Kuku Part 1 - Lesson
Kuku Part 1
Kuku Part 1 - Slow
Notes and Notation
Here is how I teach the first part for Kuku, the most popular West African rhythm taught around the world. In this video, I introduce the rhythm hit by hit, then play it slow, medium, and a little faster for you to play along as you can.
Background and Tradition
Kuku is extremely popular. It has always been played to bring people together for many different occasions.
Kuku is originally from the village of Beyla in the forest region of Guinea. It was traditionally played for the end of the harvest festivities and during celebrations of all kinds. Originally it was played only on the djembe as the dundun did not exist in this region. Kuku is unusual in that the solo was traditionally played on the low drum with another drummer accompanying on a small djembe.
Kuku has become one of the most popular and well-known rhythms among all western students. It has since been adapted to incorporate dunun and djembe solos for ballet ensembles. And that is the way it is usually taught in the US and the way I teach it.
Rhythm Basics - Kuku Part 1
The way I teach Kuku, as with any part, is to show you and let you listen, and eventually play along. This is the way that Africans learn it growing up, so it's a good way to get a new rhythm going. I find when you learn from sound instead of notation, you learn more deeply, more correctly, and more quickly.
The first part of Kuku is generally played on a medium to higher drum. It goes something like this:
B . t T . . s . B . t T . . s . - two cycles
B . t T . . s . B . t T . . s . B . t T . . s . B . t T . . s . - four cycles
Of course, to know what it really sounds like, just watch and listen to the video, and you will see how I play it. I will play it a few times to show you how it sounds. Then, I will break it down, and build it up with you. Then play really slow for 1 minute or so, medium for a minute or so, then a little faster.
The signal to drum for this rhythm, as with most 4/4 rhythms, is the common break, which I will teach you in another video. But it goes something like this:
@ . T t . T . t T . S s S . . .
@ in this case, means a flone, which is two tones, close together, but not on top of each other exactly. Learn and remember this one, for sure. You will hear this more often than any other signal from a lead drummer, at drum circles, in lessons with me, in a band, anywhere.
Now go practice, have some friggin' FUN, and enjoy yourself some drumming!
Screaming with Joy
I am a musician myself but wanted to learn drumming. When I watch Robert drum for dancers at Dance Church, Sufi, and parties, and see how everyone starts moving, shouting and screaming with joy, it's amazing. I realized I wanted to do that! I have been taking group lessons from Robert once a week for about 2 months now, and for someone that never touched a drum before, I am getting better fast. His knowledge goes way beyond the rhythms and sounds - he really understands the art and spirit of it, the psychology and physiology of dancers. I get a lot out of every lesson, and I intend to join his performance group.
~~ Kevin Dalfonso, Musician, Systems Tech, Encinitas, CA
Get the Room Rocking
I met Robert some years ago. When I learned about his prowess as a drummer and rocking the djembe, I invited him to join my rock band, Clarke After Darke. He was amazing. It didn't matter what the song was, he was always able to get the room rocking with his strong percussive beats. And he dueled with the kit-drummer, like a swashbuckling pirate and they laid down some fabulous solos. Besides, he is a really kind and gentle person. We were sad when he left for California. We love him to bits.
~~ Clarke Stevens, Entertainer, CPA, Phoenix, AZ
I've been casually drumming for many years but never formally, and never with african drumming. Then I saw Robert drumming at our local dance church. I was amazed how he could change rhythms effortlessly and "communicate" with the other drummers. Not only is he a great drummer, he is an extraordinary teacher. He is kind, patient and shows a true love for drumming and teaching. When he asked us at our first lesson what were our goals, he didn't snicker or laugh when I said "I just want to be as good as you" - now my goal is to have fun and be as good as I can be, and if that even approximates a quarter of Robert's talent I will be grateful.
~~ Paul Paez, Chiropractor, Encinitas, CA