Bembe Conversations Self-Study Percussion Course
by Arturo Rodriguez
This self-study course on the very traditional form of Afro-Cuban music called Bembe is designed for students at all levels. It contains text and illustrations that will help the beginner with such fundamental skills as how to position themselves with respect to the conga drum and how to strike the conga to make different percussive sounds. However it also contains advanced rhythmic patterns for the caja (the lead drum in Bembe) and for the Bembe supporting drums, each of which will challenge even more advanced students, and will require a great deal of practice by students at lower skill levels before they can be played well.
Bembe Conversations is the first in the Ethnic Percussion Series. Originally released as a short self-study course comprised of a CD and CD insert, the second edition expands greatly on the course’s accompanying text. An introductory section has been added that delves into the history of Bembe – indeed the very history of percussion itself – following its roots back well into Africa. The course has two major objectives – to teach the student about Bembe and Bembe rhythms and to make the student a more accomplished percussionist. In traditional Bembe, the supporting drums tend to remain very fixed rhythmically, not deviating from a basic pattern. Also, traditional Bembe usually incorporates only a single mid-range support drum. In this course the author, Arturo Rodriguez, has applied a certain amount of artistic license to these traditional aspects, adding a second mid-range drum to the ensemble and expanding on the basic dialogues maintained between the supporting drums. The course presents both individual rhythmic parts and, as is the hallmark of all the courses in the Ethnic Percussion Series, provides an opportunity for students to play along with an entire Bembe ensemble. As they become more proficient, this tests their ability to improvise while still maintaining the integrity of the music.