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International African Institute

African Rhythm
Author(s): A. M. Jones
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Jan., 1954), pp.
26-47
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the International African Institute
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1156732 .
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[ 26]

AFRICAN RHYTHM
A. M. JONES
I. SIMPLEHAND-CLAPPING

/M OST people are vaguely awarethat the characteristicfeatureof Africanmusic


is its rhythms. Some would say with the late Professor Hornbostel of Berlin
that 'it is syncopatedpast comprehension'; others would claim that any competent
Westernmusiciancould reproduceAfricanrhythms.Does the truthlie with either of
these views or does it lie somewherebetween them? It is time we knew what Africans
reallydo: and it is the purposeof this paperto give some accountof the bases of their
musicalpractice.
The writer makes two bold but sober claims: first, that the musical examplesare
valid for the points they illustrate;they are by no means a setting down of what he
thoughtthe Africanswere doing; they have been tested by every objectivemeansthat
he could devise. The more elaborateones are transcribedfrom the markingsmadeby
an electric machineon a strip of paper. Such a machineis essentialfor complicated
examples,for though the separaterhythmsplayedby each performermay be simple,
the method of their combinationresultsin a sound so bafflingas to be quite unanalysable without mechanicalaid. The second claim is that the description of African
techniqueis not an hypothesis; what is here set down is what the African actually
does. Any personwho puts the matterto the test with a partyof CentralAfricanswill
find this to be so.
Although the writer'sexperiencehas lain principallyin NorthernRhodesiathereis
not a little evidence to show that the principlesenunciatedare true for places as far
apartas the Gold Coastin the West, PembaIslandin the East, and Kingwilliamstown
in the South-that is, they are generallyvalid for Bantu Africa, though they were
actuallydeducedfromthe musicalpracticeof NorthernRhodesia.They hold good also
for the Ewe people in the Gold Coastwho aregenerallyheld to be a non-Bantupeople.
One caveatmust be entered in respect of the transcriptionof the melodies. No
attempthas been madeto indicatethe exactpitch of the notes sung. This is becausein
the bush therewas no possibleway of finding out. Customwith regardto intonation
variesfrom tribe to tribe,but no Africancan sing you his scaleas he is not awarethat
he has one. It is not possible, for variousreasons,to deducehis scalefrom his musical
instruments:and no one can investigate the matterwithout elaborateelectricalapparatusbuilt for the purpose.On the whole, a Europeanlistenerfeels that the African
sings a neutralnote on the 4th and 7th degrees of our diatonic major scale: and as
this paperis concernedprimarilywith rhythmwe must leave it at that.
Rhythm is to the Africanwhat harmonyis to Europeansand it is in the complex
interweaving of contrasting rhythmic patterns that he finds his greatest aesthetic
satisfaction.To accomplishthis he has built up a rhythmicprinciplewhich is quite
differentfrom that of Western music and yet is present in his simplest songs. His
rhythmsmaybe producedby the song itself, or by hand-clapping,or by stick-beating,
beating of axe-blades,shakingof rattlesor of maize seeds on a plate, or pounding of
pestles in a mortar.The highest expressionis in the drums.

AFRICAN RHYTHM

27

Whatever be the devices used to produce them, in African music there is practically
always a clash of rhythms:this is a cardinal principle. Even a song which appears to be
mono-rhythmic will on investigation turn out to be constructed of two independent
but strictly related rhythmic patterns, one inherent in the melody and one belonging
to the accompaniment. The usual and simplest accompaniment to a song is handclapping: so a study of hand-clapping is our best entry into African rhythmic technique. We take first Single Clapping.
SINGLEHAND-CLAPPING
The simplest rhythmic background to a song is a steady succession of regular claps;
this may take three forms: slow, about 60 to a minute, medium, about 84, or quick,
about z20 to I40 to the minute. Hand-claps are always absolutely and inexorably
accurate in their time: they never give way even by a hair's breadth to the exigencies
of either melody or words. Indeed, as we shall see when we consider drumming, they
must be metronomic in their accuracy.
A party of people starts clapping and then someone starts the song and all join in
singing: the clapping continues right through the song. With a regular clap, the
fundamental African principle is that there shall be either 2 pulses to a clap or 3 pulses.
The whole song must be either a 2-pulse song (duple) or a 3-pulse one (triple): it
cannot have a mixture of the two, except as an occasional interpolation of z against 3
to accommodate the words.
Ec
Each cclap
lp = ,J
~~
Nsenga Children'sSong-Masowela
J1,
40.
= 4o.4
6

Claps
PI

II

ti

8
I

g_.(r, iJ z_LvT-r^.t!-1

C. Wi-line - o
C. Wi-li ne - o Ch.Chumbwachamwa
- na .......,
- Ch. - a

rKr> ir

Be - ti, Be - ti,

-I--1

na -ya - nza ka - le,

6
I

Chum-bwacha mwa - na
FIG. I

C = Cantor;Ch. = Chorus

Fig. I was chosen as a starting-point because, while showing African characteristics, it is also comfortable to the European sense. It might have been barred in 2/4
time but this would have been a misleading introduction to African rhythm: it would
imply the presence of alternate strong and weak accents. But in our example, and
indeed in all cases where clapping is used, the claps are all of equal intensity. Note
that the claps divide naturally into phrase groups of 6 and 8: this is another important
principle in African rhythmic phrasing. A third important feature revealed in Fig. I
is that the song does not start at the beginning: in other words, we can see by the
phrase groups that to the African this song starts at the chorus, and the cantor's part,

AFRICAN RHYTHM

28

which to a European would be the natural starting-point of the song, leading up to


the chorus, is in fact a musical interlude placed between the regular reiteration of the
chorus. This is a feature which often occurs in African music. To score the song in
2/4 time calls attention to the barring: to the African it is the clapping which is allimportant and therefore it seems better to score these African songs in such a way
that the reader is forced to find his rhythmic background in the claps as the African
does. But the disadvantage of so doing outweighs the advantages because a long
series of notes unbarred is so difficult to read. The plan has therefore been adopted
of inserting bar-lines without regard to time-signature but in such a way as to make
the build of the melody, and the way the African sings it, intelligible: but it must
always be remembered that the African normally makes no noticeable physical stress
on any note and sings all the notes in a steady outpouring of even tone in a legato
style. In this particular instance the bar-lines fall in 2/4 and 4/4 position.
NSENGA TRIBE. Each clap =

Single Clap. Triple


J.

--I20.

3 D.C. al Segno.

Claps

t' |t

C. Si-mo- ni, Si - mo-ni,

mwva-na wa -ngu. Ch. Wa-fwa y - a - ni

a -fwivaku ma - u- mba - e.

