Friday, February 14, 2014

C.K. Ladzekpo's basic polyrhythms

From the This portion of the recent This/not this: polyrhythm post, I've written out C.K. Ladzekpo's list of basic polyrhythms every Ewe learns while growing up, along with our now familiar 6/8 bell pattern:

You can do these with whatever combination of limbs/sounds you want. In the video, Ladzekpo claps the bell pattern (the top line), counts or sings the polyrhythm, and taps his foot on the dotted quarter notes (the bottom line). Our usual orchestration on the drum set would be to play the bell with the right hand, the independent part with the left on the snare, and the dotted quarters on the hihat with the left foot. You could also play that part with the bass drum, or both feet together.

Ladzekpo does an unusual thing of counting the polyrhythm with the 1 on the first note of the cross rhythm, rather than the one of the bell pattern; I don't know if he's just illustrating the number of notes in the cross rhythm, or if Ewe musicians really conceive an alternate downbeat with those rhythms. I would also count the dotted quarter note pulse with all of the patterns, matching the foot part, either counting in 4, or in two measures of 2.

The rhythm with the dotted 16th notes is, ah, rather difficult to conceive as written, so I've transcribed it into quarter time, so you can more easily work out the relationships between notes.

Get the pdf


Anonymous said...

there are no alternate downbeats happening... its maybe similar to a musical scale as actually used in a song: the song might begin on the 3rd scale degree or the 5th scale degree, but that doesn't change the tonic of the underlying scale used for the song... if you've ever taken his classes at Cal, or perhaps taken them for years and years, you know that ck ladzekpo is all about the downbeat and also that he's all about the underlying hierarchy of beats and their constituent pulses. those don't ever change. the various cross rhythms that he counts out (1, 2, 3.... 1, 2, 3, 4... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8...) don't mean a change in the underlying downbeat. rather, they exist in a dynamic polyrhythmic relationship with that underlying beat scheme... the video is worth watching again and again, and when i was his student it definitely took me at least a full year to really wrap my head around what he was teaching. i was constantly questioning, doubting, disbelieving, attempting to disprove/dissuade/deny, but he was very patient and helped me understand that the repertoire simply doesn't make sense or work in actual practice, unless we start with a single, unchanging downbeat, and work up from there in order to conceptualize the musical period's beats and pulses. the first few weeks of the class are all about just learning how to move steadily to that underlying beat, before even adding the polyrhythm. we spent weeks, months and years doing what dancers would call a basic "box step," but americans never want even to tap their foot first! "no, no, show me that beat you were playing again, first, and i'll add the foot tap later." but it doesn't work that way.

hope the additional materials are helpful!


Todd Bishop said...

Thanks for clarifying-- I have no formal education whatsoever in African music, so I appreciate the comments!

Anonymous said...

you are very welcome! so happy that you are having fun with these materials...