re: Alternative terms for "rhythm"?

Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2016 12:19 pm
by djembefeeling
michi wrote:I'm not aware of a better term than "rhythm" for all this.
The same here.

The term rhythm denotes so much, it is of course very ambivalent. Every repetetive pattern can be called a rhythm. So every accompaniment is a rhythm. The Mande do not have a name for that, as far as I know. I read somewhere that there is a term closest to that but can't remember what it was. I guess it was "kan". Drumming is speaking with different means. Originally, they did not even have names for the individual rhythms. Kuku, Soliba, and what have you was given to those who are outsiders and in need to label individual rhyhtms.

But for your purpose, why don't you just speak of accompaniments and make it clear that those serve many different rhythms, while the kernel of a rhythm is in the dunduns, especially the sangban?

Re: Alternative terms for "rhythm"?

Posted: Wed Mar 09, 2016 10:16 pm
by korman
Thanks for suggestions! Yes, that's what I am basically saying, without dunun the "rhythm" is not complete. I was just hoping somebody had come up with better terminology ..

Re: Alternative terms for "rhythm"?

Posted: Thu Mar 10, 2016 8:40 am
by boromir76
I am not native english speaker, but I will give it a try. Would it be legitimate to talk of patterns when it comes to djembe accompaniments, and rhythms when it comes to djembe -dundun combinaion played as a whole?

Re: Alternative terms for "rhythm"?

Posted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 8:03 am
by michi
boromir76 wrote:I am not native english speaker, but I will give it a try. Would it be legitimate to talk of patterns when it comes to djembe accompaniments, and rhythms when it comes to djembe -dundun combinaion played as a whole?
Yes, that sounds reasonable to me. The "rhythm" is the whole thing, that is, the sum of the sounds of the instruments. Each instrument plays a particular pattern.

Michi.

Re: Alternative terms for "rhythm"?

Posted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 8:46 am
by djembefeeling
In this context I also use "rhythm" for the complete thing, like "the rhythm kuku". but what is the problem with calling an accompaniment "accompaniment"? The word "pattern" is used most often in the context of "solo-pattern", so to call an accompaniment a pattern is confusing, even though an accompaniment is of course also a pattern...

Re: Alternative terms for "rhythm"?

Posted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 9:05 am
by bubudi
the closest maninka equivalent is 'foli', hence you'll find names like senefoli, garankefoli, marakafoli, etc. i've always stressed that in maninka music, it's the totality of all the drum and bell patterns with their unique swing, songs and basic solo accents that define the genre musically. however, to define the rhythms purely in musical terms is largely a western notion. maninka prefer to classify djembe music based on the occasion or purpose it is played, including for whom it is played.

Re: Alternative terms for "rhythm"?

Posted: Mon Mar 21, 2016 1:00 pm
by korman
Bubudi, what you say is also what Rainer Polak writes about Mali in his article "Jenbe Music in Bamako":
In Bamana, the local language of Bamako and lingua franca in Mali, there is no abstract term for the individual elements of festival music repertoire. The specific identities which represent the repertoire are referred to in three ways: either as mere proper names (e.g. menjani, suku, dansa, dununba etc.); or as names composed of occasions or groups or institutions with the suffix "-fòli" which very generally means "playing" music or "saying" parole (e.g. denbafòli, jinafòli, kòmafòli, furasifòli etc.); or as names composed with the suffix "-dòn" which means dance (e.g. wolosodòn). Talking about drum ensemble music, I refer to these identities as "rhythms". I hope that the context in each case this term is used makes clear whether I speak of rhythm in the sense of repertoire or of rhythm as general aspect of music.