the Seven Wheels of Bembe
We learned of the Bembe wheels from a post on the djembe list by Chris Kenny ("Gonky"), who tells of a Gary Harding of Seattle, who teaches the concept. We find them a rich source of study and practice material, and a bridge to a deeper understanding of African 12/8 rhythms.
Note: We have since made contact with Gary Harding, who indeed has a large private studio in Seattle, focusing on West African, Brazilian, and Cuban percussion. He is also the leader of "Batucada Yemanja do Pacifico", one of the oldest Brazilian percussion ensembles in the US (19 years). Gary has given this page his blessing, but assures us that this material only scratches the surface of his research (, carried on over the last 40 years in the US , Brazil, and Africa. He has authored books on the subject, available through him. He'll be offering a distance course on drumming through Antioch University's Heritage Institute. When it's online, we'll put a link up on this page. In the meantime, e-mail Gary for further details....
Imagine that bell pattern we hear so often in African and latin drumming:
This, known to latin players as the short bell part, is the first wheel of Bembe. Now imagine the same looped sequence of notes and spaces, but beginning with the downbeat on the second note; this is the second wheel. Start the loop on each of the seven notes, and you have seven different patterns, generated from the same sequence. These are the seven patterns:
We are including each of the wheels on General MIDI below. We've sequenced them with the main downbeat ("1") and subdivisions clearly marked out. Make sure you can play each of the wheels first, by itself, then experiment with putting one on top of another. We're sure you'll agree, they're quite a find; And it seems that the Bembe wheels have a deeper musical and spiritual significance, suggested on this March 8 post to the djembe list:
Bembe Wheel #4 also known as the long bell part