Dunun Tutorial | Dunumba | Kenkeni

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The Kenkeni pattern of Dunumba is one of the trickiest rhythms
It will enable you to experience the power of displacement and discover the equal musical value of inner beats in this music. As you can see and hear, the sounds are not on the beat. This generally gives students trouble when they try to make the rhythm sound as it should.
The Pattern
As you can see and hear, the sounds are not on the beat. This generally gives students trouble when they try to make the rhythm sound as it should.
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The Usual Mistake
Trouble comes from focusing on the tempo - actually the first eighth note on each beat. Beating time with your foot and playing the pattern against this pulsation is the worst thing you can do. By doing this, your body and feeling are fighting against the rhythm’s attraction instead of being devoted to tone and phrasing quality.

This is not what we need to hear, not what we want to see, and it limits you to a “So far I am still in balance” feeling, instead of enabling you to share the enjoyment of playing.
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My Approach
Step
First of all, enjoy clapping on the first eighth note of each beat, over the groove - this should be easy. What do we need here? A nice roundish movement with your arms and a soft, happy clap. You are not trying to kill flies. This should be done so as to put a baby to sleep, not to stress people around you. When you feel comfortable playing it on four beats, then play on just one and three. 

Breathe, smile, turn your head left and right, move your shoulders…
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Step
Now the pattern. For learning needs we are going to displace it so it will occur at the same time as the first djembe pattern - I call it the B Kenkeni (Beginner). Your movement should be round and your sound firm but not harsh. Blend as much as you can with the backing groove. Internalize body sensations; they will act as a major indicator of rightness.
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Step
Add the bell.
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Step
Welcome to a musical territory where each eighth note is equal. You already know the first eighth note. Now you have to get acquainted with the third one. Follow the Kenkeni sound in the audio example below. The two most important things are: roundish arm movements and a nice soft tone. Listen to how the pattern sounds in the context. Do not think of the pattern as being against the beat. Don’t undervalue the importance of this attitude. Avoid any subtle tempo control attempts. It is perfectly normal for this to take hours, days, even weeks before you feel comfortable with this essential third eighth note and to really get to know it.
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Do you still want to orient yourself with your foot? If it makes you happy, you can play the third eighth note with your foot, too (no kidding, many players do this in Africa). It doesn’t matter if it makes you actually displace the real tempo. Everyone has gone through this, including the best of us. Take it for what it is: a proof of musical youthfulness, an amusing transition step.
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Think about this pattern as a person. Somebody who always wants to be approached with taste wherever he (she) appears. Now you are going to play it at its normal place. The A Kenkeni (Advanced), in fact the real Kenkeni pattern, starts on the third eighth note of beat one and then is repeated on the third eighth note of beat three and then continues unchanged.
Guidelines
› Play on the third eighth note of beats one and three not against the tempo
› Keep your arm relaxed
› Maintain roundish movements and a firm touch
› The A Kenkeni should be played just as well as the B Kenkeni
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Adding The Bell
The Kenkeni bell should not resonate as much as the Sangban and Dunun bells. I personally play it with a kind of brushed approach rather than squarely hit. In bar one start with the third eighth note (omit the first bell note).
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The Definitive Guidelines
› Keep a roundish movement on both skin and bell
› Maintain a firm touch - not harsh, not too loud
› Give a slight accent on the third eighth note of beats one and three

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