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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Get yourself a mentor

I talked to a friend of mine this week. She made me realise how important a mentor is in a development of a person as a musitian. The more I think about having a mentor the more I'm admitting to myself I really need one. Of course, having a teacher that I could meet every week or so would be great. But what I would really need is a mentor that would guide me, tell me what to search for, what to get to know and that would point out my weaknesses. If I got to know all the things I know today a couple of years ago, I would be somewhere else now. The problem is that in countries like mine there are very few people who know how to play, for example, West African music, so getting someone who is capable of being a mentor for this stuff is almost out of question. I think I will give it a try anyway. Wish me good luck!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Reduced tempo: findings

This article is connected to an older one. You can find it here: .

The problem of the deep sounds persists. Duns can't be heard well if the tempo is low. I had an idea of mixing some of the clave sounds in, so that it would be possible to determine the exact position of the solo phrases, but that seems to be complicated. At first sight I thought that it would be really necessary in order to be able to play it on my own, without the recording. Later on I realised I could just repeat "more or less" the same thing and there is a point in that too. I think I'll get back to this strict examinations some other time when I'll be more competent.

I must also say something occured to me that hasn't happened for quite some time now. I noticed big changes in my way of playing, quite some progress, to be exact. Most of all, the level of my expressiveness has grown and it doesen't happen every day that I notice that about me. I feel like the melody in my head can be transformed into
some real sound much easier . This might suggest I have been doing a lot of technical exercises but I'm not sure this is the case.

I shall continue to examine this solos the way I did. Next week, though.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Djembe & jazz - djazzbé

I have been listening again to the songs we played on this year's Jazzinty festival in Novo Mesto. They're not that bad. If you wander how does a djembe sound within a jazz standard, listen to this song:

And yes, the next time I'll try to put a little less of that broken feeling. I keep saying this every time.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Reduced tempo

I am now waiting for the book with the notes for the balafon to arrive. In the meantime I'm killing time by studying some of the djembe solos I like most. I import songs in an audio editor and then decrease the tempo of the song for as much as it takes - sometimes up to 50%. I do a loop of a short solo and then try to repeat it. Many times it takes time to get it right, but you know... Depends on the song, depends on the player. Yesterday, for instance, I was working on the Wassolonka Kirin from the album Bamako Foli, which has one of the most difficoult solos I have ever heard. It took me a couple of hours to get around 20 seconds of the solo. Afterwards I tried to play it in normal tempo and discovered I missed a dundun sound in the background - the deepest sounds can hardly be heard in a slow tempo, of course. When that sound is added the solo gets a different accent and so I will need some more time for getting this solo right. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Drissa Kone, Kurubamako

Once again I was touched by the subtleness of the "Bamako district" music. Drissa Kone's album Kurubamako is definitely a "must hear" thing if you want to get an idea of what this guys are up to in Bamako. I got to know Drissa a year ago almost by accident. This guy has around 50 years and is a great djembe player: well known in Bamako and elsewhere. Besides, he is also one of the best teachers I have ever seen. It seems almost like he is specialized in teaching Europeans:-) He is the second (taught by the first) generation of the magnificent Bamako drummers.

Kurubamako shows what this music is about. My first impression was that the music is a little rough. Listening to it a couple of times more revealed that there is something about the structure of the songs that makes it quite rare in my collection of West African drumming music. The songs do have a point and you don't need to be a djembe fanatic to understand what's going on: the feeling guides you. No wandering around, no messing with complicated phrases just to show off. Instead, Drissa "shoots directly in the head" and tells what is needed to be told. We are really talking about the language of the drum here. But this music encopasses some other pearls of African drumming as well. The microtiming used is not "just present" but quite substantial. Polyrhytmics takes place more than occasionaly and patterns are quite complicated.
All in all, Kurubamako is an excellent album, very representative and a good dancing music as well (as it is well structured).

Where is Mr.Googlebot?

Well, I would definitely write something in this blog but I'm still working on the Google index. It's actually very frustrating that this site doesen't get crawled. In this way no one can see it so why write anything...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

How many tuplets?

Recently, I have been thinking about the measures used in the West African drumming. Most of the rhytms are 4/4 or 12/8. Some of them are (or at least have elements of) 6/8 and, to a lesser extent, 9/8.

I usualy refer to these rhytms as "fours", "twelves" and etc. Some people, on the other hand, refer to them as "straight", "triplets" and other rhytms. Now, the last two words don't seem to be chosen adequately, but there is a strong logic in this. I just realised this is quite a good point.

In fact, West African music, when played by expert musitians, often can't be classified neither as a 4/4 and neither as a 12/8. Some basic idea persists though. But in either case there is always something (a solo if not anything else) that is playing some sort of triplet, duplet or whatever.

That said, the biggest difference in rhytms seems to be in how much of the tuplets (duplets, triplets, ...) are being used. This would mean that most of the times it would be enaugh to specify a number like 3 or 4. 4 could mean 4 duplets (4/4 rhytm) or 4 triplets (12/8 rhytm), 3 could mean 3 duplets (6/8) or 3 triplets (9/8). This would embrace every African rhytm I know, since you can use other numbers too.

This also shows what I was thinking about when I came to this idea. I was looking at the astonishing similarity of the 6/8 and 9/8 rhytms. I will leave this to some other time.

One final question remains: "How to know which tuplet to choose and when?" I guess the question could be turned around and it would be: "What is the feeling you would like to express?" There is no need to discuss this.

So, on my opinion:
while these two parts belong to the same song

these two do not.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Djembe sound

I recently came to some conclusions in connection with the sound of the djembe drum. I guess I'm a kind of a sound maniac since I spent so much time thinking about it.
I'm sure every djembe player has a technique he/she developed partially by himself/herself. Imitating the techniques I have seen around, doing many experiments and changing my style of playing several times, got me in the position of being able to play with different styles at different moments. At some point of this "development" I decided not to use the tones of the djembe that sound best to me but the ones that sound best with everything else. That might seem quite logical but I'm not sure every djembe drummer understands that. I belive it is important to be able to determine what is the best combination of the sounds to use and this concept is often misinterpreted. In other words: there is no "best sound", there is only the "most suitable sound".
Let's go on. Since there are many tones and slaps, there are many combinations of these two. It is of course a matter of choice, depending on what you want to tell and what is your definition of a nice sound, but this would be my abstract definition of this two sounds:
Tone and slap are two different worlds. They differ in the way they are played. But that's all about the difference. These two worlds are coupled tightly. When a tone and a slap are played together the listener should feel they come from the same drum. This would imply that a deep bass-like tone and a squealing slap generally don't go well together. These two sounds should really sound more like two strings of one guitar. Both should have the element of the djembe sounds I consider most crucial: the bang. Both should sound like a small explosion, a crack. Now, if the bang volume level can be made equal for both the tone and the slap, than we have a nicely tuned pair of sounds.
That would be my theory. Trying to play a flam composed of a tone and slap should (if the time distance betwen the two is right) give a feeling like a slide on the string of a guitar.
What I just wrote implies also some very rigid rules for making the basic strokes - the understandig of the nature of tones and slaps in such depth that a player is permitted to play them in many ways, adding color and taste when reqiured.

The well known djembe drummer Famoudou Konaté is said to use some 25 different sounds when playing.