Rhythm Tip – Afoxé

Rhythm Tip #2

This is a bell pattern for the Afro-Brazilian rhythm Ijexa’ (pronounced “ee jay shah”), which is part of the Candomble’ religion. The rhythm is also known as Afoxe’ (see glossary) and has had wide dissemination through the Carnaval group “Sons of Ghandi”, one of the oldest and largest Afro groups to parade through the streets of Salvador Bahia, Brazil each year in the days before Ash Wednesday.

This pattern and the feeling of the Ijexa rhythm have become part of the musical signature of Bahian musicians and are especially evident in the music of such popular artists as Gilberto Gil, Daniela Mercury and Margareth Menenzes.

Here is my arrangement:


In traditional folkloric usage, the pattern is often started in the middle of the phrase written above, on the third “H”. This effectively reverses the order of the two halves and creates a “2-3 clave” feeling. In contemporary usage with guitar, bass, keyboards etc., the pattern is most often played as written, which creates a “3-2” clave feeling. A good example of this is the song “Tenda do Amor – Magia” by Margareth Menezes.

Several melodic variations on the pattern are common, such as playing the first four strokes on the high bell, then one low stoke, then three more high and one more low. When played this way, the low bell reinforces one of the main drum accents of the rhythm.

Notice how the accents of rhythm tip #1, (see library) are contained within this Ijexa’ bell pattern. That pattern, rhythm tip #1 is a contemporary samba reggae part, and could be considered the essence of this bell part.

rtip2.1big Ijexa

rtip1.1big Samba Reggae

How to translate the notation to feeling:

The rhythm pattern is shown here and on the front page written in Time Unit Box notation. To feel the pattern say “ta ta ta ta” at a moderate rate, perhaps four “ta s” for every heart beat. These “ta s” are the boxes. Next, keep saying “ta ” and tap your foot one time for every four “ta s”. These foot taps are represented by the red square, which is the main beat. Now clap on the squares with the letters to get the shape of the pattern. When you can feel the shape of the pattern, then add the melody by using high (H) and low (L) as written.

Alternately, tap all the lettered boxes on one hand and all the empty boxes with the other. Using two different surfaces or sounds is helpful. Once you have the shape and spacing of the pattern, add the melodic element using high and low sounds. Finally, try and tap your foot on every red box.

Here is what the pattern looks like written in staff notation. Pitch is relative. The usual interval is a third, sometimes a fourth or fifth.


To feel the pattern in its reverse orientation as mentioned above, start in the middle of the bar, on beat three. If you rearrange it in one bar, it looks like this.


This bell pattern is a very easy rhythm for most people to feel. Have fun with it.

We give thanks to those people who have made it possible for us to learn and share these ancient rhythms.


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