Wednesday, June 27, 2007

All that Rhythm

West African drumming is polyrhythmic which means several different rhythm patterns playing together to make up a drum song. The rhythms interlock, connecting each to a central rhythm theme usually played on a bell. African bells come in various shapes and sizes and are variously named according to the people-groups or tribes. There is the gangokui, of closest relation to the cow bell: there is the single bell and the mother-and-child bell where the child is shorter and lies on the belly of the mother. There are the twin bells of equal size connected by the holding stem.. There are also the boat shaped Asante firikyiwa bells and the thumb bells and many more, I haven't yet seen. Apart from these there are also the higher pitched shakers and rattles of all kinds made from combinations of gourds, seeds and baskets which may be used to anchor the rhythm. My favorite is the shekere or axatse- gourd and seed shaker. There are often a masterful complement of drums of various sizes, shapes and skins which may be played by hand, stick or hand stick combinations. These provide the different tones which make up the drum languauges. Every peoples have found the tones which speak their particular language and compel them to sing and dance the spirit of the people alive. The Malinkes prefer the djembes and the dun-duns, the Wolof prefer the sabars which come by various names. The talking drums: dono, tama are more universal although they speak by vaious tongues. There are the slit drums, bata drums, fontonfrom drums, and the water drum made out of an inverted gourd over water, as well as the calabash drum played with the heel of fists. Other popular instruments provide the melody:the kalimba or mbira, the balafon or marimba, the kora, ngoni, the seprewa and the one stringed gourd guitar, the various bamboo flutes and also very importantly the voice of the singer carrying over top of everything else.

No comments: