Element 1: Listening to Africa

Summary

This section is divided into three parts. After a warm-up phase, pupils develop a rhythmic-polyphonic song accompaniment in part 2, using the example of the Senegalese song Fatou yo. Rehearsing the song can be very well combined with getting to know each other in new classes or groups. In the project, this was also when pupils met the Senegalese guest musician for the first time.

Part 3 is about discovering different instruments from West Africa and exploring their sound possibilities. The live performance by the musician from Senegal led to an authentic encounter with West African music practices. Video clips may be viewed as an alternative.

Participants of the project worked primarily with calabash instruments. Calabashes are common all over the African continent and are firmly established in many African music cultures. Alternatively, the following musical impulses can also be played on other percussion instruments.

  • Duration: 45 min for every part.

Keywords creativity & entrepreneurship: Persistence, Enthusiasm, Sensibility for problems diversity

Description

Part 1: Warm-up – Fatou yo

Warm-up: Who is who?

  • Pupils stand in a circle. One after the other, in a circular direction, and as quickly as possible, they say their (first) names. This process is repeated several times, each time faster than the previous round, until almost no pauses can be noticed between the individual names.
  • In the second round, pupils no longer say their own names, but that of their “neighbours” to the right.
  • Moving forward, pupils switch their places in the circle after each round, which leaves them with new neighbours each time.

Names become rhythms

Pupils stand in a circle and tap a beat together, alternating their right and left feet.

Tapping the right foot is combined with a beat on the chest with the right hand (flat hand). Tapping the left foot is combined with the right hand tapping the right thigh. All repeat this pattern continuously.

  • Round 1:Pupil A hits their chest and says their name – rhythmisised. On the following chest beat, the entire group repeats the name with the pupil. Moving forward in the circle, one pupil after another says their name on the chest beat, repeated each time by the entire group on the following chest beat.
    (Notation einfügen)
  • Round 2:As round 1, however, the pupil now plays the name rhythm with the hand on the chest in a rhythmisised manner. The group repeats.
  • Round 3:Pupils continue to play their names rhythmically, but no longer say them.
  • Round 4:All names are played one after each other synchronously, forming a group rhythm.

Round 5: Like in the warm – up round, pupils can now switch places. Changing the order in the circle creates new rhythmic patterns.

Rhythmic name chains

In small groups of four, pupils agree on a sequence of names and practice the resulting rhythmic pattern several times until all four pupils can play it confidently and synchronously. The groups then present their rhythms in class. Afterwards, two groups go together and try to play both their rhythms at the same time, thus creating a first polyrhythmic play. The teacher should support the group work by playing a percussive, stable beat.

Part 2: Fatou yo – singing with body sounds

Mandinka language, translated freely:

I am Fatou, the pretty Fatou
I love my name Fatou

Fatou yo

….is a traditional and very popular song, known across generations and in different regions of Senegal. Fatou is a very common girl’s name. In West Africa, names are not chosen individually for a child, instead there are sequences of names in a family. Many girls are called “Fatou” or “Bintou”, and boys “Cheikh” or “Abdoulaye”. Addressing people in songs by singing their names is a traditional and widespread music practice and stands for the appreciation and respect of every individual in the social community.

Moving forward, name rhythms and the rhythms of the song are the starting point for discovering the close relationship between language and rhythm.

The teacher can either sing the chorus of the song Fatou yo to pupils, or pupils may listen to it in the following YouTube video (up to at least. 1.05) and then repeat it. The text should be sung as noted.

  • Pupils and teacher stand in a circle.
  • The teacher briefly introduces the origin and meaning of the song Fatou yo.
  • The reacher sings the song, pupils clap to the rhythm as soon as they hear the name “Fatou” in the song.
  • As the song is repeated, the name “Fatou” is replaced by the names of different pupils, either in mixed order or one after each other, depending on individual needs. The clapping rhythms change with the names of the pupils.

Accompanying rhythms:

All accompanying structures are played together in the group. The class is then divided into three groups, with each group taking an accompanying pattern.

  • Accompaniment 1 “Fatou”: Pupils sing and clap rhythmically on hearing “Fatou” in the song.

  • Accompaniment 2 “song rhythm”: Pupils drum the rhythm of the song with both their hands on their thighs.

  • Accompaniment 3 “beat”: Pupils play the beat in the same sequence as in the warm-up phase.

  • All three groups play all three accompanying patterns with the song.
  • Pupils play all three accompanying patterns while the song is sung „silently”, i.e. repeated internally.

  • All body sounds are changed in the groups.

Part 3: Sounds from West Africa and Fatou yo

Performance practice

Pupils sit in a circle and listen to the live performance of an African musician. Alternatively, they watch videos of African musicians using traditional instruments.

Reflection:

  • What playing techniques were new to you?
  • What instruments were new to you?
  • What is different from the music that you know?

Only three at a time! – Exploration in the circle

Pupils sit on chairs in a circle:

  • Various percussive African instruments, such as calabashes, Kess-Kess, Cabasa, water drums, Mbira / Kalimba (thumb piano), various rattles, bells, slit drums, wood blocks, balaphon (xylophone) are put in the middle of the circle.
  • The teacher picks three pupils who try the instruments in the circle to test their sound possibilities. When a pupil finishes the trialling, another pupil goes in the middle of the circle. No more than three pupils should be in the circle centre at any one time. The order is agreed non-verbally via perception, creating random interaction between the three in the middle, surrounded by listeners in the circle.

Fatou yo instrumental

  • Pupils sort the instruments in the circle, grouping all similar sounding rhythm instruments together to form a station (e.g., rattle station, drum station, bell station).
  • Pupils form three equally sized groups, one for each station.

Each group transfers one of the three accompanying rhythms to an instrumental playing technique.

After a short rehearsal time, each group presents their instrumental version. Afterwards, all three instrument groups play the song.

Competencies

The pupils are able to:

  • remember different names auditively.
  • perceive spatio-temporal references and perform them in motion.
  • coordinate speech rhythm and rhythm of movement.
  • recognise rhythmic elements in a song and emulate them with body sounds.
  • pay auditory attention.
  • play simple polyphonic rhythms confidently.
  • handle unfamiliar instruments with appreciation and an open mind.
  • develop creative playing techniques.
  • transfer motion rhythms onto instrumental rhythms.

Materials