FIG. 2

The first half of Fig. 2 has been barred in 3/8 time for ease in reading but the timesignature is purposely omitted. The whole song has a regular 3 quavers to a clap and
therefore is essentially triple, but while the first half is triple in the European sense,
with the claps falling on accented melody notes, the second half, while triple in the
African sense, is not so to the European. The melody sounds to a casual observer to
be in 3/4 time at this point, thus:

giSo'i
Wa-fwa

r-l==,F,
ku

ma - u - mba - ee

but this is not accurate and is a misleading way of thinking about it. The example used
in Fig. 2 exhibits fundamental African practice which is this-that an African song
which has a clap is constructed so that either 2 pulses or 3 pulses go to one clap right
through the song, irrespective of word division, word accent, or melodic accent. The
claps do not indicate any sort of stress: their function is to act as an inexorable and
mathematical background to the song. The song itself is usually in free rhythm,
judged as a melody, and no one not acquainted with clap technique would realize that
it is completely in a strait-jacket and that its time-values are mathematically controlled
by the claps. But that is the case and it is part of the genius of African music that it
succeeds in giving an astonishing freedom of melodic rhythm within the strict limits
of the claps which do not usually betray their fundamental duple or triple nature.
The observer hears a free-rhythm melody punctuated by claps which apparently fall

AFRICAN RHYTHM

29
in the most impossible places. But once the principle is grasped, the claps are seen
to be the real backbone of the song and to fall always in the musically correct place.
All African songs with simple regular claps are of this type. It is often very difficult
for the European transcriber to observe exactly where the claps fall, but it is perfectly simple to the African, though he cannot explain it to the transcriber.
We are now ready to look at the scores of this type of song, where the background
is a regular z-pulse or 3-pulse clap, serving a very free melody.
LALATRIBE. Each clap =

SingleClap. Triple
=

120.

Claps

Ni-ne Te-mbwvewa - lu- ha-la i - nsa-mbo, Na - ni

C. Ni-ne' Te - mbwe

8
I

8
i

ci - mu - ndu i-ci - bu-ndu e' ngo-mbe,

tu -po - se pe - so- nde pa ci-mu-ndu,

Ch. Tu- ka-la-u-le

i - se - mo,

6
I
.

I
,

I
_

_,

Af
-o

4.l
J - Itd _ -J-1-J-^-

1 .

Zql.~.4

X-Jlz

ta - bu - nga-ca,

le - lo

Na

, 4

jI J.J__. -J
mu-lo-ku- la - la pe - so - nde.

?C

FIG. 3 (a)

J.

I20.
8

Claps
IT jI
jb^

- FjT

Mu-li - ie

i
lI

- l

mu- ku - nga

m -

hu -

l-

.....

rIm--------

mu- nya- ma woo- mbu-sya,

nga
I

Hunter's Song

TONGATRIBE. Each clap = J

SingleClap. Triple

Mu - li - tee - le - le

wa mwa - a - la- mu - na!


FIG. 3 (b)

Let us take the 3-pulse clap first (Figs. 3a and 3b). We have attempted, in all these
examples, to convey the rhythm of the melody itself by grouping the quavers, by
using ties, accent marks, and phrasing, and by the use of bars, not in order to divide
the piece into metrical sections but purely from the practical point of view of helping

AFRICAN RHYTHM

30

the reader to get the lilt of the song as it is sung by the Africans. The songs are always
sung very legatoand fairly fast: they just swing along in a very smooth and apparently
free rhythm: but the melodic rhythm is strongly present and exists in its own right
quite apart from the claps. This is no case of shapeless tunes: if the songs are sung
by an African without their claps they appear to be delightful free-rhythm pieces
often with a good deal of imitation in the melody line.
Single Clap. Duple

BEMBATRIBE. Each paddle-stroke = d

Canoe Song

d= 52.

Paddle-strokes

C. Co -fwe ma - le-mba, Ch. wa - la - la mu mia -bu wa - ta - mba-la- la; C. We ca - u - be -ji,


4
/h^

I-5

-L~--.
;-t-M IJ

Ch. wa - ci - pa -ya

I
sya - ni

we

mu - ko-mbo-lal
FIG. 4

Fig. 3a is a quiet reflective song-a sort of aria-with a well-knit melody. If the


reader, ignoring the claps, can master the intrinsic rhythm of it, he will be astonished
when he sees where the claps actually fall: but it is an undeniable fact; that is where
they fall. Each clap contains 3 quavers and the claps go on with mathematical precision, though, as we have remarked, the claps impart no stresses whatever to the
melody. If a transcriber, in taking down a song of this type, finds that he has only
two quavers in one of his claps, he can be certain that he has made a mistake. We
further note that in both Figs. 3a and 3b the claps group themselves in phrases of 4,
6, or 8 claps. This grouping into phrases of 2 or 3 claps or multiples of 2 or multiples
of z and 3 is a fundamental characteristic of African songs.
The melody in Fig. 3a does contain a number of triple motifs: so, lest it be thought
that this fact is somehow responsible for the 3-pulse clap, let us look at Fig. 3b. Here
we have again a 3-pulse clap, but what of the rhythm of the melody? In practice this
song is sung very legatoin two breaths-only one breath being taken half-way through.
It is a good tune, but the last thing one could say of it is that it is in triple time: yet
it fits perfectly to the 3-pulse clap. There are hundreds of songs like this, from any
tribe.
Our last example of a simple regular clap is a duple one (Fig. 4). In this case we
have chosen a 4-pulse example. It would be perfectly easy for an African to clap it as
a 2-pulse song, which would merely mean doubling the number of claps, but the song
happens to be a canoe song and, in place of hand-claps, we have as a rhythmic background the noise of the paddles as they strike the water: time is needed to wield a
paddle and so the African gives four quavers to each paddle-stroke. He also uses this
song for punting: when he does this he gives eight quavers to each punt-pole stroke.
To a European knowing something of the language and being familiar with the

