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Western Conception:
bulletDivisive, we divide the music into standard units of time, with a recurrent main beat, generally with a major pulse every two, three, or four beats.
bulletRhythm is something we follow and is largely determined in reference to the melody.

African Conception:
bulletAt least two rhythms going on
bulletMusicologists refer to it as polymeter or multiple meter
bulletAfrican music can only be notated by assigning different meters to the different instruments of the ensemble.
bulletAfrican musicians find their entrances in relation to the other instruments rather than counting from a main beat.
bulletLearning African drums you are told by master drummers to concentrate on what you are doing and not on what the other drummers are doing.


We understand African music by being able to maintain in our minds or bodies an additional rhythm to the ones we hear. It is the listener or dancer who has to supply the beat: the listener must be actively engaged in making sense of the music

Midi Audio Demos
bulletEbo Rhythm - transcribed from Baba Olatunje
bulletPuff Daddy:Mo Money Mo Problem, Police: Everybreath you take
bulletTLC Creep
bullet2PAC California Love

Talking Drums: African languages are “tonal” languages, the pitch of a spoken word is important in determining its meaning. By using two drums or striking a drum in different ways and drummer can duplicate the speech pattern of his language. In the Highlife band Jerry Hansen’s Rambler’s International Band on Yiadom Boakye the bass guitarist plays the Twi: Hwe ne nante, hwe na to ( “ Look at her walking, look at her buttocks” )