Shiko rhythms, 27th July 2010

This post is mainly of interest to fellow drummers.

As Boyd is away for the next couple of weeks, and we’ve got performances at Drum Camp Wales coming up, and as I happened to have my laptop with me at Tuesday’s practice – here’s a round-up of what we’ve been up to, complete with some audio. The audio’s fairly poor quality (no fancy mic), but you can hear what’s going on, so hopefully it’s useful. (If you only want the audio, you can access it all here.) This is mainly focussed on the djembe parts — sorry, dundun players!

We’re currently working on 3 rhythms: Shiko, Dibon, and Lekoulee. On Tuesday we were practicing Shiko and Dibon.

Rhythm: Shiko

I didn’t record any audio for Shiko, and couldn’t find the patterns online on our site or on the Djansa site or Paul Nas’ West African Percussion Pages — if anyone knows where they are, let me know and I’ll put a link here.

Having said that, I’ve had a go at notating them myself (but might have got them wrong!) — and they all have nice simple mnemonics which are probably enough anyway:

  • Shiko part 1: B---B-T- “Chips, fish and chips”.
  • Shiko, part 2: T-T-B-B-T-T-BB-- “I like crisps and I like chocolate”.
  • Shiko, part 3: T-TT-TT-S-SS-SS- “This is how it goes, this is how it goes” (tones first time, slaps second time).

Rhythm: Dibon

Dibon comes in 2 parts, Dibon-1 and Dibon-2. Dibon-1 has 2 parts, whereas Dibon-2 has only one.

  • Dibon-1, part 1: TTSS--S-TTSSB-S- link; audio.
  • Dibon-1, part 2: S--SS-TTS-BSS-TT link (but note we’ve added a cheeky bass); audio.
  • Dibon-2, only part: SSTTs--B where s indicates a muted slap (hold down the previous tone); note that we start with the bass, on the previous beat — the link should make it clear. I use the mnemonic “I’m gonna play some bass” (where “I’m” is on the bass, and “bass” is on that muted slap, weirdly); audio.

Breaks

We have 4 breaks; I don’t have notation for any of them, but I do have audio. They are:

  • Intro break: Boyd call, response x 1, Boyd call, response x 3; short-call, flam, short-call, flam; audio.
  • Beer break: “I want some beer (4 times, alternating between djembes & dunduns), Want Some Now!”; audio.
  • Deniz’ break: “BTBT BTBT BTBT clapclap foom!” (but clap silently); audio.
  • Gra’s break: the head-mashing one; audio.

Dunduns

I think I have audio for the dunduns playing (all together) both Dibon-1 and Dibon-2 — but I might have got that wrong.

Putting Shiko and Dibon together

This is the sequence we were practicing on Tuesday; audio.

Intro Break
Shiko
Beer break
Shiko
Beer break
Call (Boyd only)
Deniz’ break
Dibon-1
Gra’s break
Dibon-1
Gra’s break
Dibon-2
Then on a call maybe jump back to the first Dibon-1, or stop, or have a cup of tea, or something.

Lekoulee

If anyone fancies looking ahead, since we need to practice this over the next couple of weeks too, here’s Lekoulee. :-)

Big Music From Small Nations 2008

I’ve been to two festivals this summer, and it’s high time I wrote about them. The first was Big Music From Small Nations, back in mid July. Sadly I don’t have any photos – some of my friends took some but they’re locked away on Facebook so I can’t post them here. :-(

Still, let it be known I had a great time: my best festival experience so far, in fact (until the next festival, Dance Camp, of which more later). In 2007 Bash and I went (for which there are photos) and had a good time, but it rained rather a lot and the place got pretty muddy – we still had a good time, in I called it the first time I’d enjoyed a wet festival, but I’ve gotta say, this year was much better. It still rained a bit, but much less, and the areas that got very muddy last year (in particular the bottleneck between campsite and main site) were better protected.

The main difference was that this year’s Small Nations was smaller. It’s a fairly dinky festival anyway: about 1500 people last year — but I heard there were only 900 there this year. It’s been a bad year for festivals in general after so many were washouts last year, and the weather leading up to Small Nations this year wasn’t great, so I think a lot of “wait and see” types decided against going. That was their loss though, because it was fine.

As well as less people, there were only two stages this year, as opposed to three in 2007. I didn’t mind that at all, actually, because there was still always something on that was worth seeing, and you were less likely to miss something cool by being in the wrong place. The only part I minded was the absence of an open mic tent, because last year Shiko did a spot there and it was great fun — and a few of us hoped to do so again, really.

