Koko: Yiri

  • Created by: Callum
  • Created on: 26-05-14 16:26


Koko are from Burkino Faso in Western Africa. They are led through Madou Kone who sings and plays the balafon.

There are six members in the group who sing and play percussion instruments such as the dundun the djembe and the donno (these are all drums)/

The track Yiri is sung in an African dialect native to Burkina Faso, even though the main language of the country is French.

Typical features of African music are: repetition, improvisation, polyphony and call and response.

All African music is taught through oral tradition - this means that the music is not written down and is instead passed down to different generations through listening, observing and imitating.

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The word yiri means 'wood' - all the instruments used in this peace (apart from the bell) are made of wood.

Two balafons are used. These are similar to a xylophone, the balafon is made up of wooden bars which are tuned to different pitches.

The djembe is a drum shaped like a goblet, played with the hands. Dundun and Donno are also drums used.

The talking drum is a drum played with a hooked stick and can be used to imitate speech by creating different pitches and slides.

The members of koko also sing (they're split into soloist and chorus).

3 different ways to play the drum: Slap (hand strikes edge with fingers spread), Tone (hand slaps edge with fingers together) and Bass (head of drum hit flat).

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  • A balafon solo using tremolo (quick and continuous repetition of a single note)

Main section

  • Throughout this section the drums play an ostinato and there is a strong clear pulse. The music alternates between balafon solos and choruses
  • In the middle of this section there is also a vocal solo, in which call and response is used between the solo vocalist and the choir.


  • A short phrase for balafon is played five times in slightly varied versions. The drum ostinato is interrupted by rests, and a bell is sounded to mark the end.
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Melody,Harmony and Tonality

  • Yiri is in the key of Gb major. The scale used in this piece is hexatonic (6 notes).
  • The balafons mostly play short patterns, which often fall from high to low. They tend to emphasise the notes Gb and Db (the tonic and dominant in Gb major). The balfons have solo breaks inbetween the choruses, which are more virtuosic.
  • During the choruses, the group sings together in unison. Like the balafon, the chorus has short, falling phrases that emphasise the notes Gb and Db.
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Rhythm, Metre and Tempo

  • The main metre is 4/4 , although a few bars are in other metres.
  • After the introduction, which is in a free tempo, the rest of the piece mantains a steady pulse.
  • Syncopation is frequently used, especially in the vocal and balafon parts.
  • During one of the vocal solos, the balafon plays plays semiquavers in groups of three, creating cross rhythms.
  • The vocal soloist makes use of triplets.
  • The drums play a rhythmic ostinato which lasts throughout the piece. It consists of a quaver and two semiquavers played over and over again. On top of this the djembe plays occasional fills.
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Texture and Dynamics

Most of Yiri has a layered texture, but it also includes:

  • monophonic texture in the introduction (balafon solo)
  • Occasional heterophonic textures, created when the two balafons play different versions of the same tune at the same time.

There is little dynamic variation throughout the piece.

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