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The Art of the Drum Solo

29th Oct 2014

For the non-drummer, the idea of a Djembe drum solo may be the random beating on a drum, expressing one’s inner rhythm, creativity or the elusive concept of being “carried away” by the music. The benefit of this illusion for the drummer is being seen as a true artist of unlimited drumming potential, especially when it appears that just by chance, the Djembe drummer manages to blend the solo back into the anticipated rhythm, literally without missing a beat. Drummers know that drum solos are not just chance encounters with a rhythmic muse, but a studied method of timing, harmony and general performance skills, and just a bit of creative inspiration.

A Djembe drum solo is a complement to the natural rhythms established by the drum circle that reflect the melody of the song. Traditionally, the drum solo was a method of playing a rhythm that would correspond to particular dance moves occurring within the drum circle. It is not necessarily the absence of other instruments while a drummer plays, but the addition of a different, harmonious rhythm that follows the same beat as the drum circle, enhancing the song with slightly different timing or sounds. Djembe drum soloists must know the basic rhythm being played by the circle in order to properly break away from the recognized beat and improvise or produce an accompanying rhythm, as well as be able to incorporate the solo back into the established song.


Djembe drum solo

Drum circles, while exercises in spirit, creativity and fun, may have established rules for a soloist. Some circles are open to the public, and just let the music flow naturally, while others may have special intentions behind them. Before breaking out in a Djembe solo during a drum circle, be sure that your rhythmic artistry is wanted and needed, so you do not throw off the energy and vibe of the circle. Let others have a turn as a soloist, as well, and always keep the overall feeling of the circle in mind when you consider your solo rhythm. Also, remember that a good soloist is not only able to take on artistic improvisation, but can do so in a way that does not interrupt the basic rhythm of the drum circle.

Drum solos can be powerful for both the soloist and the other participants of the drum circle, especially when the solo is perceived as a seamless integration within the whole experience. The concept of a Djembe or other drum solo is not as much about showing off one’s talent, but enhancing the overall flow and feel of the music being played. This integration of sound and effect is just as important for the soloist to know as the basic rhythms being played during the drum circle. For the Djembe soloist, the art of the drum solo is just as much about knowing how to combine rhythms together as it is being able to creatively diverge from the rhythms in play, and bring it all back together again.