Hand Drum Lessons & Notation for Djembes, Dununs & Bells

Traditional Drumming in Sri Lanka

Last week I had the pleasure of witnessing up close some ceremonial drumming in front of the Temple of the (Buddha’s) Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Packing my sangban along on this trip for a February drum camp in Thailand, I was eager to see some of the local dundunfolas in action.Not that the rhythms were by any stretch West African… Yet these were master drummers in their own right, making rich tapestries with hands on the double-headed Indian-style drums, accompanied by clattery riffs of curved stick on double tablas.

As if this were not treat enough, I attended a performance of a local traditional drum and dance troupe, featuring the same kinds of drums in a more extensive showcase of brilliant solo and polyrhythmic rhythms. At times the rhythms were crazy, complex, elusive; then, marked by the metronome of zills, an identifiable 4/4 or 6/8 pattern would come into play. Freely improvising on an internal groove, the soloist would ride a juicy wave quite reminiscent in feel and flavor to a djembefola: with hands working both sides of the horizontal bass drum. Enjoy!

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