AFRICAN RHYTHM

3I

melody of this song, the natural syllables on which to give an emphasis with the
paddle, and yet preservethe smooth flow of the song, would be:
wa-LA-lamumiabuwa-TA-mbalala:
CO-fwemalemba!
We-CA-kubeji,
syaniwemu-KO-mbola!
wa-CI-paya
But in so saying we betray a fundamentalerror in thinking of the paddle-strokes.
They do not mark any emphasiseither on melody or in words: they just exist as an
essentialundercurrentto the song. This fact must be thoroughlygraspedif the more
complex exampleswhich we shall considerlater are to be comprehended.
Note how well this tune is built. It is repeatedadinfinitum
but wearswell. Although
it contains triple motifs it is essentiallyneither triple nor duple. But its backboneis
duple, 4 quavers to each paddle-stroke. We observe that the paddle-strokesare
grouped in two sets of four, and that the cantor'sphraseplus the chorusin each half
of the song total four strokes. Yet, on the score, the stroke for the cantor'swords is
phrased as the last and not the first of a phrase of four strokes. The reason is that
though the clap in the cantor'sfirst phraselooks like the start of the song, it is not.
When they want to end the song, the paddlerswill sing to the end of the chorus and
then the cantor sings ' CofiYe
malemba'to bring the song to a close, thus establishing
the phrasingwe have used.
Thus far we have dealtwith the simple,regularlyspacedhand-clap:before leaving
the simple clap there is one otherand very generaltripleclappingto be described.In
this case the claps are not equidistantin time, but are manifestlytriple. The clapping
may be in either of these two forms:
(a)
(b)

J
J. !

rTiJ rPJ
r

IJ.

&

&c.
r

&c.

In neither case does the clap indicate that the song melody itself is triple in construction.This style of clapping is merely another way of providing the song with
a metronomic background.There is no reason to expect that either word stresses
or melody stresseswill coincide with the accented clap. Sometimesit happens that
they do coincidebut thatis merelyaccidental.The examplewe quote is, in the chorus,
unusually' European' in this respect, but revealsits true Africannatureat the very
firstclap.It would be easyto quote exampleswhere the clapaccentand melody accent
are more disparate.
Here, then, in Fig. 5 is a song with a triple clap.
A whole verse consists of the first half of the song repeated,plus the second half
also repeated.It is importantfor the researcherto take note of repeatsand how they
are made, for they are not made anyhow, and their occurrenceis controlled by the
clap-phrases.For example,see the differencein time-valuegiven to the last syllableof
the word ' cikolola' on its first appearanceand on its repeat. To neglect the repeats
would lead to an inaccuratescore. Thus, in Fig. 5 the whole song is made up of two
clap-phrases,the first containing 8 clap-motifs,and the second 4, computed in this
way:
Firsthalf repeated 4 motifsX2
8 motifs
2 ,,
Second, , ,
2
4 ,,

AFRICAN RHYTHM

32

Girls' Song

NSENGATRIBE

Single Triple Clap


d. = 40, i.e. X = 120.
Clap.

_ ?

z-ip?F-Tr

Jtt

C. Ku -ta - li mpa ku Sto-pi

J,___ o
g

r___
i

Ch.Ya-ya,

kve ci - to-la

o_J
Jo

.J

.^-i-J +->

b-

C. Ku - ta - li mpa ku Sto-pi Ch. Ya - ya,

Ya - e

o- i-ye

ya - ya,

<

J7

d_

I
-

:
nte-nda li-ze ya

ci-ko-lo-

la.

JJo

rr-Ii--

kwe ci - to - la nte - nda li - ze ya

Ya - e

o- i -ye

ci-ko- lo- la,

ya-ya!

FIG. 5

To sum up: we have considered so far only the simplest form of African rhythmic
technique, namely the single hand-clap, and we have found four patterns of clapping:
I. Two-pulse; 2. Three-pulse; 3. Triple (a); 4. Triple (b).
We have seen that this clapping is not beating time in the European sense, but is an
undercurrent providing the free rhythms of the song with a metrical basis. No African
could be satisfied with such simple claps for very long: he wants something more
interesting. The next step in complexity will be considered in the next section where
we shall deal with clapping patterns.
II. CLAPPING PATTERNS

A. Single ClappingPatterns
An interesting rhythmic pattern is the spice of life to the African. So far we have
considered steady, equally spaced claps and the equally steady ordinary triple clap.
In such types, the African secures his rhythmic interest by making his melodic
accents lie athwart the claps. We must now examine a kind of clap which has an
inherent rhythmic interest of its own. It is here that we see one of the significant
characteristics of African music as distinct from that of the West. There is, of course,
no reason why music should be governed by a steady, equally spaced beat as in 3/4,
4/4, 6/8, time or arnyother of the conventional time forms. We in the West have a way
out in the juxtaposition of bars of unequal length or in free rhythm. We have not hit
on the African's method which is this: he takes a little rhythmic pattern, usually of
I -pulse length, and this he repeats over and over again as the rhythmic background
of his song. The pattern chosen for demonstration is of particular interest owing to
its widespread distribution: it occurs in West, Central, and East Africa. There are

AFRICANRHYTHM
33
in
other patternsbut the characteristictechnique of them all is illustrated the one
given.
J=

.I

140.

;.

. !..

.,J.

&c.

This pattern, which is thrice repeatedin the example above, consists of twelve
pulses, with the claps falling thus:
1

10

11 12

It is easy to clap this approximately,but in Africanmusic it must be mathematically


exact, for, as we shall see, it may have to fit with drumminggoing at seven beats to a
second, and any inaccuracyin clapping would end in confusion.
This little clap-patternis quite charming,but the interest does not lie merelyin
the clap rhythm. When a song is set to this clap, the same freedom of stress in the
melody, which we noted in steady clapping, is again apparent.Once more we find
that the claps fall in the most unlikely and apparentlyimpossible places, but this is
only becauseEuropeansfind it difficultto conceive of a clappingaccompanimentto
a song which carriesno thought of stress. In the use of this clap we find a song,
apparentlyin free rhythm, which is in fact meticulously controlled by the clappattern.The clap may never underany circumstancesgive way-even for a quaverto the demandsof the melody. If sucha thing occurred,the Africanswould at once become confusedin theirclappingandstop, knowingthattherewasa mistakesomewhere.
This particularclap-patternis so frequent and so widespreadthat we give two
examplesof it, the better to study its features.
In Fig. 6 the syllablesmu-sha-ba-ngi-loalwaysfall on claps.In speechthesesyllables
do appearto carryan accentand, on these grounds, it might be supposed that there
is, after all, a relationshipbetween clap and stress. But in Africanlanguagesappearances may be deceptiveand there is, so far as we know, no evidence that words like
this suggest any sort of accent to the mind of the African.A glance at Fig. 7 should
reassurethe readerthat the clap has nothing to do with stress. Note especiallythe
last two syllables' Yeye '; these might be translated' 0 my ' and are both stressedin
singing yet neither of them falls on a clap.
In Fig. 6 the clap-patternbegins on the cantor'swords, and the chorus is completely out of phrase with it. In Fig. 7 the reverse is the case, and it is evident that
the beginning of the chorusis chosen as the beginning of the clap-phrase.The parts
of the songs which most clearlyshow the usual and familiarcrossing of claps with
melodic and verbal stress are, in Fig. 6, the concluding words ' ngombe
namuyanzya
kweenda
', and in Fig. 7 the whole of the second half of the chorus startmushabangilo
ing from ' Naabwezalutambo-'.
We have not yet penetratedvery farinto Africanrhythm,but should anyonebe led
to imagine that these examplesare fairlyplain sailing let him try: let him, setting his
metronome at I40, try to clap the patternand sing at the same time. To do so is a
humiliatingexperience.
Before leaving this patternit might be worth drawingattentionto its ethnographic
significance.Not long ago at Trinity College of Music the writer met Mr. Philip
Gbeho from the Gold Coast and Mr. Roudette who is a West Indian. Both of them
D

