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Monday, May 26, 2008

Djembe Custom Search Engine

This search engine is ment for searching on the West African music, with emphasis on Djembe-related music. It will only search sites that the contributors add to the engine and will thus omit various unrelevant sites.

You can see it on the right side of the blog. You can also access it here or embed it into your site. You are all invited to contribute since the search engine is public.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


This weekend I was in Brussels and, just by the way, I passed by a certain festival () where I saw some people playing West African music . This made me think again about something a friend of mine said some time ago: ''There is no African music where there are no Africans''. Today, as that day, I still find it true and regrettably this applies to the country I live in. If you can't listen to live concerts, have occasional chats with experienced musicians and the like, then you will always be just wandering in the dark and there's little you can accomplish. Even if you manage to do all this, some questions remain open: Who are you going to play with? Where will you find jams happening? And who will listen to this music anyway? I guess I'll have to visit cities like Brussels more often.

Friday, May 16, 2008


That's a talented student...

Friday, May 9, 2008

6/8 and 12/8 fusion

I am now into 6/8 - 12/8 rhythms. That would be Maraka, Wassolonka, etc. You can identify them because the bell of a dun typically goes like this:

and not nike the other 12/8 rhythms

I haven't figured out the reason for that ... Maybe it's a coincidence. The fact is that these rhythms have a 6/8 feeling inside and most of the accompaniments have also a 12/8 feeling. Let's take Maraka as an example:
Maraka lead melody (usually played by the dununba)
Maraka accompagnament (usually played by the sangban)

Now if you listen to dununba (and sangban together if you want) you can understand this rhythm as 12/8 (as shown above) or as 6/8 (as shown below).
Maraka lead

If you can hear both measures, then some solo phrases (that would otherwise be a little tricky) now come naturally. These songs have also a very strong feeling and there's a lot of "drive" when playing.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Hand lifting

I'm sure you have all already seen guys like the one in the video that lift hands while performing the solo. I always considered them to be a kind of show-offs, doing something not really connected with the music.

Around a year ago I started to do the same thing spontaneously and today I feel a special pleasure in doing it. I found this is not necessarily connected with an attempt to try to impress the spectator. The one thing it has to do with for sure is BALANCE.
I don't know why, but up until now I couldn't find anyone that shares my thought: balance is one of the most important things in djembe playing. I didn't even manage to find out what this balance is about, but maybe I'll post something about my new findings some other time.

For now I can show you what exercises I have been doing to achieve this spontaneous hand-lifting. If you are still a beginner try to write this down in a sequencer (like Percussion Studio or the like); it might look easy but it's quite hard to be precise enough.

I took a song in a 12/8 measure. This would be a standard accompaignement:

but I guess it's more advisable to play with duns as I did. Suite yourself.
Then I tried to play this pattern with the hand order written below the pattern ("r" and "l"):

Watch out for the pauses and be careful about the hand order - specially after the first four pairs. In the second line the order is reversed. Play the two lines together. The most important thing: don't help yourself with "flapping" - see older posts about it.

After mastering this it shouldn't be difficult to get ideas for similar, but more complex patterns.