Discuss traditional rhythms, singing etc
ternarizator wrote:Do you mean "Since they are not textbook cases" ? You know my english is not so good, but I try my best...
I think your English is fine. For a Frenchman, it is even marvelous. :giggle:
With textbook I mean that I consider the dja family as standard and the other family as derived from that but not at all standard due to the shifting.
Last edited by djembefeeling on Fri Apr 22, 2016 10:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
Very interesting thread! I especially liked the bit about teaching the sounds - that's one practical takeaway for me, I'll definitely try it!

But, djembefeeling, please think about the terminology some more, especially if you plan to develop this into an article or thesis. I think, using latin music terms to analyse african music is not the right way to approach these things, if you want to be both methodologically correct AND respectful to africans.

Because latin developed from african, it is much narrower, not nearly having the same level of diversity. Slavery conditions only further narrowed the music down, instead of playfulness the focus was defending the tradition. And the verbal terminology came about because afro-carribean music was much sooner picked up by western trained popular musicians. Terms like son clave, rumba clave, cascara, bombo, ponche all come from salsa (and the popular genres that preceded it). They never notated percussion and needed the names to quickly tell what to play and when. "Cascara" can be called cascara, because that's the ONLY pattern you'd ever play on the timbale shell (cascara).

So, I think the animistic terminology you started using in this thread is a move very much in the right direction! I look forward to more posts from you:)
korman wrote:Very interesting thread! I especially liked the bit about teaching the sounds - that's one practical takeaway for me, I'll definitely try it!
Thanks! I hope it will work out for you!
korman wrote:But, djembefeeling, please think about the terminology some more, especially if you plan to develop this into an article or thesis. I think, using latin music terms to analyse african music is not the right way to approach these things, if you want to be both methodologically correct AND respectful to africans.
I do not intend to be disrespectful to anyone :) You might have a point here and I would love to use more indigenous terms if there were enough! And to develop my own terminology about that seems to be out of place, since there are established terms known by musicians all over the world from the Latin American music. I know little about it and there might be problems of misunderstanding due to the rigid sense in which the clave is handled there, but David Penalosas book was very enlightening and took away my concerns. You might want to check that book, its amazing!
korman wrote:Because latin developed from african, it is much narrower, not nearly having the same level of diversity. Slavery conditions only further narrowed the music down, instead of playfulness the focus was defending the tradition.
I personally find djembe music much more interesting, but I do not know enough about all musical traditions involved. I guess lots of folks playing Latin American music on a professional level would seriously argue with you about that... :D
A tigé can have various forms. In principle, you can cut a solo pattern, an echauffement or anything related with almost everything that comes to your mind. Some very cool cuts consist of one sound only. At the proper place, it can have the desired effect. The proper place in such a case is, I would guess, one of the clave points. So it is sort of hard to tell an interface from any other pattern just by its form. It is played with a certain kind of energy or leaves some space so that you know this is a cut.

Even though it is not easy to pin a certain form to an interface, I do think that often it consists of some kind of displacement. To explain that in more detail, I have to first introduce another link to the culture and its expression in the music. Anthropologist Nurit Bird-David argues that "animism is a "relational epistemology", ... that is, self-identity among animists is based on their relationships with others ... persons are viewed as bundles of social relationships" [see Wikipedia]. So communicating, negotiating, and relating with others is essential.

That holds true for the music, too. An essential feature of (West-)African music is its call-and-response structure, i.e. communication and relation. Ever since I am interested in what exactly is meant by that I can see more and more of call-and-response in djembe music. Just three examples given in the composite versions, one from every rhyhmic family. Dyidanba (Gidamba) I do split in a call-part in the beginning that is played by the dundun and a response-part that is rather sangban, but in Famoudou's and Mamady's versions played on the kensedeni:


Dundungbé has the same structure. One can argue which part is the call and which the response:


In Kassa, its the same xx.x (just a coincidence) that stands out as one part of the call-and-response structure:


Of course you can put my specific classification into doubt and come up with an alternative one like this:


and I wouldn't disagree at all. That is because in drumming we have very few sounds in our repertoire to design change and elicit a plentitude of interesting forms. So what we can do is redesigning the gestalt over and over, to change the points of focus or balance, to cut-across.