Lots of people from Swansea go to Small Nations. Somewhere in the last eighteen months or so (Shiko has a lot to do with this, for sure) I seem to have reached some kind of “Six Degrees” critical mass point, and whenever I meet new people in social/musical/party situations they always seem to already know people I know; similarly, I keep meeting people I’ve seen around, by similar mechanisms. I don’t know, I guess various networks are connected, and the circles I’m moving in are somewhat incestuous! As a result (and combined with the smaller numbers), this year’s Small Nations felt particularly friendly to me: everywhere I went, there was someone I knew, or someone I was about to meet. It felt like a big happy family at times — and that was definitely the aspect I enjoyed the most.

Of course, the music was also half the point. On Friday night I heard the Samba Galez in the distance as I pitched my tent, then the entertainment properly kicked off for me with Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba followed (in a rather different flavour) by Swansea psy-trance outfit Chaos Theory. Bernice described them uncharitably as “some kind of techno Spinal Tap” but I think that was a comment on their hair as much as anything. The music did what it was supposed to, that’s all I’ll say.

After the evening’s scheduled entertainment, I ended up at a big campfire in the corner of the campsite, where there was drumming, singing, etc., and met more good people. IIRC I got to bed around 2 or 3 or so…

… only to wake early on Saturday needing the loo, so off I popped to the facilities, then found myself mostly awake enjoying the early morning activity of the site coming to life. I sourced myself a cup of tea, and a little later a bacon/egg roll, and sat and watched the world wake up. Actually it was clear that some of the world hadn’t been to bed yet, including Naked Fireside Bloke (who, it later transpired, I’d met a few weeks earlier, but at that point he’d only been without shoes), and Scarily Aggressive Shouty Woman.

The plan had been to get some sleep in the morning, but I kept seeing people to talk to, and all of a sudden it was 10AM, and if I was going to go on the guided walk that was on offer, I’d have to go now — so I did! The festival site is here; we went on a circular walk a few miles away, around about here, starting outside the pub, heading down to the river, following it north for a while, then heading uphill under a few red kits, towards abandoned lead (?) workings, through some (sadly chopped – recently) forest, to a hilltop offering a magnificent view, the horizon stretching from the Black Mountain in the west (almost) to the Black Mountains in the east (the distinction between the two being the source of an intensely irritating discussion with a woman with a map who refused to listen and consequently took 90% of the conversation to realise I was talking about two different places). After that, back down to the pub, basically. We’d gone by minibus, and there were enough of us that two buses were needed. Gladly, I’d walked slow enough to be in the group destined for the second bus back, giving us — as our formidable guide Huw Garan put it — “time for a swift half” — time he put to good use by downing two pints of fine real ale. :-) Indeed, on that last half mile before we got to the pub, he whet his appetite by displaying his expertise on local watering holes: where does good beer, where food, where cider (“but their beer’s not so good, unless you get it on the first day or so: they don’t store the barrels properly”) – clearly a true local, in both senses.

The walk was great, and I met some good new people, but it lasted longer than I’d expected – the whole excursion took about five hours (including standing around time at each end, the bus journeys, etc.); bearing in mind I’d had about four hours’ sleep, I consequently spent a good part of the rest of Saturday thinking and saying that I should go and get some sleep. But I just couldn’t! Groovy things kept happening! There were people I had to talk to! Music I had to watch! Shops I had to check out! I think somewhere I managed to lie down for half an hour and inspect the insides of my eyelids, but you couldn’t call it sleep; at some point it became clear the night was beginning again. Somehow (I’ll leave it to you, but alcohol may have been one factor) I managed to stay up until 4 again, and oh, what a night.

The absolute highlight, the pinnacle, the best thing I saw at that festival, possibly at any festival ever, were The London Bulgarian Choir. Now, obviously this is a very personal thing: not everybody is going to feel the same way I (apparently) do about Bulgarian folk music, so please forgive me if this seems strange. Having said that, they got a fabulous reception, so I clearly wasn’t the only blown-away person in the tent. I don’t know, there’s just something incredible about the language, and the style of singing: so strong, so strange, such odd harmonies and beautiful dischords. But hey, don’t take my word for it: you can watch a goodly chunk of their Small Nations performance (minus some inter-song banter, sadly: Dessislava’s ++charming) on youtube here and here (note well: at least one of those handsome Bulgarian men is in fact a very cheeky cockney chappie). Then buy the album: I finally got it last week and haven’t been listening to much else since.

