Kuku Break - Lesson
Kuku Break - Slow
Notes and Notation
The Intro / Outro Break for Kuku
The break for Kuku is the most common break for all 4/4 West African rhythms. So learn it, and get good at it, and it will help you a lot. This break is used to tell when to start drumming, and at what pace to play. It is also used by the person soloing when he is ending his solo, so the next soloist knows when to start.
Pace / Speed
If the break is fast, you play fast. If it's slow, you play slow.
You come in when the flone would be played again, if it were to begin again. That would be the 1, or the first pulse of a rhythm. For Kuku part 1, that would be the Bass. For Kuku part 2, it would be the first Tone. For part 3 it would be the first Bass.
So here is how it goes...
First, a flone, which is two tones very close together, but not on top of each other exactly.
Then two tones a little further apart.
Then one tone.
Then two pretty close.
Then three slaps close together.
I know, that's not enough. Watch and listen to the video to know what I mean. For those that like notation, here it is:
@ . T t . T . t T . S s S . . .
@ = flone, which is two tones close together
T = Tone with the dominant hand
t = tone with the non-dominant hand
S = Slap with dominant
s = slap with non-dominant
. = one space in time
There are actually 2 common versions of this break. This version above is the faster one, and usually people say it is the one used in Guinea (with slaps). In Mali, they play all tones, and leave one of the slap notes out altogether. That meaning they play two tones at the end, where the three slaps would be. I will show that in the video too.
For notation freaks, it would look like this:
@ . T t . T . t T . t . T . . .
OK now we know how to communicate with each other. I can tell you when to start the rhythm, now fast to play, and when to stop playing. And when you are playing a solo inside a rhythm while others are playing their parts, you would end with this break, to let the next solo player know when to take over!
Yeehah! Let's drum!
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