Con Colo Jam

Baladi Basics

We Will Rock You!

Other Possibilities



Do not take the following rhythms charts too seriously. Most of the rhythms below are part of oral traditions, which means you're not supposed to learn them from a piece of paper or a screen. Some real person is supposed to show you how to play it, and give you all kinds of detailed information about the musical and broader social context that is associated with the rhythm, like when to play it, what it means, who's supposed to play it, how you dance to it, how you sing to it, etc.

If you don't have access to a teacher, internet videos may be more useful to learn the feel and context. Writing the rhythms out enforces the unity of the ensemble, this has advantages and disadvantages.

Think of the following charts as skeletons, and be carefull while reanimating them, so as not to unleash horrifying mockeries of their original forms. A good check is to make sure that the people around you are grooving along with you. A better check is to make sure that people from the same place where the rhythm is from are grooving along with you.

Clean starts and stops make drummers sound professional and unified. Most drum parts start with a basic part, do one or more common variations of that part, and then go back to the basic part.

If this notation looks like gibbering mantras to you, find someone who reads music to figure them out for you, or be patient and analytical. The rhythms are notated in an internet-friendly variation of the Time Unit Boxes system. Many drum machines are programed similarily. Many video games work on the same principle. Think of a vertical bar skipping across the page from left to right, at a constant speed. You follow along one of the parts horizontally, and either play a note or leave a space, like a player piano or a typewriter. When you get to the end of the line you automatically jump back to the beginning without loosing any time.


See the description of samba. Samba is a simple all-purpose rhythm that can incorporate almost any percussion imaginable.
Many songs play a version of the follwing where the count starts on the 3. 

Part        Main Rhythm
Count        1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a 
Low Surdo    m  hO  hm  hO  h
High Surdo   O  hm  hO  hm  h 
Caixa        XxxXxxXxxxXxxXxx
Agogó         u ul l l uu l l 
Tamborim      X X xX X X X xX 
Ganzá        XxxXXxxXXxxXXxxX
Count        1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a 
W=Whistle -=Continue R=Rim Shot S=Slap z=Buzz x=Hit X=Accented Hit
O=Open h=Hand H=Accented Hand m=Muffled l=Low u=High

Part     Start                           A Variation   Ending
Count         1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1 
Repiq.    W-- R R Hz-HXX XX X XRRHXRRHXRRHXRRH................W---------------R R Hz-HXX XX R R 
Low Surdo                 O O H  hO  hm  hO  hm  hO O H  hOO OH  hO  hm  hO  hm  hO  hm O H O H 
High Surdo                    O  hm  hO  hm  hO  OH  hO  OH  hO  hm  hO  hm  hO  hm  hO H O H m 
Agogó                         lu ul l l uu l llu ulllll uuul l u ul l l uu l l u ul l ll uu l l 
Tamborim                      XX X xX X X X xX X X xX X X X xX X X xX X X X xX X X xX XX XX X X 
Ganzá                         XxxXXxxXXxxXXxxXXxxXXxxXXxxXXxxXXxxXXxxXXxxXXxxXXxxXXxxXXxxXXxxXX 
Caixa                         XxxXxxXxxxXxxXxxXxxXxxXxxxXxXxxXXxxXxxXxxxXxxXxxXxxXxxXxXX XX X X 
Count         1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1


Samba Reggae

One kind of samba from Salvador da Bahia in the Northeast of Brazil has a upbeat like Jamaican Reggae. There are many possible variations, and complex breaks that go along with songs. Hand drums and repinque can do fast solos, surdos can play adornments with 32nd notes, and juggle mallets and drums inbetween beats. Most drummers dance while playing. But, it can also be played slowly and simply.

Part          Main Rhythm
Count         1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a
Low Surdo     O       O       
Medium Surdo      O       O   
High Surdo    O     O     OOOO
Count         1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a
Hand Drum     O SSO SSO SSO SS
Snare         zzZzzzZzzzZzzzZz
Shaker        xxXxxxXxxxXxxxXx
Repinique     xxXxxxXxxxXxxxXx

S=Slap z=Buzz (press roll) Z=Accented Buzz, x=Hit X=Accented Hit, O=Open

Conga de Havana 

The Conga (or Comparsa) is popular in Cuba during carnaval, and it is famous for its sinuous line of dancers: the "Conga Line". The feel is different than samba. Out of many possible conga (the instruments) parts, the two tumbas are the most important, and should be played on low drums, but not lower than the bombos. The llamador part should be played on the drum with the best slaps, possibly a djembe. Congas can be carried with a strap over the shoulder, but will get heavy for long marches. If you don't have congas use drum-set toms, and play slaps as rimshots. Pans mean cooking pans attached to your waist, played with thin metal rods; any high-pitched metal will do. The bombos are like surdos, (bass drums and floor toms). If you don't have enough drummers, cover the solo bombo, snare, high bell, tumbas, and llamador in that order. This is great rhythm to do if you have a small group of good drummers who can each play a different part.

