people talk about African drums today, they often mean the
Djembe. From its traditional home in West African
countries like Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Ivory
Coast, Senegal and Gambia, the djembe is now spreading all
over the world more rapidly than any other African hand drum.
deep bass and distinct slaps and tones reach deep down into
our inner being, and whether we are drumming, dancing or just
listening, we cannot escape being affected by the pulsating
rhythm. Maybe something within us all is brought to life
the need for rhythm and movement to feel complete. A feeling
that connects us with our origin, whatever that may be.
societies known to man rhythm has played a very significant
part, with its magical and healing qualities. Whether you
believe it´s the drum spirit or body endorphins that
cause the healing, it is a fact that drum rhythms affect us
may be a number of reasons why the djembe of all hand drums
has become so popular. It might be the very sound of the djembe
that appeals to us, but it may also be the African rhythms
that are played on the djembe that entice us. Maybe it is
the discovery that just a few drums are enough to make the
dance floor really cook? Or perhaps it´s because you
can make music with it right from the start, and yet continue
to develop your drumming skills indefinitely?
the answer is, the fact is that the djembe seems to be just
as enticing for men and women, for young and old, for Africans
and non-Africans. Listening to a group of drummers playing
African rhythms is an experience that leaves nobody unmoved!
to call what is performed by a group of djembe players "African
drum rhythms" is like describing an organ piece by Bach as
"European keyboard music". It´s not untrue, but it certainly
does not say that much about the music nor the instrument.
drums come in all conceivable shapes, with or without various
kinds of skin drums with no skin may have long slits
in the trunk instead. There are drums with one, two, three
or more tones, which are played with large or small sticks,
hands, or both. There are drums which are put together in
a cluster, each having a different pitch. There are even drums
whose pitch can be modified while being played!
become more familiar with the vast range of African drums
we will have to be more specific when we talk about them.
For the time being, however, the concept African drums
will probably continue to be synonymous with the drums
of the West African djembe tradition to many people.
there is no written language in the West African tradition,
the language usage regarding drums, rhythms, dances and songs
can be very confusing to say the least.
with, the same kind of drum may have different names in different
parts of West Africa. The spelling and pronunciation of a
name may also vary depending on who is writing or pronouncing
it. As for the rhythms, it gets even more complicated. The
same rhythm can not only have different names in different
regions, but different rhythms can also have the same name!
may cause problems when communicating with someone who has
been taught a different name, a different pronunciation or
a different spelling than you. You should therefore keep in
mind that the names and spellings used in this book are definitely
not the only ones used in African drum communities.
book deals with the kind of African drumming taking place
at African drum and dance courses around the Western world,
i.e. ensemble drumming with predominantly djembes, traditional
bass drums and bells.
is of course by no means representative of the drumming occurring
all around the African continent, but could rather be described
as a simplified version of a drumming tradition that is continuously
being developed in the larger cities of West Africa.
cutting edge of this development are the drummers of the West
African national dance companies, often considered to be the
most skilled drummers of each country. Together with the most
skilled dancers of each country they make up a number of drum
and dance companies, which not only preserve but also renew
a kind of tradition that can be found in all parts of Africa
a tradition that is known by the name "ngoma" in many
word means drums, dance and song as something inseparable.
The three are simply not regarded as separate, but rather
as one unified activity.
can read more about African culture and tradition in the chapter
Ngoma in the Drum Culture section of this book.
is dealt with in this book is of course limited to what is
possible to pass on in writing. In the realm of rhythm there
are no boundaries and the deeper you delve into it, the more
there is to learn.
advanced art of drumming including solos, improvisation, creative
phrasing and microtiming is better taught personally by a
master drummer. Certain things are so subtle that you learn
them best by just being around to experience them. To accompany
a master drummer is one of the most beneficial things you
can do to develop your own ability as a djembe player!
beginner, however, you may be satisfied by just learning the
basics of African drumming. And that is where this book comes
in handy. It can be regarded as a drummer´s ABC, since
it deals with the rhythmic basics not only of African drum
rhythms, but also of many other kinds of rhythms.
presentation of the African drum rhythms in the rhythm section
of this book is arranged in a way that will make it easy for
the reader to observe similarities and differences between
various parts, to facillitate a better understanding of how
they are structured.
those who would rather use the book as an ordinary drum course
in which you go through a number of parts that are intended
to be played together, there is a Rhythm Index
at the end of the book. An even better alternative is to use
the set of Practice CDs that is also presented
in a subsection of its own.
rhythms in this book are intended for djembes, bass drums
and iron bells, but may of course also be played on other
percussion instruments. The single toned rhythms may be played
on any percussion instrument you can even use handclaps
for those rhythms. The two toned rhythms require a two toned
instrument or two single toned instruments with different
pitches. The three toned rhythms are the only ones actually
requiring you to have a djembe or some other three-toned
three enclosed Examples CDs contain sound tracks
of all examples and exercises in the book. By each example
in book there is a CD number (1-3) and a track number (1-99)
for convenient matching of the book and the CDs. Correspondingly,
each CD sleeve has a reference to the sections, chapters and
of the parts in the Drum Rhythms section of
the book are played at learning tempo on the
Examples CDs; i.e. about half the normal tempo.
book is purposely printed with relatively large fonts to make
it possible to read it at some distance while playing a part
on your drum at the same time.