Actually, I lie. That wasn’t the pinnacle. The pinnacle was about 20 minutes after their performance, when I realised they were singing in a small tent in the middle of the main site (used in the day for face painting and the like), so I ran there just in time to become part of an impromptu spiralling circle dance as all around (and in the dance), a subset of the choir sang the wonderful Shto Mi e Milo (full version at 5:35 on the first youtube version). It was just incredible, and (looking back) an introductory taste of the joy to come at Dance Camp, a few weeks later. Seriously, at that moment I felt as happy as I have ever been. Bliss. I couldn’t tell you why.

Nothing could top that, but it did propel me into the rest of the night full of happy and feeling very open, so I had a great one. The main stage got rocked to pieces by N’Faly Kouyaté‘s crazy griot bouncing, and then torn to pieces by Sicknote, an extraordinarily rough, punky, danceable, visually exciting bunch of nutters from (I think) Newport. I think drinking with them would be scary, but man they rocked.

After that it was back to the fire circle into the wee hours, and around 3 I was saying goodnight to various people when I stumbled into a little spot where some Shiko types were hanging out; I had intended just to say goodnight, but somehow something I said caused a bloke called Phil to start on Monty Python impressions, and damn he was good. He started with Holy Grail, I think, but then moved onto the Four Yorkshiremen, and his delivery, his timing, not to mention his memory of the actual lines, was just perfect. I was bent double with laughter, begging him to stop because I couldn’t breathe.

(By the way, if you don’t know what I mean by the Four Yorkshireman, you really should check it out and then don’t miss the Amnesty International remake.)

Sunday was a much gentler day. I took it easy, mooched around, bought a t-shirt, ate good food, drank coffee, didn’t see much music, and just enjoyed chewing the fat and sitting in the sun. Oh, actually that’s something of a lie: there was a belly-dance workshop which I helped do some drumming for, but I think I did it badly, so I’ve mostly wiped it from the memory banks.

So, in summary, I had a great time, hung out with and/or met lots of sweet people, shook my stuff to lots of sweet music, laughed a lot, and discovered a love of singing and European traditional folk music which would bloom at the next festival, Dance Camp, along with much else besides.

Circles of Sound

Circles of Sound: African drumming (4 bands), dancers, DJ; Railwaymens Club, Wind St, Swansea; 8pm, Sat Nov 24th 2007

Woo. Come! Map.

Me drumming, two weekends running

Yo.

Next Saturday it’s carnival time in Swansea! Once again I’ll be playing steel pans with Rocco’s Rockets, or whatever we’re called this year. Photos from last year here. This time, I’m pleased to report, I’m on bass (pleased because this is easy, it’s bassy, and I’m close to the Jamie-powered main drumkit).

A number of changes from last year: starting point, route, and ending point is different – in particular, we end up on the open area in front of the Waterfront Museum, which sounds all right to me. This probably means we go down Wind Street, which ought to be interesting.

So, come and see!

Then, the following weekend, on Saturday 1st September, Shiko are gigging in sunny Porthcawl. It’ll be in the afternoon, around 2pm, as part of some bigger event taking place (possibly some surfing thing?). There’ll be several drumming groups from the area playing, so it promises to be pretty good. More details as I have them.

Fanti for Bee Hop, 02007/07/21

Fanti djembe and dun-dun/bell patterns for Shiko gig @ Bee Hop, July 21st, 02007.

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Djelidon for Bee Hop, 02007/07/21

Djelidon djembe patterns for Shiko gig @ Bee Hop, July 21st, 02007.

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Shiko gig: Crofty Carnival, Saturday 30th July 2007

Heyup. Shiko will be drumming at Croft Carnvial this Saturday — come and see us!

Crofty is a small village on the north coast of the Gower Peninsula (map here). I’m not 100% sure of the times yet, but I think it starts around noon. I should become certain tomorrow. It’ll probably be a smallish fun affair, drumming on foot as part of a parade, apparently. As usual with Shiko gigs I’m not completely sure what to expect. :-) There is talk of heading off to Pontardullais afterwards to do some busking in pubs (it’s their carnival this Saturday too).

