”Kalanso” -the house of wisdom 

This written instruction aims to explain how to use Kalanso efficiently and clarify things that are not defined in the video. 

Each chapter consists of video material featuring an introduction, a clip where the whole exercise is presented, and several clips that break down the exercise and make it possible to learn it systematically. Written instructions and sheet music PDF:s are provided individually for each chapter. 

One objective, many approaches

Every student has a different way of learning. Some prefer to watch, listen, and imitate, as others need a written transcription to learn. For some students singing the syllables is the most effective way to learn.  Kalanso provides all these different ways to learn. Even if you identify yourself as a ”visual learner” or ”auditory learner,” it is recommended to use all the possible ways. The attached sheet music PDF:s are meant to support people who are familiar with the Western notation. The notation is an interpretation of the traditional oral heritage of Adama's music. It is not compulsory to read sheet music. If you cannot read sheet music, it is recommended to focus on other ways of learning. The objective is to learn to play like a master, and it´s up to you to use the methods that suit you best.

The efficient way to learn with Kalanso:

  • Concentrate on one chapter at a time. Start from the first clip, even if you are an experienced player. Repeat the following steps in each chapter.
  • Learn and sing the rhythms in the ”drum language,” using the syllables.
  • Write down the rhythm in your notebook and study the attached sheet music.
  • Take the material to a place where you can practice with your djembe and start learning with the video. The LOOP-section allows you to learn all the elements one by one. Play in a slow tempo at first. There are slowed down versions of the parts for this purpose. 
  • Make sure to play each stroke as well as you can. Your goal is to play with great sound. Learning the strokes takes a lot of effort, and your sound will develop over time. Put the hours to it and stay patient.
  • Each loop lasts for about a minute. Continue playing after the loop stops, now listening carefully to your sound.
  • Start to learn the parts by heart, one by one. Remembering what’s coming up next will allow you to relax and breathe while you play—eventually opening up your focus to other things, like your sound and groove. 
  • Now that you can memorize and play the parts without the support from your notebook or the video proceed to the play-along version and try to memorize the structure of the exercise. 
  • The last step is to build up the tempo gradually. Using a metronome will help you to keep in time and follow your progress. you can also use the LOOP-section for this purpose. Remember that a fast tempo is always less important than the quality of sound.
  • It is very beneficial to record and film yourself playing. You can do that during all stages of learning. When you have completed a lecture,  shoot a video of yourself playing the exercise, and send it to our Facebook page. We will publish the best videos!

LOOP-section: Practice with Adama

The loop-section makes it possible for you to learn the different elements in an organized way. As we all know, repetition is the mother of all learning. Put on your headphones and practice with Adama. The slowed-down version clips will help you to get started with new material.

To count or not to count?

The West African drummer doesn’t necessarily count the rhythm while playing. They don’t even necessarily use counting as a studying tool. This might be a challenge for a Western drummer. Our suggestion is to keep counting the pulse, as far as it supports your process of learning. Additionally, it´s recommended to count bars to help you understand the piece’s structure. Once again, different learners have different needs. In some video clips, we have added numbers as subtitles, which refer to counting the pulse or the bars. 

Drum language - If you can say it, you can play it.

(thanks to Matthew Marsolek)

The djembe can emulate spoken language and vice versa. Traditionally Malinke drummers would play phrases that directly relate to words of spoken language. The sounds of the drum can convey a particular semantic meaning. The drummers playing together are sharing an intimate conversation in the language of the rhythm. 

The goal of the musician is to speak the rhythm clearly and articulately. A trained djembefola (djembe player, literally meaning ”djembe speaker”) can just as easily speak the rhythm with their mouth as they can with their hands on the drum. Both modes of expression are intimately connected. Speaking in the mouth, the drummer emulates the drum’s sound as a stream of syllables and vocable phrases. 

Learning new rhythms by speaking or singing them can be amazingly efficient. This approach allows internalizing the melody, timing, phrasing, and articulation of the pattern before playing the drum. There are many ways to speak ”djembe,” don’t be confused if you have previously learned different syllables.

About the subtitles

In Kalanso, the subtitles will provide you with not only the translation of Adama´s words but also the written version of the particular pattern. In the transcribed spoken patterns, a capital letter means that the syllable is on the main pulse (tap the pulse with your feet). If there is an empty pulse between the syllables, an asterisk is used to mark it( *.) Different bars of the rhythm are presented, each on its line. The subtitles will also contain information about the structure of the exercise. The pattern being played currently will be on the first line with capital letters. Under that is the following pattern with lower case letters. 

About the transcription

(by Davide Rodrigues)

The transcriptions here presented aim to create not only a written version of the music played by Adama Dramé but also to introduce the possibility of a deeper understanding of his modern playing. The main challenge when transcribing a music piece into written notes (in this case using the western system of notation) is to genuinely transpose the “spirit” of the music being played. Adama refers to that at a certain moment in one of the videos. By using these symbols, conventions, and even own created marks we can look into the pieces in more detail and be aware of certain aspects refined only by a master like Adama, namely the sticking (hand sequence), grace notes, dynamics, and expressive remarks very specific for music based on oral tradition.

General tips for practicing

No matter the level you are at, a well-planned rehearsal schedule is essential for successful learning. It is a good idea to think about your goals and plan your rehearsing according to that. For example, you could decide to practice 3,5 hours per week. It is usually much more efficient to practice 30 minutes every day than to do a few longer sessions per week. The right amount of rehearsing is always personal and depends on Your goals and level of experience. Whatever the amount of practicing you decide to do, it is good to respect that plan and keep rehearsing according to it. Eventually, your djembe will reward You with a beautiful sound and encourage you to practice more.

An example of an efficient 45 min practicing routine with your djembe:

  • Ten minutes of warm-up with the material you already know by heart. Start slowly and gently, building up speed only when you start feeling warm. 
  • Fifteen minutes of new material: new patterns etc.
  • Fifteen minutes of playing a structured piece/composition, including the new material
  • Technique exercise: Play all the strokes. Try to reach the best sound you can, with minimal effort.

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