Speaking of Rhythm
vol. 5 High Life
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Drum-Levels-1

Highlife is an urban music from West Africa with roots in traditional village music and improvisation. Highlife uses contemporary instruments and developed in the late 1950's and 1960's during the early years of independence from European colonial powers. Lyrics are sung in several languages, sometimes within the same song. I learned this arrangement of Highlife in 1976 from my first teacher, Nigerian Yoruba drummer/singer/dancer Augustus Olatunji Vidal when he taught at Sonoma State College in Northern California.


“WOW… Kim!! I spent about two hours enjoying and learning from your CD.. I was TRULY impressed with the format and success it gave me and will give others… YOU DID IT!”
– Shakerman (Kerry Greene)

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Description


Track 3. Bell
Lesson Length: 1:18 min
 In this lesson I show you the Highlife Bell pattern. The sound of the bell stands out from the drums and rattle and forms the basic reference point or time line of the groove. Each pattern we will learn for this rhythm has it own entry point in the bell phrase.  Make sure you keep the four pulse in your body in a relaxed manner while you play the bell.  If you need help with achieving this, please check out my Clave Consciousness lessons.

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Track 4. Rattle
Lesson Length: 3:18 min
 In this lesson I show you a fundamental rattle pattern that is used in Highlife, as well as many other rhythms. It has a unique lilt and forward momentum that drives any ensemble. The three stroke pattern is relatively simple, but how you enter the rhythm and make it groove takes some practice. I break that down for you in a couple of different ways, then we learn how it fits with the all important Clave, the main reference pattern for all these lessons.

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Track 5. Low Drum (tumba)
Lesson Length: 3:10 min
The low drum part for HighLife is simple, but how you start in relation to the bell pattern requires attention, as you start on a gap in the bell pattern.  There are many other patterns throughout African Diaspora music that use this entry point, so when you learn to feel this point, it will help you understand many other rhythms besides Highlife.

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Track 6. Groove 1
Lesson Length: 8:08 min
 This track is a groove session of the bell, rattle and tumba and summarized the three previous lessons.  You can practice any of the parts along with me, try out one of the other parts that are not being played in this track, make up your own part, improvise a solo, or just listen deeply to the groove and let in sink in.  I recommend that, it is one of the best ways to learn. I don’t talk in this track, and I do give a count in.

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Track 7. Mid Drum (conga)
Lesson Length: 3:26 min
 This is a master lesson in a pattern that is wide spread in many kinds of music. It is based on a sequence of 5 hits and 3 spaces, and you alternate between tones and slaps.  There are several ways you can move your hands to make this pattern and once you learn it, find your own.  A second level of challenge is to leave out the bass strokes and see if you can keep the pattern steady. This helps the bass player really be heard, and you can add the bass notes back into the groove when you want emphasis. The second part of the lesson teaches you how the pattern fits in Clave.  This is key!  Notice that one half goes with and the second half goes against.

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Track 8. High Drum (quinto)
Lesson Length: 4:10 min

 This is a lesson in one of the most important rhythms to learn on any instrument, if you want to play rhythmically based music. It is a common pattern in many different drum ensembles and is one of the first patterns children learn in West Africa.  I teach it to you very slowly, then I show a way to help you hold it tighter, then we learn it faster so you can feel it at a moderate tempo. Learn to practice this every time a beat is established – by walking, car alarms, windshield wipers, any regular pulsation.  This makes learning and embodying the rhythm fun. You will find this to be one of the most useful patterns to know for jamming.

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Track 9. Groove 2
Lesson Length: 8:19 min
In this track I combine the bell, mid drum and high drum.   You can practice any of the parts along with me, add the missing bass part, dance, make up your own part, improvise a solo, or just listen to the groove and let in sink in.  Active listening while relaxed will lead you to be able to hear the whole drum song, and just start singing it to yourself effortlessly.  This recreates the traditional way of learning the music: listen, move/keep time, sing to yourself, then try it and compare. I don’t talk in this track.

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Track 10. Mix Minus
Lesson Length: 7:45 min
This track summarizes the whole lesson at a faster tempo, with the parts coming in one a time and fading out so you can feel all the different combinations.  I start with the high drum first, which makes it a challenge to hear the beat correctly.  Learning to hear the beat may be the most important part of this lesson, since many traditional rhythms and teachers start this way, and you need to know how to feel patterns in order to hear the music correctly. Once the bell is in, everything is easy if you did all the previous lessons. Test yourself and add the missing part, as they come and go.

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Track 11. Solo Lesson
Lesson Length: 3:04 min
 In this lesson I show you how expand upon the high drum part, which is how you build a solo in this rhythm.  I play some simple variations, then two different cross rhythms and resolution.  The tempo speeds up, I play a few more variations, some quick rolls within the groove and end with a flourish. I encourage you to make up your own variations based on the high drum part, quote and embellish any of the other parts, create your own riffs and make it back into the groove seamlessly.