AFRICAN RHYTHM

34

Men's Song, 'Inyimbo' class

ILA TRIBE

Single Clap-Pattern
J= I40.
Clap

J4

7w

:^

J?

.J

J__J

C. Mu- sha - ba- ngi - lo

ba - sa, mu - sha - ba - ngi - lo,

Ch. Kwee - nda mu- sha- ba - ngi - lo,

rA

#!J:1
J2~

JJ.
~+

J.~

C. Mu-sha-ba-ngi-lo

J J

J Q J4

ba- sa, mu-sha- ba- ngi- lo, . . Ch.Kwee- ndamu- sha-ba- ngi - lo,

- J J J~
Kwee - nda mu - sha - ba- ngi - lo

mbu-sha- ka - wi - la

J.
i

J
ngo-mbe na- mu -ya - nzya

ka -lu- wa,

J . .J

J.

_;

~J

J,

kwee- nda mu - sha - ba - ngi - lo .

(kweenda)

FIG.6
Men's Song, 'Inyimbo' class

ILA TRIBE

I40

,=

Clap

e, . J
JI'

_0I.

J !'

Ch. Kwee-nda nka-nda- ii - ba -ya - u

C. Shi - baa - ya

J. J

nse twa- ka - a - ma-ni-ni-

! .

J
-

na

la,

ma - sa- ka - a - le - le Mpi-nda oo

Ch. Naa-bwe-za lu- ta-mbo shi-ma-u - ce - ma

!~

2J.

hu- mbo,

J?

1r1
ye,

FIG. 7

.
_

yel

!1

AFRICAN RHYTHM

35

not only said they knew this clap-patternwell, but demonstratedit: yet it was transcribedin CentralAfrica.
There are more of these clap-patterns:but having examinedone in isolation, we
shall study others in a setting in which they so often occur, that is, in combination.
B. CombinedClappingPatterns

For these, the assembledcompanywithout any organizingnaturallydivides itself


into parties-as many as the differentclap-patternsto be combined. In our first
example,Fig. 8, therearetwo claprhythms:it is a simpleexampleas it is only a slight
modificationof clapping4 against3. When Africansdo combinedclappingwhat they
areaimingat is the patternwhich emergesfrom the combination.Even if the clapping
is a little ragged at the start, in a few seconds they pull it together and a clear and
accurateresultantpatternis heard.
Combined
Clap-Pattern

Icitelele, Style I. Play song for girls

LALATRIBE

io6.

J.=

Clap I

I.2 .

!.

-X.

--

Clap 2

Resultant

1 J
? A

C. Cu -lu

JJ.

IJ

INJ

IJ.

J
L

A-3

ca

nsa - ngwa,Ch. I-

ya-

ya

:?
ya

|'

ka-mu-

J_.

lu- bu

se,

D.C. al Segno

J.

,
oJj

J.

C'lJ.

IJ

|.

1.I J

IJ
A

A`^-

f^__

C Le - lo

mwa - ci

r-

ya - ya,

11

Il I,J aIl.
A^`

bo-na. Ch.I - ya

J3r

ka-mu-lu - bu -

-A

se.

FIG. 8

We should observe that 4 against 3 can give us two resultantrhythmsaccording


as we give a mental predominanceto the 4-clap or the 3-clap.They will be:
(a) ist clap
2nd clap

JeJ

Resultant3

J.

| I.

The 4-clap is predominant: the resultant is triple.

AFRICANRHYTHM

36

(b) ist clap


2nd clap

Resultant4

J.

!.

!.

J1

Ij

The 3-clapis predominant:the resultantis duple.

These two patterns,the one tripleand the other duple, emergefrom the same constituents simply becauseone of the contributingpatternsis clappedlouder than the
other. They would be counted as two entirelydifferentclap-patternsby Africans: I
doubt if any African,unless he had had trainingin Europeanmusic at college level,
would be able to recognizethat these two resultantsarecompoundedof two identical
clap-patterns.
Looking againat Fig. 8 we see thatthis song stressesthe 4-claprhythmand,as there
are z quaversto the complete phrase,the resultantis in triple time. It is clear that
the point of entryof the chorusis the importantplacewherethe clap-phrasesand song
start off together. The remarkablefeatureis the way in which the chorusphraseends
not on the last clap of a clap-phrasebut on the first, and the cantor'swords are used
to completethe clap-phrasebeforethe entryof the chorusagain.The song is repeated
ad libitumas it is the accompanimentof a girls' play-dance.Fig. 8 is a simpleexample
of combined clapping.
Another simple form of the Citeleleclap is this:
1. = I40.
ist clap

J.

2nd clap

Resultant8

JI

J
\I

J.

J.

J.
J

.1

I J.

fJ

I.

FIG.9

Here the 4-clapphraseis combinedwith a new patternof I 2-quaver length.


How charmingthese resultantsare! and how interestinga backgroundfor a song:
and from what simple elements are they producedI We begin to see what a wealth
of possible rhythmicpatternsmay be createdby this technique of combined clappatterns.
An interestingalternativeto hand-clappingto produce the rhythmicbackground
is the use of axe-bladesby the Bemba tribe in the north of Northern Rhodesia.An
Africanaxe-bladeis a triangularpiece of iron about 9 inches long and 2 inches wide
at the base. There are three playersand each of them knocks the blades out of two
axe handles, for it is the blades only that are used, two blades to each performer.
Insteadof clappingthey clink the axe-bladestogether.Fig. io shows the resultwhich
is a remarkablesound and very infectious. Looking at the score we see that the
whole piece, which may be repeatedat will, consists of four phrases of 2 quavers
each. There are three axe-patternsand they all start simultaneously.This feature
should be noted because it belongs speciallyto combined clapping-patternsand is

AFRICANRHYTHM
Combined
Rhythm.Axe-Blades

37

BEMBATRIBE

J.== I3.

