Area of Study 4 - Koko - Yiri

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Koko Yiri


Yiri, an African piece of music, originated from Burkina Faso (West Africa). Music that comes from here is varied, often about mankind’s greatest battles in life, such as survival and environmental problems, but I think that this piece is just a good celebration.

                The forces in this piece are voices (a solo and a chorus), a large, and small, talking drum, and a djembe. The drums are played with an ostinato, a relentless one-bar pattern, with the rhythm as a quaver, two semi-quavers, a quaver then two semi-quavers.

                The structure of Yiri is almost symmetrical, starting with an intro, then Chorus A1, then A2, before a solo and Chorus B1 and B2, before A3 comes in, followed by an instrumental coda.

                Much like Rag Desh’s alap, the intro starts with an improvised section of seven bars, with a balafon playing monophonically and with rolls, most importantly for the comparison, in free time. It is in Db major, but by the end of the seven bars, the tonality is strongly established as Gb major. It is also hexatonic. This is very simple, which is needed in the culture, because African music isn’t scribed, but remembered.

                After the intro, the first balafon plays a structured tune, for the first two bars, before the second balafon enters, playing in unison. There is a strong sense of the major tonality, with Db and Gb, the dominant and tonic notes in the scale, being stressed. The…


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