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Track 12. Vocal Ensemble
Lesson Length: 3:37 min
This track shows you what “If you can say it, you can play it” really means. In this track I sing all the parts, then fade the voices out and bring in the corresponding drum parts. The tempo speeds up, and I play are some nice variations on the bass part, with response by the high drum.  When you’ve learned all these lessons, try getting a group of friends together to sing all the parts – it is great fun to learn to sing percussively.


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Total lessons length (48 mins)

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Track 13. Intro to Vol 6 – Afro-Cuban Makuta
Length: 16 sec

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Pulsewave
... Kim breaks these rhythms down in every way possible and keeps your attention, while making listening and playing along to the different parts less like practice and more like fun.  He then builds the rhythms back up again in such a way that you get to hear every relationship between each of the parts played by the different instruments.  The best element in the series is his unique vocal adaptation of the different instruments played and sung in the rhythms. It is as entertaining as it is educational.

I thank Kim Atkinson for Sharing His Spirit with us in such a way that we can all become better players and facilitators
Pulsewave
"I just wanted to thank you for actually caring to develop a simple yet enormously powerful teaching method that has transformed my music playing, listening and also speaking ability. Coincidentally, its also helped me run further without being as tired....I think its due me being able to feel and attend to each step I take more like a rhythm than a battle, and maybe it's because I've been stepping the pulse - when I practice speaking the rhythms - in an oval around my room"
Pulsewave
"I really appreciate the way you have broken it down and shown how all the parts interweave.  It's a great way to get the whole rhythm into a non-left-brain part of my body." - Kathy
Pulsewave
"I often teach my students that if you can "say it", you can "play it".  In his Speaking of Rhythm series, Kim takes this concept to the next level. Using spoken syllables and playing drums, each part is explored separately and then in every possible combination with each other, and against both the underlying pulse and Clave. These highly effective CDs accomplish what could only otherwise be done by having a multi-track recorder available for every class. (Except of course they are MUCH easier to use, and work in your car!)

Another extremely useful feature is that a different syllable is assigned not only to each different drum sound, but also to each hand making the sound. Thus, by learning to speak the rhythm, students also learn the proper "sticking" at the same time.

I enjoyed the arrangements so much that I even adopted the Afoxe rhythms for use with my Brazilian Bateria. We now play the same Afoxe patterns on Surdos, Repeniques, and Caixas."
Pulsewave
"...the greatest benefit of your classes and CDs came to me as a salsa dancer, by improving my ability to hear and understand the Clave. ... this has made my enjoyment of salsa music and dancing that much better. Thank you again!"
Pulsewave
"I've had some great fun and learning from Kim Atkinson's CD's. Bembe, Makuta, Nigerian Highlife and others are great sets of rhythms I was glad to add to my repertoire. It was helpful to really get inside clave rhythms too. Kim knows his stuff, makes it clear and accessible... and he rocks!"
Pulsewave
WOW... Kim!! I spent about two hours enjoying and learning from your CD.. I was TRULY impressed with the format and success it gave me and will give others... YOU DID IT!

How does Speaking of Rhythm work?

• Speaking of Rhythm deeply involves YOU in the process of learning and expressing rhythm. You will learn to hold three contrasting parts : voice, feet and hands. This mimics the parts of the ensemble and you deeply feel how music works.

• Speaking of Rhythm is a fun and challenging game : lean where voice, hand claps and feet all interact in sequences of conjunction and opposition. You go at your own rate.

1) Connect the Syllables to Drum Strokes

Practice each drum stroke separately and speak the syllable as you hit the drum. Do this many times – you’re learning a kinesthetic language – connecting your voice and your hands.

If you need to review the syllables, hand positions and sounds on your drum, click here.

2) Speak Drum Language – Make Sentences:

Now learn the syllables for a drum pattern (for example, the tumba for Afoxé). Go slowly. Speak the sounds out loud and learn to say them effortlessly so they feel like a sentence.

3) Orient Yourself – Syllables with the Pulse:

Next, clap the pulse while speaking the syllables. This will show you how the drum part (via the syllables) relates to the main beat.

4) Make a Sentence with your Hands:

Now that you’ve learned a sentence in drum language map the vocal sounds to hand positions on the drum. (You can do this without a drum, but make sure you’re saying the syllables out-loud. You can practice this on a table, your body, anywhere).

5) Say the Sentence On the drum:

Say and play the drum rhythm. Notice that the drum is saying what the voice is saying and the voice is saying what the drum is playing.

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vol. 5 High Life
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