Still, I want to argue for a basic place in the binary (or more proper: quartenary) rhythms for the call and the response. I think the usual place for the call is on the fadenya-like first cell of the clave, including the 3rd beat! Completely symmetrical forms are beautiful in a way, but boring. In human art it is known for thouands of years that you have to break the symmetry a bit and it will be much more pleasing for the human taste. The place for the answer typically is, then, from the third offbeat to the fourth, for we also need a pulse to seperate both places from one another:


Then we find that the question usually consists of 9 pulses while the space for the answer stretches over 5 pulses. A beautiful proportion, for this is the closest you can get to the golden cut with the given pulses of 16 in a cycle.
Last edited by djembefeeling on Sat Apr 23, 2016 9:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
Now let's put some flesh on these theoretical bones. I did argue for 3 things before:

1. interfaces do both cut off and connect, provide a kind of griot-like mediation between solos and other functional parts.

2. they often consist of some form of displacement.

3. they do often have a call and response structure, stretching from the first beat to the third and then from the third off-beat to the fourth.

According to this matrix I do provide a modular approach in teaching interfaces, i.e. I give just a couple of basic components that can be put together in all possible variations. Thus my students do not need to remember much but practice a lot and as a result can play a plentitude of (sometimes slightly) different interfaces. That will never sound boring and goes along another of the rules for (West-)African music: repetition through variation.

The most important and most common displacement is the 3 versus 4. In it's basic form it goes like this - and I am sure you all know this from tons of recordings or live sessions:


We just need to remove the puls between the call and the response space for a pause and get the basic outline:


and, voila, our first interface is born. you can hear that quite often.

The answer comes in different variations. I give just these 4:


The capital S usually stands for two double time slaps, so in the second line we start the answer with a roll sss s s s, in the third it's a 5-puls role sssss s s, but in the forth I do two triplet roles plus one slap s s s s s s s.

One simple question, four different answers already result in 4 different interfaces. Now we can vary the question also. Let us thin out the question and take away every second tone:


or, on the contrary, concentrate the basic form:


and give that a different sound color:


and you will get 4 different questions multiplied with 4 different answers.

3 versus 4 fits so neatly in our call space because 3x3 are 9 pulses. But likewise does a 5-puls displacement. 2x5 is 10, but since the displacement comes with a puls of rest which is also there after the call, it suits the area well:


This is exactly what our standard call is in Mansa Camios form - a 5-puls displacement:


Supplied with our standard response it is:


In a more dense form with a roll you might know this one:


Mix the two variations:


and you have again 4 different questions that you can multiply with the 4 different answers.

Last but not least I go with the abstract derivation from the tresillo cell and highlight the double-offs. This is "displacing" or rather challenging the beat in another way than the two before this. It is usually liked to be stretched into the resonse space like this:


Supply this, again, with the different responses and you get 4 more interfaces.

Then vary the question, too:


We already have 50 different interfaces, but need to remember only a couple of basic forms! You can easily come up with more variations if you like.

Allmost all of these different interfaces do fit into the call-and-response structure and the clave matrix and mix and negotiate a fadenya-like larger first part with a badenya-like smaller part. They provide a kind of twisted orientation in time so that you know exactly where the one is and where you can enter into the rhyhm, but at the same time this is no lame countdown but rather a body movement and suspense eliciting flow against and interplay with the beat.
Last edited by djembefeeling on Sat Apr 23, 2016 11:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
I couldn't agree more ! I feel like at home reading your call-and-response phrases !

I'd like to come back to your x.xx.x.xx.x.x.x. vs x.xx.x.xx.x.xx.x.

So far, I used to consider the second a necessary variation of the first, due to the stroke just before the 1st beat in the dunun part of sunu, related with the ternary version :

One can imagine an "ancestor version" :

o..o...ø..ø.ø... (quaternary) or o.o..ø.ø.ø.. (ternary)

Then one can link the end of the ternary version with the beginning, by adding one stroke (that follows the natural underlying bell) at the very end of the measure, like in maraka e.g. :


The quaternary interpretation now goes like this : drum]o..o...ø..ø.ø..o[/drum], requiring the full version of the bell.