Ist Aixe
8

..

IJ.

J.

- 8J

IJ.

J.

I J.

J.

2nd Axe

IJ

.j

J j.

IJ

IJ

3rd Axe
A

12

OJ

Aj

J
J
J
2 J
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

IJX

Resultant

0 Or^N
i1IJ
f Axes

I
ba - ka - ntwa

J.
j
iJ

*d
J

p-0

21a---="PJ.-t j

I ;2
jJ g;j - >
I n ].1

ist Axe I
C. Ba - na

J.
J*

la
ma -- ee -- la

IJ.
J

J.

IJ

Ja

0
.3

'

e
J

--

^* or"7

I jwrM;

LJ-

nkala
la-pi
- la -- la-pi
nha

IJ.
I1
Ie

Ch.
M-mi-la
Ch. Mlu-mi-la

!.
J

I
-

I
mbo, ba - na

II

IJ
J.
J

IJ

* .3
,r j

IJ

,J

1,j

-rr;

-- I

mbo,

II

11

i-t i
mu-mi-la

of Axes

of Song =
r-"
.

lr

Jj IJ

Song =

J;
I "17

J.

J J,

II
:
.u

'i
ba - ha - nwa

ma-e

- la.

FIG. I0

only normalAfricanpracticein this context.The first two axesarebeating 3 against2.


The third axe-patternis much more interesting. We have used accentuationmarks
in the first two phrasesto indicatethe lilt which is, of course, continuedthroughout.
The combinationof these threepatternsproducesan exhilaratingresultant.Now the
song, which presents no difficultieswhatever to African boys, is difficultto transcribe accuratelybecause it goes slightly slower than the tempo (J. = 130) of the
axes. It does in fact go at a speed of J = I 30 and is thereforez against 3 throughout.
For ease in readingwe have omitted all dots from the quaversin the song: it must
be remembered,therefore,that J,3 in the song is equal in time to .71 of the axes.
The rhythmof the song closely follows the speech rhythm of the words, and is indicatedby a suitabletying of notes and barring.Comparenow the song rhythmwith
each of the axe-bladepatterns;clearlyits inherentaccentuationderives from none of

AFRICAN RHYTHM

38

them, though in fact its prime backgroundis the patternof the first axe-blade.As to
the phrasingof the piece, here againwe find two distinct series,one belonging to the
axes and one to the song. While the axes are phrasedin four groups of 4 of the first
axe-bladebeats, the song is dividedin three phrasescontaining6, z, and 8 of the first
axe-bladebeats respectively.The whole song has a strong rhythmof its own in these
three phrases, and in no way does it reflect either the individual or the resultant
rhythms of the axes. These, though they contributeso much to the charmingeffect
of the whole, merely act in relation to the song as its metronomic background.
However many times the song is repeated,its syllablesfall on identicalbeats of the
axes.

A point of interestlies in the thirdaxe-pattern.We have phrasedit with the longer


motif at the start of the phrase,thus:
A

We did this because our African players did. But they can equallywell treat it as a
differentpatternby reversingit and putting the shortermotif in front in this way:

There is also anotherclap-patternin ordinarytriple time which goes:


A

,N

18

7r I

11

Putting these together with a regularclap we get the rhythmicaccompanimentto a


Bembasong called' Nabombwepamwala
', and we note the spiritedresultantemerging
from the combination.
J.

Ist clap

2nd clap

: J

= I20.

J.

3rdclap 3 :
Resultant :3

J.

J.

IJ

I J1 .d
J

I 1 J
I

FIG. II

Although some of the accentedclaps in the clap-patternsare seen to occur on unaccented notes of the resultant,in practicethe stresses on these accented claps are
only slight and they exist more in the mind of the performerthan in his clapping.
One important clue in unravelling African music is to discover how the African
thinks'about his music, andin the caseof these combinedclap-patternshe is intent on
producing the resultant.
I Compare the 2nd and 3rd clap in Fig. xI. The
sequence of claps is identical in both cases, but the
organization of the sequence in the mind of the per-

formers is quite different, thus giving two different


patterns.

AFRICANRHYTHM
39
We have here been dealingwith more complexpatternsand their combinationand
use with songs. One featureshould linger in the mind,namely,that in hand-clapping,
as a generalrule, all the various clap-rhythmshave a common beat on which to start.
In the next section, which is concernedwith drumming,we shalldiscovera technique
that is radicallydifferentand in which this particularfeatureis not found.
III. DRUMMINGTECHNIQUE

Drumming is the very heart of Africanmusic. In it are exhibitedall those features


of rhythmicinterplaywherein African music differsfundamentallyfrom the music
of the West. These featuresare more or less observablein all forms of Africanmusic,
whether songs, or clapping,or instrumentalpieces, but if one were to study African
music by meansof a considerationof these only, one might well miss the very essence
of the matter,which is alwayspresentin drumming.Though it is true that a single
drum is used as rhythmic accompanimentto children's games, yet the standard
African drum technique requiresa minimum of two drums: there will almost certainly be three, for that is the minimumnumberrequiredfor the full performanceof
the masterdrum. There may be and often are more than three. There will also be
hand-clappingand a song. All this is the accompanimentto the danceitself for which
drummingreally exists.
Drummingis built up, like combinedhand-clapping,of a combinationof rhythmpatterns played by the several drums. But there are two absolutely fundamental
differences.The firstis so importantthat no adjectivecan be strong enough to overemphasize it. It is this: whereas in clapping, the various rhythm-patternsof the
clappershave a simultaneousstarting-pointand so there is always one recurrent
beat where they all coincide, in drummingthis is not so. In drumming,to state the
case in its simplest and most direct form, themainbeatsnevercoincide.
The second characteristicfeature of drummingis that the rhythm-patternsof the
master drum are continuallychanging. In clapping there is no variation: once the
resultanthas been establishedby the clapping parties,it continues unchanged over
hundreds of repetitions. In drumming, the spice of the performancelies in the
masterdrum'scommentaryon the dance.He is forever changingthe patterns,sometimes playing duple, sometimes triple time, sometimes using some rhythmicfigure
which fits into neither of these simple time divisions. As to the other drums, one
sticks to a simple rhythmand never varies throughout; the other may have perhaps
two rhythmpatternsof a similarnatureand he rings the changeson these. But all the
time, through the maze of rhythmsproducedby drumming,the outstandingfeature
is, as we have said, that the main beats of the bar of the contributingdrums do not
coincide: it is thus absolutelyimpossiblefor a drummingto come to a dramaticend.
It never does: it just fizzlesout at the end of a danceor when one drummergets tired
and stops playing.
Let us look into the matter. Suppose two drummersare playing in triple time at
the same speed. One is playing this pattern:
JJ

J.I40o.