A save point is reached on my journey of musical discovery

We went to Hay-on-Wye today. For those that don’t know, it’s a little town with an abundance of (mainly second hand) bookshops, and the location of an annual literary festival much beloved of the British middle class: Guardian readers/Radio 4 listeners in particular. Today was the last day of the 20th edition (a ha ha ha) of the festival; we popped by but didn’t linger, all the good events being sold out. Instead, we hit the shops.

I’m very proud to say that my prize purchase of the day was not in fact a book (though I bought four), but the album Innervisions by Stevie Wonder, featuring not only what I’m rapidly coming to believe is The Greatest Song Ever Recorded, Higher Ground, but also what is certainly The Song With The Greatest Intro Ever Recorded, namely Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing. Awesome. Just incredibly awesome. Why wasn’t I informed?

I can only conclude that until now, I was not ready, and so the Universe kept Stevie and I apart from each other. I note that Innervision was released in 1973, the same year as Tubular Bells, an album which (along with its successors and others like of its ilk) had a much greater influence on my musical development than the joyous funkfest within which my ears are currently glorying. I wonder if I’d have grown my afro sooner, had things only been different…

While we’re on the topic of shaking your (big) hair, I’m happy to report that Shiko’s Monkey gig on Saturday went well and was a lot of fun. It was crowded (and cramped – we were playing literally on the dancefloor!), people danced (a few, anyway), people appluaded and cheered, and (it was generally agreed) we sounded good and didn’t noticeably screw up. Later there was an impromptu jam on the top floor with three djembes, a shekere and a bell, which was much more raw and at least as enjoyable (as a player) as the “proper” gig. So yeah, a great night. I’m still very much loving the drumming, and loving getting better at it, which I seem to be doing. Woo.

Shiko live! This Saturday and next Saturday!

Gig-tastic… Shiko will be drumming at 5pm this Saturday (19th May 2007), at Coffee Cesso, next to the Waterfront Museum in Swansea Marina. We’ll be playing as part of a charity fundraiser for wells in Africa, so come along, listen to some good music, and give generously! It looks like a good event – from 12 noon until 7pm it’s free (fingers crossed for good weather so we can play outside), then from 7pm to midnight it’s ticketed (a tenner each) but with some pretty good local bands, I’d say. More details here. While Shiko gigs are usually “unpredictable” in terms of timing, we’re assured that 5pm really is our slot, and it really will be 5pm not, say, 5:30. So don’t be late!

Then, the following Saturday (26th May 2007), we’ll be playing again, at the Monkey, on the wonderful Mondo world music night. Woo! Heaven only knows what time we’ll be playing at this one. :-)

Come!

A chilled night of African drumming at the Monkey

Oh, hey, the Shiko gig at the Monkey on Monday was fun. It was reeeeaaalllly quiet: probably a quarter of the people there were Shiko people, I’d say. Monday night in Swansea’s bound to be fairly quiet, I suppose, particularly outside term time, plus it was the first night of the new Wales-wide smoking-inside ban. The latter may or may not have been a factor, but it certainly made for strangely smoke-free Monkey experience.

We were there as part of an “African Rhythms” night – basically a couple of guys DJ’ing African music (not the usual Mondo boys, one of whom, Eddie, is also a Shiko’er), and us! As I said, it wasn’t massively well-attended, but that was kinda cool, because it ended up feeling less like a gig, and more like just going and playing together somewhere, but with people dancing. :-) Two people in particular: two girls who do African dancing (they were in the carnival, I remember). We’d prepared three pieces, but in the end only did two of them, and that seemed enough. Later, some random jamming occurred, which was sweet. So, all in all, very chilled, very cool, very much fun.

Kassa for Monkey, 02007/04/02

Kassa djembe patterns for Shiko gig @ Monkey Bar, April 2nd 02007.

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Yankadi/Macru for Monkey, 02007/04/02

Yankadi/Macru djembe patterns for Shiko gig @ Monkey Bar, April 2nd 02007.

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Kennefoli/Soli for Monkey, 02007/04/02

Kennefoli/Soli djembe patterns for Shiko gig @ Monkey Bar, April 2nd 02007.

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Surprise Shiko gig: Monday 2nd April, Monkey Bar

Woo. In a surprise move, Shiko will be drumming at the Monkey Bar, Swansea, on the evening of Monday 2nd April 2007. There is, apparently, some sort of African night going on, and since our beats are west African, our beats are invited. :-) Come!