Once created, this bell-pattern can be used in other rhythms, like Kurubi or Madan (old version).

(Korman, notice that I did not use words such as "clave" or "cascara"... Oops ! Actually I did it right now ;))
I do not say that this is the only form of interfaces, but I think it is the basic form, the rule which has lots of exceptions. See, there are absic forms in African drumming and in Penalosas sense this is clave music, but the more experienced a player is the less he or she has to stick to the rules. In a way you show your mastery by just insinuating forms and come up with all possible and difficult variations and transitions from one form into another.

Very popular, for example, is to pull through a displacement, like the two we already had - |§.oo.§.oo.§.oo..| and |b$.$.$.$.$.$..§.| - but also this 3 v 4:

|§.oo.oo.oo.oo.§.| which comes also with a pick up: o|o.oo.oo.oo.oo.§.| and can even start ahead of that at the fourth beat: oo.o|o.oo.oo.oo.oo.§.| or in another variant: oo.o|o.oo.oo.oo..§...|

or Mansa Camios 6 v 4 variation of the above 5 v 4:|§.oo..§.oo..§...|

or in the even more disorienting form of F.K.'s 7 v 4 plus a slap: |bs.b.s.bs.b.s.s.| which is at the same time the abstract form of the clave.

When you do want to pause a bit after the solo, you will hardly stop at the 4 +, the fourth offbeat, where most of my examples stoped this far. You will rather connect to the start of the next cycle and then create some tension with the heavy pause. Then, the response part often starts at the end of the happy end, on the fourth beat, like this Mansa Camio interface:


This is showing off mastery, can you see that?! He is starting with and thus alluding to a 5 v 4 displacement, then descends into a 3 v 4 movement only to connect the fourth beat with the first of the next cylce with a sophisticated 5-puls tone roll that starts with one slap. For the greater tension, he ends with a double-offbeat puls.

But you can also end, and I think this is more "textbook", on the bombo. Example given:

What happens here is very important for clave music in general and especially in West African drumming: to create new connections and oppositions of the clave points. In percussion you have little room for development and interesting change in sounds and harmony. Thus you constantly construct and deconstruct rhythmic entities and spaces. Most of the good rhythms are designed ambivalent by purpose, that is you can hear them in different ways, which is very disorientating for the beginner but gives so much pleasure to the experienced player. Good soloists can make us hear different connections between the patterns of the various instruments and the manyfold resulting composite rhythms rather then drown everything in a sticky layer of virtuosity, IMO. The task in this music is to both playfully challenge and keep the balance of badenya and fadenya, to always recreate a balance that is right for exactly this moment.

Interfaces are very important for the elegant flow of the soloing. They are signaling that something is over and that something new can start, they connect solopatterns or blocks of solopatterns and provide by that an elegant structure, but they could also be used as a solo of its own for a while. So they can be likened to a wild card in a game of cards, but rather think of them as griots, who are so important for the flow of energy in the communities that the river Niger is called djoliba, the blood of the djeli that runs through West Africa like the blood (that is his life energy) of the djeli nourishes his community.

We do commonly play solo head on, switching from one phrase into the other with neither rest nor connection. But every solophrase has a nyama, a form of energy that you have to mediate with another. Interfaces are central to playing solo. And they are the proper tool for mediating the forces of fadenya - disturbances, change, and competition - with badenya as a well-regulated order of things, the tradition, and the social coherence and solidarity of communities.
Last edited by djembefeeling on Sat Apr 23, 2016 11:23 am, edited 7 times in total.
ternarizator wrote:One can imagine an "ancestor version" :

o..o...ø..ø.ø... (quaternary) or o.o..ø.ø.ø.. (ternary)
Man, what have you done here?! Did you just interrupt the flow of thoughts in between the two interface posts? Or did you connect them elegantly with a post-interface?? ;)

Yes of course, the RUMBA CLAVE would make sense as an ancestor. You can also double the BOMBO on your binary version: o.oo...ø..ø.ø..o ;) ;) ;)

My question would just be: Do we need ancestors when all we need is the CLAVE-beat relation and its variants? That is only one principle to derive all the rest.
Sorry if I interrupt your flow of thoughts !..

