Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The “Ripping” and “Shredding” of Traditional Djembe

People play djembe for a variety of reasons. Some play for fun. Some play because they want to show off. Some play to attract a mate. Some play because they just love the sound. The fact is, the djembe is a very powerful drum with a deep and mysterious history. Many people are hitting the djembe these days but very few are actually playing.

The masters talk about the difference between speaking with the djembe and just making noise. Anybody can get excited upon hearing the powerful arrangement an ensemble of djembe accompaniments with dunun can make. Many will release this excitement in a wild solo without any clear direction. People often describe these type of soloists as “rippers” or “shredders”. This type of soloing is in direct contrast with the tradition of djembe playing. This “shredding” solo style has arisen out of the many ballets and performance groups as they tried to impress non-African audiences.

Africans themselves, especially older generation Africans, are more impressed by soloing that actually “speaks”. What does this mean? Well, in some cases it actually means that the soloist is actually knowledgeable enough to actually be speaking specific Bamana sentences with the particular solo phrasing. Other times, “speaking” simply means that the soloist is communicating and talking with the rhythm. In other words, the soloist is placing his/her solo in certain prescribed locations dictated by the structure of the rhythm being played. This is what Africans mean by “traditional soloing”.

Many Westerners claim to be learning traditional solo by simply glueing rigidly structured phrases one after another or at will when they want to show that they know some traditional solos. This cut and paste approach to traditional djembe soloing always fails. It is awkward and doesn’t have any flow to it. Each rhythm has its own language and linguistics. It is important for the serious student to explore this concept and try to learn the unique language of each djembe rhythm. Only then can the solo be complete and whole.


Comments:
hey Jeremy,
I gotta say I saw your site and its friggin rocking! 90% of djembe soloists are talking loud but not saying nothing. just blabbing, not following the dunun or the dance. anyway keep working this site. Its a credit to your teacher

paul
dunun liberation front east bay cell
 
i agree that the cut and pasting of phrases is awkward. but learning them helps a student understand where to begin and cut solo phrases.
 
It definately helps when learning but the student needs to be aware that the cut and paste patterns are not the end game. Many students are not aware of this. They think that traditional solo is something you throw into your solo to spice it up of show that you know it. Real traditional soloing relates to the syntax and grammer of your entire solo.
 
in regards to above comment...
that's difficult considering that most people don't have the opportunity to go to the regions where some of the rhythms originated. i think that is the only way a student can truly understand traditional rhythms...wanna learn Dununba rhythms? go to hamanah, kouroussa or siguiri. wanna learn crazy technique and flashy style of play? go to Conakry.
 
Nice blog. Have you seen your google rating? BlogFlux It's Free and you can add a Little Script to your site that will tell everyone your ranking. I think yours was a 3. I guess you'll have to check it out.

Computer News
Yahoo Boasts Size of Its Search Engine Index



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