African Drum Rhythms: Glossary [4.6]

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The following is a glossary with a brief explanation of each word. The explanations primarily refer to the use of the word in this book some of the words may have a different meaning in other contexts. Any word used in an explanation that can be found in the glossary is italicized.




Bar beat

Basic note

Basic sound

Basic stroke

Bass drum

Bass stroke



Character part

Counter part







First part





Iron, Iron bell



Keseng Keseng


Lead drummer



Muffled stroke


Notation line


Note line


"1" (one)







Pulse beat


Rhythm family










Stroke pattern


Support bar

Support pulse



Top ring(s)



Waist ring

Being able to use both hands just as well in any handing.

One of several parts for the djembe. Intended to be played polyrhythmically as part of a rhythm. See Part.

A delimited portion of a pulse or a rhythm, which can be divided into a specific number of beats.

An imaginary or played note that indicates the pulse of a bar.

The djembe has three basic notes: bass, tone and slap.

The sound of a basic note produced by a basic stroke.

The three basic strokes on the djembe are the bass, the tone and the slap.

See Doundoun, Sangban and Kenkeni.

A basic stroke of the djembe. Produces a deep low note.

Cone shaped iron with a handle, commonly played by the bass drummer. It can also be a piece of pipe or iron.

A short or long pause in a continuous rhythm, during which a specific phrase is played solo or in unison.

One or more parts that characterizes a specific rhythm.

An accompaniment part offset from the first part.

The shape of the knot created each time you pull two verticals across in the lacing when you tune a djembe.

A West African goblet shaped wooden drum with a drumhead made of goat skin.

The playable (skin) part(s) of a drum.

The largest of the cylinder shaped bass drums. Made from a tree trunk or an oil barrel. The drumheads are usually made of cow skin or calf skin.

A group that plays together.

See first part.

A djembe accompaniment part that is a character part.

A djembe sound produced by two almost simultaneous strokes.

The lower part of a djembe shell.

Which hand to use for which note in a stroke pattern.

To play something that is not planned or premeditated.

See Bell.

African name for the iron bell.

The smallest of the cylinder shaped bass drums. Made from a tree trunk or an oil barrel. The drumheads are usually made of cow skin or calf skin.

Thin leaf shaped tinplates with rings attached to it. It is attached to the lacing of a djembe to produce a rattling sound when you play.

The rope between the top rings and the waist ring at the upper part of a djembe, used to hold and tighten the skin.

The drummer who plays the signals and solos in a rhythm.

One or several notes played before the "1" of the stroke pattern at the beginning of a rhythm.

A specified subdivision of a pulse or a rhythm into bars of equal length.

A djembe stroke (usually a slap) made with one hand resting on the skin, thereby producing a muffled sound.

African word for drums, dance and song as one inseparable concept.

A line containing music or rhythm notation.

A sound or a symbol representing a sound.

The long horizontal line of a notation line.

From offbeat. A note, a pulse or a part that is out of phase with a specified pulse which starts at the "1".

The first support pulse beat of a bar or a stroke pattern.

See Tone.

One of the repeated stroke patterns in a rhythm that is intended to be played polyrhythmically.

A long or short stroke pattern that is not intended to be repeated as a rhythm. See also break and signal.

Several different meters that are played simultaneously in order to make up a rhythmic whole.

Several different parts which are played simultaneously in order to make up a rhythmic whole.

A regularly repeated beat that has no distinctive character or accents.

One single beat of a pulse. See also bar beat.

A specific stroke pattern that is regularly repeated, or the combination of specific parts intended to be played together polyrhythmically.

A collection of rhythmically related rhythms.

The science of rhythm. Also the name for a specific musical movement education for children.

Three or more consecutive djembe notes which are played so fast that every other note comes right between two support bars on the notation line.

The intermediate size of the cylinder shaped bass drums. Made from a tree trunk or an oil barrel. The drumheads are usually made of cow skin or calf skin.

Rattling instrument with shells or pearls tied to a net around a gourd (the dried shell of a large, inedible fruit).

The wooden part of a djembe.

To drag. An indefinite meter between 4-count and 6 count. Often played as a straight six-count rhythm.

A short phrase played by the lead drummer that is used to indicate when a rhythm starts and ends, and to indicate for the dancers to change dance movements.

One of the basic strokes of the djembe. The sound is sharp and whip-like.

Played by one single person. Specific or improvised phrases played in rhythms by the lead drummer.

A specified combination of percussive notes, and the shortest portion of a rhythm that is regularly repeated.

The division of a bar into even smaller units. In this book it refers primarily to the implicit support pulse.

Short vertical lines across the note line, representing the support pulse of the rhythms in this book.

An implicit pulse corresponding to the least distance between two basic notes in one or more parts. See also support bar and subdivision.

Speed. How fast or slowly a rhythm is played.

A basic stroke of the djembe. Produces a short low note.

The iron rings used to hold and tighten the skin at the top of the djembe, by means of the lacing.

United. When the same thing is played by everybody.

The vertical parts of the lacing of a djembe, running between the loops of the top ring and the waist ring.

The iron ring welded around the waist of the djembe.



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