count               1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a 
low tumba           O           O O O               
high tumba                 OO   O O        OO   O O 
count               1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a
trés golpes         O sO s s ssB s sO sO s s ssB s s
salidor/llamador      SS  OO  SS  OO  SS  OO  SS  OO
count               1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a
low bell            L L HH L LL H H L L HH L LL H H 
high bell (clave)     X X   X  X  X   X X   X  X  X 
bell x              L L H H L L H H L L H H L L H H 
bell y                L  H H  L  H H  L  H H  L  H H
 (or reverse H/L)     H  L L  H  L L  H  L L  H  L L
Pan y               L L HHHHL L HHHHL L HHHHL L HHHH 
count               1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a
snare x             X XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XX
snare y             X xX xXxX xX xXxX xX xXxX xX xXx 
  (sticking)        r lr lrlr lr lrlr lr lrlr lr lrl 
count               1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a 
Bombo 1             m  O  m m  O  m m  O  m m  O  m 
Bombo 2                        O               O 
solo x                   m m m O         m m m O 
solo y (if only 1)  m  O  mm m O    m  O  mm m O 
count               1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a 
dance, feet         r   l   r   l   l   r   l   r   

O=Open tone, s=touch/small slap, S=Slap, B=Bass note, r=right, l=left, L=Low note, H=High note, X=accented hit, x=soft hit, m=muffled with hand 
To start the rhythmn: 
count     1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1---
snare     X X X X X       X X X X X       X X X X X     XXX--- 
the rest             X               X               X  ???--- 
count 1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1 
???=everyone starts with the & of 4,and continues with their regular part.

Conga de Santiago

The conga from Eastern Cuba has more Haitian influence. The featured instrument are campanas (automobile brake drums), named for the sound of their rhythms: "maní tostado" (the most important), "uno y dos", and "chan". The bokú is like a a Brazilian timba, or a light conical conga; djembes, ashikos, even a dumbek would work. From high to low, the Pilón, Requinto, and Tambora are like toms, surdos, or bass drums. Hit them with one stick and muffle with an open hand. This is good rhythm if your group has many good hand drummers.

count             1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a
chan              X   X   X   X   
un-y-dos          X   X X X   X   
ma-ní-tos-tao     X  XX X X  XX X 
count             1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a
quinto, entrada   O  CC C O O C     
bokú, fondo       O   C C O   C C 
  variation       O   C C O O O O
                  O   C C OOOOO O
bokú x            PO  PC  PO  PC    
bokú y              MP  MO  MP  MO
count             1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a
pilón             T   O   O   T   
requinto          O MT  T O MT  T 
tambora                   T     PO
count             1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a
O=abierto/open note, B=bajo/bass, C=chapa/slap, T=tapado/muffled hit, M=golpe muda/tap, P=palma/palm

(nota: Basé esta transcripción en clases tomado del maestro Arlis Cabrera Oris del Grupo 19 de Noviembre en el Museo de Carnaval, durante la semana de carnval, 2001. Arnie)


Bulgarian Rhumba

This rhythm is neither a rumba nor is it from Bulgaria, but the name is catchy. It is nominally used to disrupt military style marching bands. Start by listening to the marching band, and marching along. Notice the beat that your feet make, and take these beats (quarter-notes) and divide them equally into two faster beats (eighth-notes). Keep these fast beats going with your hand or voice, and stop marching. Counting out-loud helps: 1234512345.... Each of these fast beats is a count in both the Bulgarian Rhumba and the marching band, except the Bulgarian Rhumba repeats after 5 (or 10) beats, and the marching band repeats after 8 beats. Technically, you should cycle back into phase with the marching band after 10 measures; good luck hearing it though, because most marching music comes in 8 measure phrases. This is one rhythm that should be played mechanically, to avoid falling in a 6 or triplet feel. It is a test of discipline to see who looses the beat first. The drummers can step with the dance which staggers, shuffles, or limps from the left foot to the right foot. Try staggering in straight line or a circle.
The easiest way to get into this rhythm is to layer it in. First, assign a timekeeper, someone who will just play the 1/8th notes of the marching band without any accents. This is not that easy. A snare drum works well if they can manage not to accent their strong hand. From that base, the high bell can arbitrarily start its part, parsing the Time Keeper and defining the "one". Then, layer in all the other parts that cycle after 5 beats: the High Drum and Low Drum. When they are stable then add the parts that cylce after 10 beats: shaker, snare, low bell. Then the lead drum can solo over the top. If you feel ambitious you can try the call-in below.

