Rhythm Notes and Credits


In this section I will do my best to provide the drummer with accurate background information for each of the rhythms found in my books. I invite you, dear reader, to help.  Please feel free to contact me with information, background notes and/or stories concerning any of the rhythms.  I will happily update this section on a regular basis and include your comments and give you credit.

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 The Ensemble Rhythms-



Acpala-  A rhythm with roots in Ghana and Nigeria.  Played to honor the end of the Muslin holiday, Ramadan.


African Rumba-  This rhythm was brought to Seattle in the mid 90's by the West African super group, Fatala.  They gave a series of workshops.  This simplified version of their material continues to be a drum circle favorite.


Agbajan-  An Afro-Haitian rhythm from a neighborhood called Souvance in the city of Gonaives,  80 miles north of Port-Au-Prince.  This rhythm belongs to the Rada family.  With characteristics of Mahi, Agbajan (also spelled Akbadja) is played on three drums.  The lead, or Maman drum (middle tone), the support drum called the Gwonde (high tone) and the Katabou (lowest drum tone).  The pattern played on the Katabou is the same rhythm that is played on the Boula (baby drum) from the Rada Batterie of drums from the Port-Au-Prince region.  Agbajan is has 3 sections and is split up by a Kase (rhythmic break).  There is a dance and singing as well. 


Agbe-  An Afro-Cuban rhythm in the Bembe family with Nigerian roots.  Can be spelled 'Agwe'.  



Asambe-  A Congolese mask-dance rhythm.



 Banda-  An Afro-Haitian rhythm



 Bembe-  An important 12/8 rhythm from Cuba with ceremonial roots.  A rhythm used in Santeria rites to invoke different spirits (Orishas) of the Yoruba pantheon.


 Bintin-  This is a song from the Acon people of Ghana.



 Bisari Bia Congo-   A Congolese rhythm in 4/4 time.



 Bobobo-  A rhythm from the Lake Volta region of SE Ghana.  Believed to have been created by a Christian named Mr. Nuatro, it was thought to be a rhythm that would be acceptable in the churches and is still associated with Christmas.  The songs sung for Bobobo explore themes of love, death and the Christian faith. 


Bomba-  A musical style from Puerto Rico.  A blend of African, Spanish and Taino Indian culture. There is a strong relationship between the drummer and dancer with the lead drummer trying to create rhythmic figures to match the movements of the energetic movements of the dancer.  A lead singer will sing songs exploring issues of everyday life and a chorus of singers will respond.  As Puerto Rico found it's independence, many art forms with strong African roots were suppressed by the new government.  The folk arts were pushed underground.  Eventually Bomba found its way into the concert halls, with simplified rhythms and accompanied by brass instruments.


Bumba-  An Afro-Haitian rhythm from the Vodoun tradition.  A member of the Petro Family.  Considered "hot".  Played on two drums:  Maman (also called Baca) and Rale (also called Ti-Baca).  Played in honor of the spirit Bumba Maza.  He enters only when the music stumbles.  He is characterized as a "Crazy Devil" with a hot temper.  He brings good messages and advice, however.


 Comparsa-  A Carnival rhythm from Cuba.



 Congo-  An Afro-Haitian rhythm from the Vodun tradition.



 Dahomey-  An Afro-Haitian rhythm from the Vodun tradition.









Etumba Nambuaka-  A Congolese rhythm in 12/8 time.



Fanga-  A Liberian Welcome dance made popular by Babatunde Olatunji.  It comes from the Vai people and is played as an invocation to the earth and the sky.  It was first brought to the states in 1930 by a multi-disiplinary Sierra Leone musician named Asadata Dafor.  Pearl Primus, a dancer/choreographer/anthropologist from Trinidad & Tobago, is usually cited as being the first person to bring the Fanga Dance to the U.S.  The chant, "Fanga alafiyah, ashe, ashe" was added to the piece in NY in the late 1950's by the Afro-American percussionist, LaRoque Bey.