Two future Shiko gigs

Sometimes people complain to me that I don’t tell them about Shiko gigs far enough in advance (typically I forget about it until the day before, or the day after). Well, let’s do something about that, and put some gigs on the long-range radar for anyone who’s interested.

First, on Saturday 19th May, there’s a benefit gig in Cafe Cesso (?) at the Waterfront Museum, Swansea Marina. This is the cafe at the edge of the museum, with a stage, etc. I think this happens in the afternoon, and there’ll be various people playing, raising money for a project installing wells in Africa. (Novel wells where the pumping is powered by a kids’ roundabout at the top, which leads me to imagine parents swinging whips and shouting “play harder!”, though I’m fairly sure that’s not the actual intent.)

Second, and muchos excitingly, on Saturday 21st July, we’ll be playing at the Bee Hop festival in Dorset, which just looks so cute you could take it home and feed it. This one I’m really looking forward to.

So there you go – no excuses, come and watch! I’m sure there’ll be more cropping up as the summer gets going, and I’ll try to do a better job of mentioning them here. There is, by the way, also a running page of upcoming Shiko stuff on the Shiko site. But anyway.

Shiko at Mumbles St David’s Day Parade 2007

Drumming in public last Saturday was super ++fun.

The “Mumbles St David’s Day Parade” turned out to be somewhat smaller than I’d expected, but was excellent, nonetheless. It consisted of a group of primary school children in a Chinese-style dragon (red, of course), Shiko drumming alongside them, and another group of primary school childen behind, dancing and holding aloft a banner (which I didn’t actually read). About 50 people in total, I guess? It was enough, anyway, and a good crowd turned out to watch us.

The dragon looked like this:

Parade dragon (thumbnail)

Pretty good, eh? There are more photos on the all new Shiko flickr space.

The parade started in the quarry car park, crossed the road to get to the sea front, went south for maybe a couple of hundred metres in front of the grassy bit, then back north along the road to the mini-roundabout, and up Newton Road past the shops and the Ostreme Centre as far as the church at the top. We should have ended up in the school grounds opposite the church, but apparently nobody knew the combination lock for the gate! There was a moment of faff before plan b, and a diversion over the road.

This was the first time I’d drummed and walked at the same time. We all had light drums, mine one of these, donated to Shiko by Abbie, sadly missed since she disappeared around the world on a yacht. Although you can’t see it, I carried it via my climbing harness & a crab, as opposed to the more traditional sling (eg Chris, on the left). I wasn’t sure how well that was going to work, but it was great! I felt very much the modern climbing djembe innovator.

So yeah, it was a lot of fun. Lots of enthusiastic spectators, bemused shoppers & Mumblians, and an interesting mix of car drivers. The downhill traffic was halted all the way down Newtown Road (the uphill side was kept clear, halted further back), and the cars contained, I’d say, a 70/30 mix of people who were lovin’ it, happy to be in the middle of this strange unexpected happening (especially if they had kids, as you can imagine), and scowling men on their own in large cars trying to get to town and Do Important Things. I took particular care to play enthusiastically at these people, and make it as clear as possible that I was having a damn good time on this gorgeous sunny day, even if they weren’t. :-)

In other news, chor and indeed tle.

Drumming on the streets of Mumbles

Last night, Shiko featuring Gimbo played a gig. Sorry I didn’t mention it sooner – I meant to, but kept forgetting. It was at a fundraiser put on by the University’s Visual Arts student society (jugglers, firebreathers, etc.), at the Chicago Rock cafe off Wind St; they’d asked us to come along and play, and so we did: and it was good. In fact, I’d say it was the best gig we’ve done since I’ve been Shiko’ing (which is, admittedly, less than a year) – quite tight and confident. Speaking personally, it was certainly the most confident I’d ever been when performing to an audience (musically at least). We weren’t playing for long, but what we did was fairly high impact, I think. (We did Kennefoli/Soli, then Kassa, for the record.)

Anyway, fair warning: on Saturday 3rd March 2007, we’ll be playing in a St David’s Day parade in Mumbles. More details than that I do not know, except that we’ll be walking and drumming simultaneously, which will be a new experience for me, at least. Should be fun – hope to see you there!

Ooh look: Shiko a few weeks ago. That’s me seated on the right…

Shiko, 13th February, 2007

(Also, awesome (but 5MB) montage of the Shiko new year party, for which I was sadly absent.)