Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Difference between Soko, Sogo, Sojo and Soho

There is a lot of confusion in the djembe community surrounding rhythms called by slightly different names or rhythms with the same name with a slightly different rhythmic structure. There are a lot of different dynamics contributing to this issue.

Firstly, some name differences are on account of different tribal accents. For example, the Malinke say, “Soboninkun” whereas the Bamana say, “Sogoninkun”. This is the same rhythm just a different accent. The confusion arises when people conclude that the rhythms are different because of the name difference.

There are also many variations of the same rhythm under the same name across different areas of West Africa and across different ethnic groups. This does not mean that the rhythm is “different” in an "all or nothing" sense. It simply means that the different tribe or area has placed their own accent or style on the rhythm. The fundamental rhythmic essence should remain.

In the West, we tend to take a reductionistic approach to everything we encounter. We break down the rhythms to their intricate details while losing sight of the gestault whole. Africans tend to see gestault connectivities between rhythms and cultures where as we tend to point out and get confused over the differences in the details. In general, I believe it is better to try to focus on the commonalities between the same rhythms played in various areas or by various tribes rather than having our understanding blocked by perceived discrepancies. When in doubt as to whether a rhythm played in a slightly different way or called by a slightly different name is the same, often times the dance step will help to determine similarity of origin.


Comments:
...but there is a huge difference between Soko and Sobininkun. finding the similarities in rhythms from different regions is part of the fun. my teacher told me that it's important to keep what you've learned from one particular djembefola separate from the stuff you learn from others...acknowledge the difference, but don't stress about. same with ballet style vs traditional...know the difference.

this is great stuff man, keep it coming.
 
Big difference between Soko and Soboninkun (Sogoninkun), yes, very true. I believe the rhythm they call Soko in Guinea is the same as Djaa in Mali.
 
Many differences from different teachers could also come from different artistic interpretations, especially when the rhythm being played did not originate on the djembe drum. For ex., the way one teacher plays FulaFari might not be the same as the other. This is because they are trying to immitate the rhythmic structure and sounds of fulani instruments on the djembe. There can be debate as to the best way to arrange on djembe and dunun.
 
really...interesting. do you know of Mali Djaa on disc somewhere to be heard?

thanks.
 
Yes, the new double-cd available on this website has Gerredon/Djaa on it. The rhythm is called Gerredon when the men dance (dunun different also), when the women are dancing they call it Djaa (dunun like soko in this case). The CD is called "Tambacounda Dunun Ni Don".
 
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Here's what I can add about djaa and soko.

On Mamady Keita's Afo there is Djaa (sometimes known as Djaa 2 or Djaa kouroussa) that is very similar to the Gerredon/Djaa on Abdouli's latest.

On his Nankama CD there is another Djaa (sometimes known as Djaa 1 or Djaa siguiri). The dundunba in this Djaa is similar to that of soko but is not lined up the same and the sangban is completely different.

The liner notes for M. Keita's Afo lists Djaa as a rhythm of seduction for young women.

Soko is a malinke rhythm that is the dance of the bilikoro (or uncircumsized male) that is part of the circumcision passages along with Soli. This is how it is generally explained as I've seen from M. Keita, Famoudou Konate, Dibo Camara and others.
 
Interesting,

The rhythm djaa is a kind of seduction flerting dance. It is called Gerredon when the dunun is played like Mamaday's Djaa. That dunun is played when the men dance and it is called Gerredon at that point. When the dunun changes to what sounds similar to the Guinean Soko - the women begin to dance and the rhythm is then referred to as djaa. Thanks for your interesting comments Mike!
 
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