Gahu-  A recreational dance from Ghana.  Men and women dance in a circle will songs are sung. There is some disagreement as to where Gahu came from.  Some believe that the Ewe fisherman borrowed the rhythm from the Yoruba of Nigeria and increased the tempo.  Others believe that the rhythm came from the Egun people of Benin where it spread to Nigeria and then to Ghana.  Finally, others suggest that Gahu developed from the Jamaican drum style, Gumbe, which was later brought to Sierra Leone, and from there, to other countries including Ghana.


Ghede Yanvalou-  An Afro-Haitian rhythm from the Vodun tradition played in honor of the spirit Guede, The Loa (spirit) of death, sex and transformation.



 Highlife-  A popular rhythm from Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria from the turn of the 20th century, known as the 'music of the people", combining traditional music (including Ghanaian Palm Wine music) with Western instruments and ideas, including jazzy horn arrangements (a colonial military brass band influence) and multiple guitar parts. The term "Highlife" was coined in the 1920's in reference to parties held by the European upper class (that also included the Christianized Black elite).  Local bands were invited to play this new, infectious music as accompaniment.



 Ibo-  An Afro-Haitian rhythm from the Vodun tradition.  The songs that accompany this rhythm speak of with pride of the roots from the Ibo people of SE Nigeria.



 Ijexa-  A rhythm from Bahia, Brazil.  Popular in Salvador, the capital of Bahia.  This large group rhythm is played on drums and bells.  The drums, called Atabaque, are high toned (Lei), middle toned (rumpi) and low toned (Rum).  The bells are two-toned and are called agogo.  The drum parts are usually phrased in 4 bar sections with one different that the other three.  Singers chant along in a call and response format.






Jessie-  This lively Congolese dance rhythm has been called Jessia Malanga as well as Jessie Mulombo.


 Kahkilambe-  A West African harvest dance.  There is also a version in 12/8 time.






Kise-  An elegant Congolese rhythm in 12/8 time.



 Kpanlogo-  A street party rhythm from the Ga tribe of Ghana.




 Kpatsa-  A playful rhythm brought to Seattle by the irrepressible Drum Master, Chata Addy.  From the Ga tribe, Kpatsa has it's roots in a folk story:  There was once a hunter who was traveling in the woods when he heard music.  He used some magic to make himself invisible so that he could approach the source of the music unseen.  Ahead were a group of small magical beings dancing.  The forest spirits (similar to elves) had one leg shorter than the other which made them move in an off-balanced sort of way when they danced.  The hunter studied the dance and returned to his village and taught his people the dance.  It is now called Kpatsa and features movements similar to what the hunter saw that day in the woods.


Kra Bien-  A rhythm from the Afro-Haitian Vodun tradition.  Played as a resting rhythm between other Rada rhythms.


Le'embe-  A slinky Congolese rhythm in 4/4 time.


 Macuta-  An Afro-Cuban social dance of Central African origin. The Macuta drums are the forebearers of the modern day conga drums. In Cuba, Macuta refers to a festive gathering as well as the rhythm itself.  It also is the name of a ritual staff used in Palo ceremonies.



Mahi-  An Afro-Haitian rhythm from the Vodun tradition.  In this book are 4 different Mahi rhythms:  Mahi Darielle, Mahi Japete, Mahi D'ete and Mahi Simp.  The first three are variations of Mahi Simp a named derived from the French for simple.  The rhythm has its roots in the priest class of the Mahi people from Nigeria.  The rhythm is played is often played for Papa Legba, the spirit of the crossroads.  Another spirit, Couzeh Zaka, the loa of agriculture and physical labor, is attracted to this rhythm.  Mahi is also spelled Mayi, Mai, Mais and Maize which is a word for corn from one the indigenous indigenous Indian tribes (Arawok).

Mahi Darielle-  Darielle means "backside" and refers to the way a dancers butt sticks out while dancing, bent over.



Makandal-  An Afro-Haitian rhythm from the Vodun tradition.  Named after an historical character who helped lead a successful uprising over the colonizing powers.


 Mbaye-  A sophisticated Congolese rhythm in 12/8 time.


 Mboshi-  A Congolese  dance rhythm.  Perfect for beginning study groups. 


