I decided to dedicate my second blog post to show my approach to multi-layered rhythms and how I create my own version of a rhythm usually played by a group of percussionists / drummers.
My idea was to choose a traditional rhythm that I never had developed an arrangement for, on purpose, and show you my process of creating a version in my style from scratch, hoping it will inspire you to research and create your own arrangements to rhythms you want to innovate.
For this post I’ll use the phrase “OMT version” (stands for One Man Tribe) to describe the result rhythm of this process. Here is a break down of what i think should be the right flow of this process.
Find the rhythm you want to make an OMT version of!
I think that traditional rhythms are the best place to go to as they naturally contain multi layered parts using a harmonic rhythmic approach (I will write a post about this approach soon).
So you can find it in every ancient tradition like different African cultures, traditional Indian styles, Afro-Cuban music, and basically any other traditional music that its basics remind you of an African sound or Influence.
Once you choose it, make a research about it by traveling to that country and taking lessons with local masters; search for videos on Youtube; listen to traditional music on the different platforms and so on...
It is crucial to know the different parts played on the traditional drums but it is not mandatory of course… Knowing the true basics will always give you an advantage and an understanding you will never get without it (just saying...)
Choosing your instruments to perform your OMT version is so important because that’s what will inspire you when you play. So if you are into rhythms from Rajasthan, India you don’t have to own a pair of Nagara drums, but you do have to find a good replacement for these drums so you can create similar frequencies in your OMT version.
For example, in my AFRO ARAB BEATS loops pack I didn’t use a Darbuka not even once in any of the 19 beats i created. I used other percussion instrument to cover that part. These instruments share the same frequency range so when you listen to the big picture (sound) you don’t really care if its a Darbuka or not.
Next important element is the “feel” of the rhythm. Each tribe / tradition / ethnic group has its own accent and pronunciations for its rhythms. Playing it without the right feeling misses the whole point.
Find the right way to play the “feel” on the rhythm, play with traditional recordings or traditional musicians if you can and try imitating the exact way they pronounce the triplets or 16th notes or what ever it is.
This takes time… You should know and feel it by heart. Every traditional rhythm feels different in its own way. Don’t try to analyse it, just practice by playing and get the nuances of that rhythm.
The last step is to create a manipulation that will give the listener the sensation of a full percussion group performed by you alone. This is the most important part in creating your OMT version and you have to use your coordination + creativity here.
The main concept is to find what is the essence of each drum part and to extract it into a minimal variation that passes the same vibe of the full part but without playing it fully.
What i mean is that if you play only the Darbuka part in its minimal version without any other parts, than of course it won’t sound good and won’t be persuasive… but think about three to five different drum parts, you extract a minimal version to each one of them and then combine them together! YES! this will create a manipulation of a full percussion group that is playing and no one will notice that it is “lacking” hits from the original full parts.
Another important tip on how to extract a minimal drum part: If originally two hands play slap and bass sounds, try to play them with one hand by dismissing any ghost notes or "less" important hits.
The other approach will be to try and spread it around your setup so if two hands play a part with bass and slaps, try moving the bass to your right foot, while maintain the slap sound in one hand and by doing that, your other hand is free for a different part or improvisation.
As an example especially for this blog post, I chose a rhythm that is played in Northern Africa. This rhythm has dozens if not hundred of variations and I’m far from mastering it and i don’t even know how to play it on the traditional instruments.
It is not only a rhythm but an entire culture. This is why i thought it will be a great example for this blog post. I must say that I have played in musical situations and performed this type of music, because where i come from, there is a strong Jewish-Moroccan presence and influences. I know the sound and feel of the music from a close listen.
Check out the video as i break down the full parts into “essence parts” and then combine them into one OMT version. I use my left hand and left foot to create a rolling metallic feeling like the traditional Karkabs and my right hand plays a full darbuka part using two different percussion instruments, and i even manage to improvise with this hand in between the part. My right foot is free to play an accented big 3 part that gives the entire performance a harmonic-rhythmic experience.