The Secrets of Congolese Drums


In this step-by-step guide you will learn how to play in the Rumba and Soukous percussion styles. These styles are taught by Congoloses drum legend Koko Kanyinda in an easy to follow method. Koko teaches 14 essential exercises to get players up and going in the Rumba and Soukous traditions. DVD run time is 66 minutes. Koko Kanyinda is an outstanding drummer and vocalist from the Congo. He is the last surviving conga player from the first generation of Congolese musicians like Tabu Ley le Rochereau and Franco whose Rumba style took Africa by storm in the 1960s. Kanyinda was a pupil of the great master drummer Kadima and early in his career he performed with a number of Congolese greats including Dr. Nico Mbarga, Papa Noel and Sam Mangwana. Kanyinda moved to the UK in 1990 and settled in Bristol to teach drumming. Four years later he moved to London and formed Soukous Koumbele. Since then he has given drumming workshops throughout Europe, USA and Australia with the WOMAD organization and toured with Mose Fan Fan and the Master Drummers of Africa.


Excerpt from The Secrets of Congolese Drums



The Secrets of Congolese Drums DVD was produced in 2009 and has a run-time of 65 minutes.

The DVD starts out with a brief presentation reading by researcher, Jacinta L. Hamandishe, who discusses the history of the djembe and African drumming. Following the reading, Jacinta conducts a short interview with Koko Kanyinda, who shares how he started playing drums.

The first exercise on the DVD is Koko demonstrating the three basic strokes on congas; "Open, Shut, Bass", says Koko, "if you get it properly, you'll enjoy yourself playing drums". He then starts playing a African 6/8 pattern using these three strokes, and explains how you can use different phrases, which he demonstrates.

Exercises 2 through 14 is essentially just playing with very little explanation of what is being played. A vast majority of the 14 exercises are redundant. Exercise 2 and 3 demo the African Rumba, played at the same tempo with little variation. In Exercise 5, Koko mixes the Rumba with the Meringue. The demo lasts 90 seconds, then the DVD does an on-screen rewind and plays the entire 90 second demo again ... not once ... but twice ... on-screen rewind and all. This same type of production approach is done again in Exercise 11 with another 3-minute rewind.

In Exercise 6, Koko says "yes, now I'm going to repeat the Meringue and the Congalese Meringue", which he does for another 3 minutes.

Exercise 12, which begins 50-minutes into the DVD, Koko uses the djembe for the first time. All of the previous exercises were played on the congas (aka tumbadoras). It is at this time in the DVD that Koko, also for the first, slows the rhythms down a bit.

Never once, throughout the entire DVD, is there a count-off or mention of meter/time signature, or even where 'beat one' is. For the advanced musician or experienced African drummer, not a big deal ... perhaps. There's never any discussion or explanation of the tones/strokes as they apply to the rhythm being played. There's no printout, booklet or PDF to assist the student in comprehending what's going on or being said.

The Secrets of Congolese Drums is more of a presentation/documentary; something that you would see or experience in a music appreciation class or cultural arts festival. Although there is a great deal of educational value to the DVD, it is most certainly not a "step-by-step" or "easy to follow method". It really should never have been marketed as an instructional video. Advanced players well versed in African drumming, ethnomusicologists, and those desiring further exposure to the artform will benefit the most from this DVD. I personally enjoyed the presentation a lot, and enjoyed the educational experience of seeing and hearing Koko's feel, groove and performance.

Koko Kanyinda makes it very clear that his teaching method is "Hear, Feel and "Play", which is great for one-on-one, in person, live instruction. But for the beginner or novice hand drummer watching The Secrets of Congolese Drums, the Rumba and Soukous percussion styles will continue to remain ... a secret.