 Mozambique-  A relatively new Afro-Cuban ensemble rhythm created by Pedro Izquierda (stage name, Pello El African).  Kim Atkinson, a master drummer/master teacher from Sebastipol, has championed this rhythm after studying directly with Izquierda.


 Mozambique 2-  This orchestration comes to us from Bernard Wray, a fantastic drummer who used to live in Seattle.


 Nago-  Named after the Yoruba people of West Africa.  This Afro-Haitian rhythm, from the Vodun tradition, is usually played in honor of the spirit (loa) Ogoun.  Ogoun represents war, authority, iron and thunder.


 Ngoma Bakango-  A lively Congolese dance rhythm in 4/4 time.


 Palo-  An Afro-Cuban rhythm and dance representing enslaved people escaping to the mountains.


 Petro-  An Afro-Haitian rhythm from the Vodun tradition believed to honor Don Pedro, a strong warrior/leader during revolutionary times.  Played to build up energy for battle. 



Punea-  A lively Congolese rhythm in 4/4 time.


 Rumba Guaguanco-  An Afro-Cuban rhythm that fits under the umbrella of Rumba.  Also in the family, Rumba Yambu (like Guaguanco but played slower) and Rumba Columbia (played faster and in 12/8 time).  The dance that goes with it is very sensual.  The male and female dance moves mimick the interplay of a hen and a rooster.


 Rumba Guaguanco 2-  This version comes from the Cuban city, Mantanzas. Only one tone on the middle drum makes it different that it's Havana cousin.


 Rumba Columbia-  Played fast and in 12/8 time.  The vigorous dancing that accompanies this rhythm is usually done only by men, although that is beginning to change.


Sabar Groove-  A nice polyrhythmic groove played during a particular section in a traditional Bak.


Salango-  Also spelled Salongo.  From the Petro family of rhythms from the Afro-Haitian Vodun tradition.  Salongo is the name of a tribe in Angola that now has its roots in Southwestern Haiti.


Samba-  The national dance of Brazil.


Samba Reggae-  A fairly new parade style of music from the Bahia region of Brazil, played during Carnaval.  The rhythm combines Samba and Merengue concepts as well as aspects of Candomble and Afoxe.


Senegalese Bak-  Traditional composed solos played on the sabar drums of the Wolof people from Senegal.  All the drummers play in unison.


Shango-  Also spelled Chango, this Afro-Cuban rhythm is played in honor of the deity by the same name.


 Shiko-  A Nigerian social dance.  Very accessible to beginning study groups.




Stick Bembe-  My name for the rhythm when the lead drum is played with a stick in one hand.


Tokoe-  A traditional ensemble rhythm from Ghana in 4/4 time.  From the Ga people.  Tokoe is performed at the beginning of ceremonies that introduce recently initiated young women back to their communities after they have finished their puberty rites (known as "dipo") overseen by the Elder women of the community.




Uhuru-  This beautiful dialogue is named after the Swahili word for freedom.


West African Samba-  This playful dance rhythm combines elements of west african percussion with Afro-Brazilian rhythmic concepts.


Yanvalou-  An important 12/8 rhythm from the Afro-Haitian tradition of Vodun.


 Yesa-  A powerful Afro-Cuban rhythm in 4/4 time.


Zepaule-  An Afro-Haitian rhythm, related to Yanvalou.  The dance features the movements of the shoulders.  Basically, a double-time Yanvalou.



Zepolah-  A Congolese rhythm and dance from the north part of the Congo.  This rhythm is played to help ease spiritual and emotional blocks.




The rhythms in Shadowing the Lion come from all over West Africa and throughout the Caribbean.  The majority of the rhythms come from 4 different countries:  Haiti, Cuba, Congo and Ghana.

The rhythms from Haiti all come from the Vodun tradition of Vodun is a religion that blends West African spirituality with Catholic ritual and belief.  Practitioners believe in a supreme God and spirits who link the human with the divine, who are petitioned by offerings that include everything from roosters to rum.  The rhythms, and the songs that accompany them, are played to both praise and ideally invoke the archetypal spirits known as 'loa'.  After a successful uprising in the late 18th century, fueled by the drums of Vodun, Haiti became the first free Black Republic in the Western Hemisphere.  


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