Fire On The Mountain

With the advent of YouTube a laptop and headphones are all I need to access a universe of alternative music. Fifty years ago Tom Werman got me interested in Nigerian folk rhythms. I'm still interested.

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Mike McCarthy
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Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2015 8:07 pm

Fire On The Mountain

Postby Mike McCarthy » Fri May 01, 2015 7:38 pm

As I began to indicate on the marquee page, while he was at Columbia University Tom Werman got me interested in Nigerian drumming, though I didn't do anything about it. I just had the foundation meter running around in my head for at least part of every day. Here's their basic folk rhythm, as central to the traditional music of Nigeria as two bars of 4/4 is to our own pop music. Try reading the following aloud without any pauses ...

Kon kon kolo
Kon kolo
Kon kon kolo
Kon kolo
Kon kon kolo
Kon kolo

Now tap a finger slowly in an even rhythm and read the drummer-speak again on top of the rhythm. See what's happening here? Without any effort on your part we have six beats, with the first three dead on and the next three syncopated. This is an autonomic response, a direct connection into your nervous system. (Out of Africa, indeed.)

[An aside ... The pause between the end of the first kolo and the beginning of the second kon is, I'm convinced, the origin of the New Orleans "groove" shuffle beat, clearly evident here in Huey Smith's "Rockin' Pneumonia" ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUrASJk5WBU

Note the heavy dose of syncopated piano at 1:18. In a parallel universe I died, went to heaven and came back as a player of boogie woogie on a slightly out of. tune upright piano in a Texas roadhouse, with Jerry Lee Lewis' cousin Mickey Gilley egging me on, a big stupid grin on his face as he wishes he could play like me. But I digress ...]

Tom was ahead of the curve on this one because it would be another four years before Babatunde Olatunji's 1960 album "Drums of Passion" would come to the attention of a) certain sections of the American listening public, and b) your delightful host. (That would be me.)

Anyway, back to Africa. Here's some Kenyan drumming based on, and then evolving from, the simple rhythm ...

1-2-3-4-5-6
1-2-3-4-5-6
1-2-3-4-5-6

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIXYqkbVlWs

If you listen carefully you'll hear that the beats are not exactly metronomic. I don't know how to describe it but there is a hint of systematic lag in the 3-4-5-6 part of the pattern. Can westerners learn to think about rhythm this way? Of course, but it helps to have grown up in the culture. On the other hand, while white men can't jump, even Scots sure as hell can play funk if they've listened to enough of it ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aGBXrJ6e34

But I digress. Even Nigeria seems to have switched to 4/4 in its recent pop music. Here are Jerry Garcia, Carlos Santana, Mickey Hart and Phil Lesh playing in front of the Olatunji group ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmN0mFHDH2w

The real fusion music begins at 3:00. By 8:24 the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up

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Re: Fire On The Mountain

Postby BlueStrat » Fri May 01, 2015 10:17 pm

Always great watching Jerry and the guys, brings me back to some GOOD times. And Mickey pounding away, I was extremely fortunate in a past life, working for Reebok International, to meet Mickey Hart backstage (pays to have friends who run events) along with one of my buddies who happened to ALSO be a drummer. He brought one of his drumheads so that Mickey could autograph it. Those were awesome times in my life.

Recently talking with a friend, about his accidental invitation to a Cream concert in Lowell, Ma. while attending college. The discussion led to Ginger Baker. I thought Ginger was gone to better places, but turns out he is very much alive and had spent YEARS in Africa studying the Tribal Rhythms, in preparation for a new solo album, that is actually NOT new anymore, it came out in 2006 called "In Africa" and working with Fela Kuti one of Africa's most beloved musicians. He LOOKS like he should be dead,, but he is still bangin' those Toms & Hi-Hats !

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/8 ... SX425_.jpg

Mike McCarthy
Site Admin
Posts: 145
Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2015 8:07 pm

Re: Fire On The Mountain

Postby Mike McCarthy » Fri May 01, 2015 11:36 pm

For many years Ginger Baker lived just a few miles from us when we had a house west of Castle Rock, Colorado. I didn't know this at the time or I surely would have dropped by to chat and to get an autograph. A few years later he had problems with La Migra and had to leave the country. Perhaps that's when he went to Africa.

I loved his drumming on Cream's "White Room" ...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkae0-TgrRU

Regarding The Dead, if I were to call them fundamentally a country band, what would your reaction be?


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