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struggling with african beats

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by taviswardlaw, Jan 25, 2005.

  1. I guess this comes under technique... :meh:
    I've been working through how to approach different styles, and I'm looking into african music. I'm struggling to grasp the aspects of african rythm that makes it unique... What do you think?
  2. can you share some examples?
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I did some classes with a drummer who has studied African music and he said the most basic difference is that in a lot of this music, they feel the offbeats in most western music, as their on beats.

    So, he demonstrated this, by getting half the class to clap one rythm and then get the other half to clap beats between those, on the offbeats - then the first group stop and what you hear is the basis for your rhythm !

    It's hard to explain in words and much better in practice - easier to grasp if you have some lessons/classes with people who can demonstrate it.
  4. I've actually been going through my cd collections to find some to listen to and apart from Graceland by Paul Simon, the only african music I have are a couple of trakcs on different soundtracks.... maybe I should buy some more cd's and just absorb the feel...
  5. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Not that I'm an 'expert'...this is something I need to learn more about, too.
    A long time ago, I bought a book called "Western African Rhythms For The Drum Kit"(or something like that). The book came with a cd; what I did was program the various transcribed beats into my drum machine & then began experimenting...like Bruce said-
    Experiment by feeling the beat 'in the cracks'.
    Experiment by playing a bass note where the snare drum plays...or where the kick drum plays...or where neither play. Etc.
    There also seemed to be the cross-rhythm going on...maybe a 6 feel in 4/4, etc. Afro-Cuban music has the same thing.
    A good Afro-Cuban/Latin bass/drum book might also help you out.
  6. I hope I'm not making a MASSIVE generalisation here - but I've fooled around with a few African feels and the key one is the six/eight one - basically 4/4 with 3/4 on top - but it's double - hence 6/8. Basically count three beats for every crotchet i.e 123, 123, 123, 123 - if you can build a simple bassline using groups of three notes i.e. root, fifth, octave, then fifth, seventh, fifth - and get it rolling over a 4/4 beat - you should get some of that kind of groove happening. One thing to remeber is that the 'feel' in this music is paramount, try and listen to how the bassist (on say a Salif Keita CD) approaches each note - they leave a lot of space and like Bruce says, they also play around with the off beats - basically it's bloody hard to make it sound really light, funky and effortless - like they make it sound!

    Keep at it and just listen really hard - www.allmusic.com is a great place to find a list of the best West African artists - anyone from Cameroon can groove like a mutha! ;)

  7. talking about bass players out of cameroon? Can't go past Richard Bona! Yeah, thanks for that... I use alot of six on four/ four on six polyrythm stuff in fusion bands, so that shouldn't be a problem... Thanks heaps for that... a great help.
  8. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    Try playing with 6/8 and stacking differing "cycles" for poly-rythyms. i.e.: use something that cycles 4x for drums (4 sets of "triplets") and a 3x-cycle feel for basslines, etc. Then again I used to be a percussionist years ago, so I have a tendency to overanalyze rhythm.