&c.

The other is playing


J.=I40.

lJ

I .

IJ

Jl

:11&c.

AFRICAN RHYTHM

40

The obvious way, to a European,of combining these is of course this:


J.

I40.

Drum

I
I

Drum 2

J'

.i

This could never happenin CentralAfrica: we doubt if an Africancould do it if he


tried. He has two ways in which he could combinethese two patterns:in the Bemba
dance called' Ngwayi'from which this exampleis taken,he uses the first of the two:
IJ . IJ
IJ
J
(a) Drumi
J
Drumz2

IJ

J.

,J.

Here the mainbeat of the bar of the second drumfalls on the secondbeat of the bar of
the first: hence the main beats can never coincide.
3 ,I J

(b) Drumi
Drum2

21
.3JJ

21IJ

SI J

2I J

Here the mainbeat of the bar of the second drumcoincideswith the thirdbeat of the
bar of the first: the main beats again can never coincide.
We call this process ' crossing the beats ': it is absolutelyfundamentalto African
drummingtechnique.This crossingof the beat mustbe established;afterthat is done,
additionaldrums may be added with main beats of the bar coinciding with one or
other of those alreadybeating, but with a differentrhythm-pattern;or, in the case
of the masterdrum,once the firsttwo drumshave establisheda cross-rhythm,he may
just do what he likes: he usuallycreatesa seriesof rhythm-patternswhose main beat
crosses at least one of the other drums. Yet it is rathermisleading to speak of the
main beat of the master drum,because,though at times he uses short motifs which
could be barredin the Europeanway and given a time-signature,yet he is mostly
using longer and irregularrhythm-patternswhich have unequallyspaced points of
emphasis.When he uses such patterns,his stressedbeats are quite unrelatedto the
main beats of the bar of the other drums: they may coincide or they may not-it all
depends on the pattern he is using; and clearlyif the pattern is irregularsome of
his stressedbeats may happen to fall on stressedbeats of another drum, in which
case others will not.
Let us take an example with an extremelysimple pattern played on the master
drum. It is a Bemba dance called ' Ibeni '.
Drum I plays 2> ie
4eI

J*

oN

Ie.

&c
&c.

Drum 2's patternis interesting;it is a mixtureof duple and triple and one wonders
at the ingenuity of the Africanin using triple time to cover a rhythmicphraseof 6
quavers,which is the overall patternof the phrasingof the dance.
Drum

32

e[i82J

1~
*trJ

,, 1~J

J I[

AFRICAN RHYTHM

4I

Referringto the full score below, we see the ingenious way in which drums i and 2
are combined.
The simplestform of the masterdrummer'spatternsis this:
2

N JI ~ 41 lip I

f;T

"

JII

_
J"~J&c.

but the remarkablefact is that instead of starting his pattern approximatelyat the
same point as drum 2, he actuallystartsit neartheendof that drum'spattern.So here
we see another fundamentalfeature of African drumming, and African music in
general, namely, the staggeringof the points of entryof combined rhythm patterns.
Arrangingthe score as the Africanactuallyplays it, and noting the resultantrhythm,
which is the predominantsound heard by anyone standingnear the dance, and the
rhythmwhich the three drummersare intending to produce, we get:
d= 96.
Drum

DJ.

DrumzzJ

MasterDrum4

JJ

SI
I

2:

I3 I

1,

7T=

J;9

. 1 J

IA

Resultant

SJ

o, 1I

I J-I"
A

'

!J

I Ji

,T

:
A

FIG. 12

If the readerthinks the resultanta mere dull repetitionof the masterdrumlet him
of the masterdrum'spatternbecomes the effecreflecton the phrasing: the beginning
tive andheavy-soundingendof the resultant.He mayalso note thatthe two unaccented
introductorybeatsof the resultantarecompoundedof the firsttwo beatsof the second
drum'striplepattern,togetherwith the firstbeat only of the firstdrum,superimposed
and staggered.We have, then, a triple rhythmcross-beatingwith a duple rhythm,to
which the masterdrum adds a duple rhythmwhose phrasestartsnear the end of the
second's phrase,all producing a resultantwhose phrase (in duple time) startsat the
beginning of the second drum'striple phrase.
In order to isolate the principlesof drummingwe have so far omitted the handclapping and also the song from the score. In actualpracticethe dance Ngwayihas
four drums, all with differentrhythm-patterns,a hand-clap, and a song. Having
establishedthe essence of drummingtechniquewe are now ready to consider how
clapping and singing are integratedwith it. We shall again take a simple example;
it is only fair to the African playersto draw attention to this point because the exampleswe are using are so short and so rudimentarythat they do scant justiceto the
rhythmicpowers of an Africanmusician.As we went to the Bemba tribefor the last
examples,let us now go to the Nsenga who live some 500 miles to the south-east
of them.
Fig. 13 is a Beer Dance in which there are two drums,one hand-clapping,and a
song. Most African drumminggoes as a rule at about 7 beats per second, that is at

AFRICAN RHYTHM
42
about the speed of an old English Sword Dance tune. But Nsenga drumming is
always quicker: it sounds so rapid that one wonders how the drummers can keep it
up. It goes at 480 unit beats per minute.
Drums,Claps,andSong
J. == 6o.
ist Drum

n,J
{-^=LTr-n-=
-

1-,~--

-4

Beer Dance

NSENGA TRIBE

d =20.

-T-

2nd Drum
A -X

-A...^

Claps
A'"

ne -

C. Ni

Ch. Ni

ne- o

ka

-'A

--3

wa

na

i,

l
g.=:JH~z

,A

C"

ne

C. Ni

b
1-

An

ne -

ka

3.

Ch. Ni

na

iI

II

t_

......

ni,

a.

d-_

_
w

A '

T -

- --g

3
A

wa

'

Ps

i~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~01
:7
-irC
~
~
~

A
.

_r1'

Ma

ko - lo - ngo a -ye - nda a - bi - li.


