'Yiri' by Koko

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African music

African music is nearly always part of a social gathering and is often combined with speach and dance as well as vibrant costumes to produce exciting dramatic preformances. Yiri has strong emphasis on dance and in African music movement is very important as the music itself. 

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African music falls broadly into three strands

  • Drumming
  • Chordal music (tribal music)
  • Instrumental music
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The most common features in African music are:

  • repetition - the restatement of a section of music
  • Improvisation - music that is made up spontaneously
  • Polyphony - texture, two or more parts each with its own melody together
  • call and response - Solo (call) followed by a group answering phrase (response)
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African drumming Part 1

in African music the drum is considered to ne the most important of all instruments. It is a means of communication with certain rhythmic patterns meaning different things and it also has strong reliqouse significence, being used in all forms of ceremonies

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African drumming Part 2

There are hundreds of drums in African music and their names vary from region to region, tribe to tribe but the most common drum is the djembe. It's a gblet shaped, single headed drum from West Africa and is made in a range of sizes to produce different pitches. As well as the single-headed drums, there are double headed drums that can be played using sticks. The dundun and the donno are two common double-headed drums. There are many different playing techniques for African drums:

  • Using the hands on the skin of the drum - different sounds are made when the fingers are open or closed
  • Using the hand on the wooden edge of the drum
  • Using sticks to make a sharp staccato sound
  • stretching the drum membrane to produce a range of pitches, particularly on the donno
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A typical performance

African music is passed on by oral tradition so it is not notated. The master drummer stands in the centre of the ensemble and is responsible for directing the whole preformance. He will often play the timeline which is a steady continuous beat. The drummers eill dommonly create cross-rythms where there are irregular accents and syncopated effects. The result is a polyrhythmic texture.

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African choral singing

Sub-Saharan musical traditions are centred around the singing. Many beleive that music serves as a link to the spiritual world. African langauges are tone langauges - the pitch level determines the actual meaning of the words. the common features of African songs are:

  • Call and response
  • Short and simple melodies repeated over and over, usually consisting of four - seven tones
  • Performers often improvise
  • Harmony will vary from tribe to tribe - some only in unisonor parellel octaves, some will sing in two or three different parts
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African instrumental music

There are four main categorisations of instruments - membranophones (instruments that have a drum skin), idiophones (resonant/solid - bells, xylophones, clap sticks), aerophones (wind - horns, panpipes, ocarinas) and chordphones (string - zithers, lutes, lyres). They also used body percussion such as hand clapping and foot stamping. Balaphones are one of the most common African instruments. They're made in several different sizes providing a range of pitches.

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Common features of African instrumental music

  • repetition
  • improvisation
  • cyclic strucures
  • polyphonic textures
  • intertwining melodys
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'Yiri'

  • Comes from Burkina Faso (Cenre of west Africa)
  • Burkina means 'men of integrity' and Faso means 'Father's house'
  • Music from this country tells of mans greatest battles in life including the fight for survival
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There are three main strands in Yiri

  • Balaphon ostinati - in combination, complex polyphonic textures
  • Drum ostinati - relentless one bar pattern
  • Vocal line - simple pentatonic call and response structure
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structure in its most basic form

Introduction - instrumental                  coda

chorus a

balaphon solo

chorus a

balaphon solo

vocal solo

balaphon solo

chorus b

balaphon solo

chorus a

balaphon solo


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the piece

the piece starts with free tempo and an improvised balaphon solo played at a soft dynamic. It sets the scene in a monophonic texture and comprises of a melody in G flat major with fast high and low rolls on every note. it is a simple repetitive idea. The moderate tempo is then established by the first balaphon and is unvaried for the rest of the piece. the beat is also regular and unvarying. The drum enters and is exactly the same throughout apart from the single ting of the bell at the end. The pattern of voice is followed by the instrumental breaks and they sing in unison throughout the piece apart from the solo. the dynamics are largely unvaried and there is a call and response pattern throughout. the ending is the only time when there are rests, otherwise, there is constant music throughout. The balaphones play in a heterophonic texture for some parts and a complicated polyphonic texture for others with lots of cross rhythms. on the whole, it is very syncopated. 

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