Part         Main
Count        12345678901234567890
High Bell    o oo o oo o oo o oo 
High Drum    oohm oohm oohm oohm 
Low Drum     m oohm oohm oohm ooh
Count        12345678901234567890 
Clave        x x xx x xx x xx x x
Low Bell     o   o   o o   o   o 
Snare        XxxXxxXxxXXxxXxxXxxX
Shaker       XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXx 
Count        12345678901234567890
Lead Drum
Dance        L R  L R  L R  L R 
Count        12345678901234567890

W=Whistle X=accented hit x=hit o=open note h=hand m=muffled ...=solo L=Left R=Right

Part         Start                         Main                End 
Count        12345678901234567890123456789012345678901234567890123456789012345678901 
Lead Drum              W-W--W-W--X X  X X  X...................W---------X X  X X  X 
High Drum                        o o  o o  oohm oohm oohm oohm oohm oohm oohm ooh  m
Low Drum                         o o  o o  m oohm oohm oohm oohm oohm oohm oohm o  m 
Clave                            x x  x x  x x xx x xx x xx x xx x xx x xx x xx x  x 
High Bell                        o o  o o  o oo o oo o oo o oo o oo o oo o oo o o  o
Shaker                           X X  X X  XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXX  X 
Low Bell                         o o  o o  o   o   o o   o   o o   o   o o   o     o 
Snare                            X X  X X  XxxXxxXxxXXxxXxxXxxXXxxXxxXxxXXxxXxxXX  X   
Count        12345678901234567890123456789012345678901234567890123456789012345678901 

Con Colo Jam 

The name sings the main bell part, which is common in West Africa; it often sounds like, "-Lo Con Colo Con Con Co-" (short bell) or "-lo Con CoLo Con Con Co-" (long bell). Playing a song in triple meter can often be very refreshing after the common time of marching bands and samba. Because of the syncopation, dancers love it but it can be harder to chant along with. There are more variations of this in Africa and the African Diaspora than can fit in an I-Pod. The parts below are extreme reductions. Try shifting different parts over 1 count before or after, try adding notes, taking notes away, playing differnt parts on different drums.

Count        123456123456
Main Bell    o o oo o o o
High Bell    oo oo oo oo 
Count        123456123456
High Drum    o o o o o o 
Low Drum     o  o  o  o  
 shifted -1    o  o  o  o
 shifted +1   o  o  o  o 
Count        123456123456

Baladi Basics 

Variations of this rhythm are found throughout the Middle East. It is often played on an hourglass shaped drum that has two distinct tones, which here are separated into high and low drums. The high drum should solo and make variations to keep the rhythm interesting but the low drum should stay steady. Belly dancers appreciate this rhythm.

Part       Main            a variation         another variation
Count      1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a
High Drum    X   X     X     Xx  Xx  xxXxXxX X X X   xxX    
Low Drum   O       O       O       O O     O       O   O   
Cymbals    X xxX xxX xxX xxX xxX xxX xxX xxX xxX xxX xxX xx 

Count      1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a 
X=Accented Hit x=hit O=Tone

We Will Rock You!

Now that you've canabalized your drum set, do you really want go back to insipid rhythms? This is an example of what not to play all the time. Most rock rythmns lack the sophistication to stand alone and be interesting for more than thirty seconds. Lows mean surdos and toms. Highs mean snares, bells, claves, jam block, etc.

Count  1&2&3&4&
Highs    X   X 
Lows   OO  OO 
Count  1&2&3&4&

Hip Hop

If you really want to rock, you can use "We will rock you!" as a base, and then kick it up a notch with a swinging high-hat. The hi-hat divides each of the counts in the "We will rock you!" (1/8 notes) into 3 faster counts (32nd note triplets). The classic way to play a marching hi-hat is to have someone walk backwards and hold two cymbals together horizontally for the snare drummer to play, but if you don't have the cymbals you can hit the rim of a snare, or cover the part with another instrument like a shaker. There are endless variations most of them done with the low drums.

Part   Main                  a variation
Count  1_+&_+2_+&_+3_+&_+4_+&_+1_+&_+2_+&_+3_+&_+4_+&_+
Highs        X           X           X           X  X X
Lows   O  O        O  O        O  O O   O O  O  O        
Count  1_+&_+2_+&_+3_+&_+4_+&_+1_+&_+2_+&_+3_+&_+4_+&_+
Hi-hat X xX xX xX xX xX xX xX xX xX xX xX xX xX xXXXX x
Snare  R rR rX rR rR rR rX rR rR rR rX rR rR rR rX  X X
Count  1_+&_+2_+&_+3_+&_+4_+&_+1_+&_+2_+&_+3_+&_+4_+&_+

_="trip", +="let", O=low note , x=high note, X=accented note, r=rim, R=accented rim

Other Possibilities 

More rhythms will be included in the next edition of this manual so please send us your favorites. We've had alot of success with a slow, mournful "Drone Beat", everybody plays one beat at the same time, every two or three seconds, as your feet fall when walking. Resist the tendency to speed up. 

Add songs to your rhythms!

Beware! The above notations cannot represent the quintessential "feel" of traditional music, which you can only get by hearing it over and over again. These are bastardized simplifications of changing rhythms with long histories. They are merely conventions that our small group of drummers has come to consensus on, so as to give an overall structure to otherwise chaotic drum jams. 

The best way to learn new rhythms is just to imitate the music you like to listen to.


More tunes and radical dances from Rhythms of Resistance

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