FIG. 13

Looking at the score in Fig. I 3 we see that the first drum presents no difficulties:
it is a steady triple time throughout. The second drum sets up a cross-beat by beating

AFRICAN RHYTHM

43

in duple time. It has a phraseof 12 quavers,the last but one being stronglyaccented;
the last quaveris very quiet and unaccentedand is a sort of reboundfrom the strong
accent precedingit: we have indicatedthis by inverting the quaver.Now it is very
necessary to remarkthat in drumming, normally, there is never any beating of 2
against 3 or 3 against 4 in the European sense. Many people, having heard of the
intricaciesof Africandrumrhythms,think of it in terms of this sort of complication.
One may concedethat the masterdrummerdoes on occasionfor just a few successive
crossbeatsplay, say, z against3, but this is by way of embellishment.Thefundamental
beating of the drumsis not producedby these means. Thus one can neverget a combination like this:
Drum i

8 2

Drum 2

r
.

r.

*.

Here we see in the second drum a quaver-and-a-halfas an essential time-unit. In


Africa this cannot be. The ultimatepulses on which the drummingis built arealways
of equaltimevaluefor all drumsandforall claps.This ruleis absolutefor drumsand claps.
On the other hand, the song may be and frequentlyis sung at a pace which is, say,
2 against 3 of the drummingand claps. Thereforewhen we speakof the second drum
playing in duple time against the triple time of the first drum we must think in an
African mannerand realize that the quaver values of each drum are identical and
that, for both, the quaverremainsthe unit of time.
Next we inspect the clapsand note that we have a single regularclap of a minim
time value whose incidence coincides with the main beats of the second drum but
whose phrasingis wholly different.The clap phrase starts where the second drum
phraseends.Therearethreephrasesof claps,two of 6 clapsand a coda of 3. The reader
may by now have observed,from the frequentreferencesto the length of clap-phrase,
that in CentralAfricait must consist of 2 units or 3 units or a multiple of these. You
cannot have a clap-phraseof, say, 5 regular claps. If the transcriberthinks he has,
then he has made a mistake somewhere and must listen again. We further observe
that the clap-phrasesin Fig. 13, as in Fig. 6, starton the cantor'sfirstword and not at
the chorus (cf. Figs. 4 and 7).
Now for the song. This is sung legatoin a spiritedmannerand loudly. Its unit is
obviously two drum beats, i.e. a crotchet. But, with the drumsgoing at 8 unit beats
per second, there must be some peg on which to hang the song so as to keep it in
perfect time, for it is apparentlyin free rhythm.This peg is the accentedbeat of the
second drum. We have markedthese beats with an asteriskand it will be noted that
each time the cantor enters, he does so at an asterisk.We have markedthe stressed
notes of the melody: it is clearthat the song follows the beating of the second drum,
though its accents do not always fall on the first beat of the second drum'sbar.
Reviewing the score as a whole, is it not remarkablethat anyone could play and
sing this with beautifulsmoothness, exact precision, and perfect accentuation?Yet
that is what any group of lads, let alone adults, can do in the Nsenga district.
Exampleslike those we have been consideringenableus to saythat in Africandrum
rhythmcombinationthe main beats must be crossed somehow, and that the custom
is to overlap the rhythm patterns with complete freedom and to any extent. This

AFRICAN RHYTHM

44

plain sentence really means that the very basis of African rhythmic technique is
differentfrom ours. We shall never understandit, let alone masterit, if we approach
it from the point of view of our own musicalsystem.For this reason,any attemptto
write Africanmusic in the Europeanmanner,with bar lines runningright down the
score and applying to all the contributinginstrumentssimultaneously,is bound to
lead to confusion.It gives the impressionthat all but one of the contributorsis highly
syncopated,and the multitudeof tied notes and off-beataccentsmakesthe mind reel.
We put forth a plea that those transcriberswho have been using this Europeantechnique will think seriouslyabout it. Looked at from the point of view of each player,
African music is not syncopatednor is it complicatedexcept for the master-drum
rhythms.The business of transcriptionis to produce a readablescore which reflects
faithfullywhat is being played.To use Europeanmethodsis to producea scorewhich
is nothing short of a travestyof what the Africanis doing even though it accurately
presentsthe incidence of each note played.
We choose as our last example something a little more complicated,though in
two respectsit sounds as if it has a Europeanconstruction.It is neverthelessgenuine
Africanfolk musicandits Europeanflavouris accidental.We referto Fig. 14. Having
cited the Bemba and the Nsenga tribes and found their drummingtechniquesto be
identical,we now set out a music of the Lalapeople in the centre of Rhodesia; once
more we find the same technique. But what an arrayof rhythms! Let us examine
them: we shalldo so in the orderin which the Africanperformersenterand therefore
we must startwith the drums.
LALATRIBE

Beer Dance. Sung by Men and Women

Icilili Dance:Full Score


= 420.

d=io5.

Clap I

X
J
Clap 2

'?

Clap 3

:11
I

^
^A

^A

: [J

II
d1o

Resultant

2.[,tlJ

,J

,' !J

I}2J ,I,,

vI: II

I1,

Drum I

TIor:
A

Master drum
3.
N fs
A

jS

|l J

5|'
A

tu-nwe

^A

Ch. Mu- li

*N j

'i-ko
FIG. 14

>

A
A

C o

C. Tu-bi- -r l--t
C. Tu-bi-la

I g ! O=
o, V r I

I
- i - sa

mu

mpa - nga.

AFRICAN RHYTHM

45
The first drum is the underlying current of the piece and beats in 3/4 time. He has
two rather strongly accented beats: all the others are weak, and especially the last
quaver of his phrase which we have inverted to show that it is merely a sort of rebound
from the strong beat preceding it. His essential pattern without the filling-in beats is:
A

J3

IJ

&c.

IJ

J_

When the first drum has got going, the master drum enters. His time is 3/8 and so
we have a 3/8 time set against a 3/4 time. But there is more to it: omitting his weak
filling-in beats, the master drum's essential pattern is:

31

IJ

J.

IaJ 2l.

