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by Reefwalker


A Little Sugar with Coffee

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Abakua refers to a secret, Afro-Cuban, male society of percussionists - as I understand it, one had to be initiated into this society before they would be taught how to play percussion in their style. One of their hallmarks is to impose what I call a “cross-over” pattern to songs in 6: a technique in which a pattern with 4 beats/measure is played against a pattern with 6 beats/measure. A Western ear may tend to hear this in 4/4. But no. This is actually a tricky pattern in 6, in 3/16 meter, counted like this: 123456123456 (the bold numbers are the pulses - as you can see the pattern in 4 goes through 3 cycles before hitting on “the 1” of the pattern in 6, so the downbeats are shuffled around a bit). While I realize that imposing the Western concept of “opposing meters” upon an Afro-Cuban rhythm would strike my Abakuan heroes as rather silly, it helps me to understand how these patterns work. To witness this Abakua effect in this example, the clave is the key to finding the cycled downbeat, as usual.

More info on Abakua:

“La clave es la llave, la llave es la clave” - The clave is the key, the key is the clave.

“Abrecuto y guiri mambo” - Open your eyes and listen.


Guest said

I'm using less sugar with my coffee but still hyper as hell...great digs. Your Jams are cool! ...I'm looking to get my hang Drum back cause i really miss it..

Norm's avatar
Norm said

@MTC: Please! Feel free to add something to my coffee. That's why I post this stuff.

Movement To Contact's avatar
Movement To Contact said

This one's pretty sweet! Would it be alright to try a few things with it?

da gubbamint's avatar
da gubbamint said

dem is sum ill beats dog.

Guest said

How on earth do you make your drums sing like that? Understated, melodic, compulsive. I think you are brilliant!

Wildgeas Music's avatar
Wildgeas Music said

Damn that's a tough count. Super job man. Super.

Wildgeas Music's avatar
Wildgeas Music said

This is fantastic Norm. Keep bringing me the lessons. I love it. Gotta go try this one now!!!!

Dave Berry's avatar
Dave Berry said

This is fantastic, seriously.

Reefwalker's avatar
Reefwalker said

complex pattern and really good timing. Great percussion track S to F

Guest said me at st. john Lutheran. we need to talk! I love this sound!

Alister Flint's avatar
Alister Flint said

that's sooooo voodoo! technique's great yes, but the vibe is simply excellent! and your timing is just getting better and better O_o

Norm's avatar
Norm said

Good point, Gumbo! That is the nature of "cross-over" patterns: they involve 2 rhythms with *different meters* which are played at the same *tempo*. So, regardless of listening to this pattern through the lens of 4/4 (8 beats/bar) or 3/16 (12 beats/bar), both patterns are played at the same tempo, i.e. 180bpm in this case. These patterns have measures that start at the same point, but do not end at the same point until cycling through 24 beats each - at which point they "cross-over"; a point that is illustrated by the clave in this example.

Cave Street's avatar
Cave Street said


vaisvil's avatar
vaisvil said


Guest said

Crazy great.

Guest said

Oh my, sublime, El Norm! Would you be terribly offended if I had a play around with this?

Gumbo's avatar
Gumbo said

thanks for explaining the count btw - that helps a lot

Gumbo's avatar
Gumbo said

lovely - my only connection to this kind of polyrhythm is thru the Grateful Dead whose two drummers used to explore and experiment thusly. I like that you can say it has 4 beats AND 6 beats to the measure and then say that it has 180 bpm ;-)

launched's avatar
launched said

I don't know how you keep time like this, but it's incredible!

launched's avatar
launched said

My western ear loves this!!