brittany.anjou's blog

West African Music and Dance: Bernard Woma & Saakumu / Brittany Anjou's BEWAA

Bernard Woma and the Saakumu Dance Troupe

Saturday, December 7

$15 General admission / $12 Student Admission (BML students RSVP for discount)

ShapeShifter Lab
18 Whitwell Place
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Attention West African Music and Dance lovers! To prepare for my mentor Bernard Woma upon his return to NYC, I recently lead and arranged a concert of music based on Ghanaian Xylophone songs learned at his school, the Dagara Music Center in Medie, Ghana. I arranged music from traditional Ghanaian instrumentation (lead xylophone, support xylophone, box drum) for a seven piece jazz-inspired ensemble including gyil, piano, vibraphone, western xylophone, upright bass, rhodes, soprano saxophone and drums.

Gyil music is taught and performed as a complete oral tradition, often where the student sits opposite the master xylophonist, who can play all lead and support Gyil parts from either side, as well as bell patterns.

Here is a video of my group, BEWAA, performing a less-than-traditional arrangement of the traditional social dance song entitled "Bewaa" at the ShapeShifter Lab in Brooklyn, and an excerpt of the score that I used to prepare the group. Continue reading »

Download The ii-V-I Progression for Beginning Jazz Improvisers

Jazz piano has three components - the bassline, chords (middle register), and the melody. Your left hand covers basslines while your right hand covers melodies in the treble registers, but both hands need to be able to grasp chords to accompany yourself as well as other performers. Continue reading »

Download Reading Music Guide / Scale & Arpeggio Fingerings for Piano

I'd like to share with you some free downloads of my favorite materials for beginning piano students. Although rudimentary, these seem to be harder to find nowadays with the lack of sheet music retailers in Brooklyn. First is a primer on reading sheet music and second is a fingering chart for all 12 major scales and arpeggios. Continue reading »

Ghanaian Gyil Scale Tuning - Woma pentatonic scale

My experience teaching enriches and enhances my musical pursuits. As a pianist first and mallet player second, I come from two traditions of training, jazz and classical; technique and improvisation.

My experience studying music and Ghanaian Xylophone, aka Gyil, in Ghana enhanced my studies by removing me from a familiar instrument, music and culture tradition, tonality, and scale. My Gyil has 14 wooden bars woven together by string, twine, and goat skin; amplified by gourds tuned to each prepared tuned bar.

Although some Gyils are tuned to a western pentatonic scale, most Gyils are tuned to the village master xylophonist's instrument. My gyil is tuned to master xylophonist Bernard Woma's scale. I like to call it the Woma pentatonic scale. Continue reading »

Prof. Anku's Time Cycle Theory

Professor Willie Anku is a theorist/ethnomusicologist who focuses on rhythmic theory and travels giving numerous international conferences. This is from his course I took at the University of Ghana-Legon, and here are some examples of notated rhythms he discusses.

A focus of his themes include categorizing rhythms within mathmetical frames and notes how different groups of people, i.e. Yoruba, Bembe, and Ewe, perceive the "1" or "western downbeat". He describes African music theoretically within cyclicality, time and circles.

  Continue reading »

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