II

An attempt has been made on the score to indicate this by inverting all the filling-in
quavers. All the beats in the essential pattern are strongly accented in practice. Now
the master drummer must set up a cross-beat, and he does this by entering with his
first beat, which is a strong one, on the second beat of the bar of drum i. The essential
crossing is therefore this:
Drumi

I|J

Masterdrum

8I r r

r
r

r
r

r
r

That is to say, after each two master-drum bars, the sequence of crossed main beats
repeats itself. Now no amount of juggling with the score can alter this prime and
fundamental fact. That is what the African is trying to do. Were one to bar the score
with lines running right through from top to bottom, as if each performer had the
same main beat in the bar, it would not represent what the African is doing or how
he is thinking. He deliberately sets out to cross the main beats in the manner described
and the score must show what the performer has to do.
We see, then, that the two drum rhythms and their bars are well and truly crossed.
When this is going smoothly, the first clap is introduced. It is a slow regular clap.
We have phrased it in sets of three, but the African is not aware of this grouping:
we do it to show the relation between the first clap and the second and third claps.
This first clap, considered in relation to the drums, is seen to be essentially duple,
there being four quavers to each clap. Therefore in the nature of the case it is crossed
with the main beats of the drums which are triple. This may be regarded as clapping
in 3/2 time, i.e. at half the speed of drum I, with its main beat of the bar falling on the
third beat of the first drum's bar, but in practice the clap-pattern has no accented claps
and therefore the way we have scored it is more accurate.
The third clap now joins in. This charming pattern is, like the second one, widely
distributed in Africa, occurring at least in the Gold Coast, in Central Africa, and in
Tanganyika. Both the second and the third clap-patterns consist of a phrase of i z
quavers, but it must be evident that they cannot be forced into a European timeframework and called 12/8, for that would suggest that the patterns are deliberately
revolting against a steady
12

.
8 *o *.

J'

AFRICAN RHYTHM
46
which is not the case. They exist as a rhythm-pattern entirely in their own right: we
think it best to show their stressed claps and to phrase them but to leave them unbarred.
Clap 3 like 2 has its first main beat on the third beat of the bar of drum i and a
scrutiny of the score will show that every one of its stressed beats is crossed with the
first drum's accented beats.
We note that, in accordance with African technique, all three claps have the same
beat for their starting-point, whereas the drums do not. The whole phrasing of the
claps is staggered with the phrasing of the first drum and lies right athwart the
phrasing of the master drum, in spite of the fact that both phrases are of i z-quaver
length. The sceptic might accuse us of having mistaken the phrasing of the master
drum. 'Be reasonable,' we hear him saying, 'and make it agree with the clap
'
phrases: there is no need to be so complicated.' The answer would have to be: Go
and listen, and question the African.'
In dealing with the claps we omitted to point out the resultant rhythm which is a
very jolly one; but it is convenient to mention it here as we now refer to the song, and
the song takes its time from the resultant of the three clap-patterns. Now the resultant, compounded as it is of a regular clap plus two irregular patterns, emerges as a
duple one and the song is duple too. In this it is seemingly un-African because it
sounds so European in its four-squareness: most African songs set to drums are
much freer in their rhythm, but it just happens that in this case the typical African
cross-beatings yield a four-square tune.
There is no point in being complicated where simplicity will serve. We have tried
to analyse this dance in the simplest possible way. The individual rhythms used are
seen to be fairly simple. When we review the piece as a whole, however, we must
admit that it is a little complex, for it is seen to be constructed essentially of 2/4 time
which is staggered against 3/4 time which itself is staggered against 3/8 time.
One minor point should be made about the scoring of the songs. In all the examples,
unless specifically stated to be for women's voices, the songs are for both men and
women and are sung in unison: where harmony occurs it is doubled in both parts.
The treble clef has been used by itself for simplicity.
We have carried our investigation far enough for the present purpose. Much more
remains which could be said. The performance of the master drum is a study in itself.
We have given in each case one only of the many variations which the master drummer uses in actual practice: when these drummings were transcribed, in the case of
the earlier ones the writer did not know the extent of the master drummer's technique
nor had he devised means to investigate the matter; in the other cases he lacked
opportunity to do more than record one variation. What the master drummers really
do at any ordinary village dance is a veritable tour deforce; those who wish to pursue
this matter will find it treated in detail in The Icila Dance by the present writer.'
There are other matters which have not been noticed. We have said nothing of the
use of Nonsense Syllables in delineating drum rhythms; we have ignored in our scores
the fact that the drums are not merely beating time, for each note has to be beaten
on its own correct pitch, each drum being capable of producing notes of different
pitch and timbre. But it is hoped that this limited survey of African rhythms may have
I TheIcilaDance,oldstyle: A study in African music
and dance of the Lala tribe of Northern Rhodesia, by

A. M. Jones and L. Kombe, London, 1952. Obtainable from the African Music Society, Johannesburg.

AFRICAN RHYTHM

47
served to indicate the essential principles on which they are made and combined and
that it will help towards a juster appreciation of African musicianship. Their rhythmic
technique is in several respects much more highly developed than is ours.

Resume
LE RYTHME DE LA MUSIQUE AFRICAINE
LE rythme est reconnuetre le trait caractdristiquede la musique africaine.Dans cet article,
l'auteur se base sur plusieurs enregistrementsde l'execution de la musique africainepour
effectuerl'analysedes cadences produites en claquantles mains, en frappantensemble des
fers de haches, et en battant des tambours.II demontre comment, par la combinaison d'un
certain nombre de simples rythmes, il est possible de produire un ensemble de cadences
extremementcomplique. Les battementsdes tambours, ou les claquementsdes mains, sont
employes comme accompagnementsde chansonset de danses,mais ne serventpas seulement
pour battre la mesure. L'ensemble rythmique ainsi obtenu possede un charme recherche
qui lui est propre, en dehors de la melodie des voix, et tandis que les battements des tambours, ou les claquements des mains, n'ont aucun rapport avec l'accentuationprovenant
des paroles ou de la melodie, ils contribuent a definir un cadre mdtriquepour la cadence
libre de la chanson. L'auteur affirmeque la realisationde cet assemblage rythmiqueest le
but primordialdes musiciens africains.

CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS NUMBER


DR. PAUL BOHANNAN, Lecturer in Social Anthropology, Oxford University; joint author with Mrs. Laura
Bohannan of The Tiv of CentralNigeria (Ethnographic Survey of Africa).
Dr. J. G. PERISTIANY,Senior lecturer in Social Anthropology, Oxford University; author of The Social
Institutionsof the Kipsigis, 'The age-set system of the Pastoral Pokot', Africa, 195I.
THE REV. A. M. JONES,Warden of St. Mark's College, Mapanza, Northern Rhodesia; representative in
Northern Rhodesia of the African Music Society; author of African Music, The Icila Dance, old style.
DR. A. E. MEEUSSEN,Conservateur adjoint au Musee Royal du Congo Belge; secretaire de la Commission
de Linguistique Africaine; maitre de conferences Al'Universite Catholique de Louvain.
BOHUMIL HOLAS, Chef

de la Section d'Ethnologie, Centrifan, C6te d'Ivoire; auteur de Les MasquesKonoet

plusieurs etudes.

African Institute,is publishedby the Institute,but


Africa', the Journalof the International
statedthewritersof thearticlesarealoneresponsible
exceptwhereotherwise
for theopinionsexpressed.