One other question about this bell (but in a sense, you have already answered) could be :

Considering its connection with the rumba clave, why not play it this way :

1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . ..
x . x x . x . x . x x . x x . x.
o .(o)o . . . ø . . ø . ø . .(o)

My usual answer would be that it's easier to come back to the beat than to skip it, what do you think ?

And what about MK's call (even if I'm not very fan) : it seems to follow the same scheme (question from 1 to 3 : % . o o . o . o o, answer from 3 1/2 to 4 : s s s) ?

ternarizator wrote:Sorry if I interrupt your flow of thoughts !..
I was just kidding, no problem!
ternarizator wrote:Considering its connection with the rumba clave, why not play it this way :

1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . ..
x . x x . x . x . x x . x x . x.
o .(o)o . . . ø . . ø . ø . .(o)

My usual answer would be that it's easier to come back to the beat than to skip it, what do you think ?
I think it is not about being easy, that's for sure. Your bell-line is actually easier to play, at least for me. This is in any case very uncomfortable to play when a muffled sound is the first in a pair of bells. You did get rid of it on the third beat, though not on the fourth. The easiest then would be:

1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . .
x . x x . x . x . x x . x . x x
o .(o)o . . . ø . . ø . ø . .(o)

as Paddy Cassidy probably did arrange that for his khassonka style player:


On the konkoni in Bamako, there is no problem with the bell because none is played on it. On khassonka, the bell-line would be very different again, I would guess, something like this:


You can see that this line does not originate in the Hamana region. I guess there was no bell connected originally with those duns. Look at the sangban on Denabendunun/ Lafe:


I think this is Sunun à la Hamana and is designed in such a way that you do not face the problems I just mentioned.

I think my answer would be you do not play your bell-line because you do not skip the 3 on any bell-line on binary rhythms of the Malinke if you do not have very good reasons for that. The third beat is the transition point where fadenya meets badenya, where the tension that was built up before is waiting to be released on the happy end. It is more important than the 1.

But thanks for mentioning this anyway, because I forgot to write about that.
When you have, as a rule, the abstracted clave structure:


you can bend the rule and postpone the release a bit:


this is your bell-line, but as a basic line I wouldn't play it.

A soloist has more liberties to fool around. Take the rumba clave on the first cell and the second variation of the second cell, which results in the cascara stucture = our standard signal:


Then you can also postpone the transition into badenya for a while and hold the tension for one more double-off, just like Matche Traore, a Bamako based djembefola, does and made it his signature signal:


Or Niels Fleurke all Mansa style artfully omiting the third beat in this video at min.0.59:



About M.K.'s, I like his signature signal not in the beginning but for transitions, say, from accompaniment to the solo, because it highlightens the happy end by playing it in a dense form with slaps.

You can hear that also in this solo pattern of Mansa Camio:


Pure son clave, one of the few obvious forms in djembe soloing. Other than that only M.K. comes to my mind with his pattern on Kuku:

Last edited by djembefeeling on Sun Apr 24, 2016 6:59 am, edited 3 times in total.
One problem with bringing in Afro-Cuban music is... most of the African-descended people in Cuba came from the Congo-Angola region, as well as parts of Nigeria and what is now Benin.

They brought specific forms of music, not all of which have become part of the popular repertoire. Some are still strictly religious, and though traditions are suggested in popular music, playing the religious repertoire in a secular context isn't something people do. Or ever will, I think. (For the music of certain religions; Santeria is widely known and many popular musicians are Santeros/as, but other groups... are more quiet about what they do.)

As for Afro-"Latin," I think it helps to specify where people are from, because all of the Caribbean and most of Central and S. America have significant populations of African-descended people, each with their own styles of music. True, Cuban forms were the 1st to really take off in the US (and the rest of the world), but there is *so much* out there that I don't think it pays to generalize.

Just my .02-worth...