I use the terms “main beat”, “4 pulse” and “pulse” interchangeably to mean that equally spaced, underlying beat that connects all the patterns. This 4 pulse can be divided again into either 4 or 3 partials per pulse.
Afoxe’, Djesse Muloumbo, High Life and Makuta are based on four partials per pulse. This is the so called “four-four feel”. Although technically this type of pattern could be named in several ways, “four-four ” has become common hand drum terminology for this “time feel”.
The Bembe and Yan Valu ensembles are based on three partials per pulse. Technical this is called “twelve-eight”. Hand drummers usually refer to this as “triplets”, “six-eight ” or “seis por ocho”.
Occasionally I refer to a “theme” or “signature” rhythm. This is a particular pattern that is unique to the ensemble, in contrast to other patterns that may be part of several ensembles. When listening to the full musical performance, focus on the theme pattern. This will help you to recognize and characterize the different ensemble rhythms.
Naming of the drums in an ensemble: Each culture has its own names for the bell, rattle and 3 drums of the basic African battery. For example the three Brazilian hand drums are called Rum (“hoom”) for the low, Rumpi (“hoompi”) for the middle and Le (“lay”) for the high. In Calypso drumming the three are called Bass, Fuller and Cutter. In Bata drumming of Cuba they are called Iya, Itotole and Okonlolo. I use the common Cuban Rumba terms “Tumba” for low, “Conga” for middle and “Quinto” for high to name the specific drums. So in the lesson, when I say “the conga part” you know that I’m referring to a middle pitched drum. It is important to play the correct part on the correct drum, otherwise the effect will be different.
What does accompaniment mean? The basic pattern that the music is built on. The reference point for the players who create cross rhythms and others who improvise variations on the themes. Beginning players learn to keep good accompaniment.
What does “appropriate variation” mean. One that is implied by the ongoing rhythm structure and the mood of the moment.
What does “played in Clave” mean? When the parts are consciously played in conjunction, or opposition to the accents of Clave. Clave shapes the groove!