Yiri Notes for Music GCSE

Some brief notes for the Area of Study 4 set work- Yiri :) EnJoY!

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  • Created by: Beth
  • Created on: 14-04-12 14:44


Much traditional West African msuic is performed by professional musicians known as griots. It is often passed down by oral tradition.

Features of West African music:

  • Repetition- of rhythms, harmonies and melodies continially- ostinatos
  • Improvisation
  • Call and response- usually between a soloist and a large group
  • Layered textures- different musical lines are built up to be heard together

Features of Yiri:

  • Yiri means 'wood'- may be referring to all instruments except the bell being made from wood
  • Performed from memory
  • Score is a transcription (notating music heard)
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Instrumentation and Structure


Balafon: like a xylophone with bars of different lengths and pitches, gourds hand beneath the bars for resonance

Djembe: goblet shaped drums, played using hands

Talking drum: used to imitate speech using different pitches and slides, played withe a hooked stick


Intro: Balafon solo, with tremulo

Main: drums play an ostinato with a clear strong pulse, alternates between balafon solos and choruses, vocal solo has call and response with choir

Coda: short balafon phrase played 5 times with slight variations, with a drum

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Main metre = 4/4 (with others 3/4- bar 27, 5/4- bar 33, 6/4- bar 115)

Intro is in free tempo, with the rest in a steady pulse

Syncopation used- Balafon (bar 8), Voices (bar 29)

Cross rhythms (bar 68)- conflicting rhythms in 2 and in 3

Vocal uses triplets (bar 58)

Drums use rhythmic ostinato throughout the piece, although djembe plays occasional fills

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Melody and Harmony

Gflat major, but hexatonic (no F)

Balafons play mostly short patterns which often fall from high to low

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