30th Jul 2014

African and Latin Drumming and Rhythm

Learning to drum requires motivation and determination that goes beyond the rudiments and drum rolls most people expect. A rich history of drumming can be found in cultures around the world, as evidenced by the variety of drums that have evolved from Africa, Latin America and other regions. It is these drums and the rhythms of the world that bring us all together, closely uniting us through the experience of music and celebration. Learning about the rhythms, the purpose behind the beat and its origin can bring any drummer a better connection to the skins, while building up a rhythmic repertoire like no other.

The tumbao rhythm is a basic rhythm that is played on the congas. The tumbao rhythm is the bottom rhythm played by the lowest conga drum. The tumbao is a foundational rhythm in conga music, but it is frequently used today in Afro-Cuban music, as well as in both Salsa and Mamba music.

The calypso rhythm for bongos is the upbeat music most people think of when they think of Caribbean music. This groove originated in Trinidad and Tobago, and, in fact, the term, “calypso” comes from the West African word, “kaiso.” Calypso music is lively, fun and versatile, which is why the traditional calypso rhythms have stood the test of time and gained popularity worldwide.

The kawa rhythm is a rhythm that is played on the djembe. This rhythm originates from the Faranah region of Guinea. The kawa was traditionally played by the medicine man or healer and it was used in particular to protect young members of the group from evil spirits. It was also played during circumcision rituals for protection from these harmful spirits. Traditionally the djembe is accompanied by the bala, the ntama, and the file.

Leaning more about the cultural and musical history of popular rhythms can help to foster a deeper appreciation for drumming. By realizing that the musical traditions and styles of today come from a larger past, we can imagine ourselves as carrying on ancient traditions. Through drumming and learning new drum rhythms we help to keep the past alive through the spirit and energy of percussion music.