An ancestor of internationally influential music genres Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae, Nyabinghi Drumming is religious RASTAFARI music that adherents perform in communal drumming circles while chanting. “Nyabinghi” is one of the “MANSIONS,” or general groupings, of Rastafari (others include “Bobo Ashanti,” and “the Twelve Tribes of Israel.”) Each mansion has a slightly different view of the religious tenets of Ras Tafari, and followers freely choose to affiliate with the one that matches their beliefs, or not identify with a mansion at all.
For this lesson we’re going to simulate a Nyabinghi Drum Circle and a Nyabinghi chant. While we will enjoy ourselves we should remember that Nyabinghi music is of significant spiritual importance to believers and we should approach this experience with respect.
The basic Nyabinghi drum circle has three drums, each of which plays its own role:
— THUNDER: A double-headed bass drum played with a mallet. (open sound on 1st beat, dampened on the 3rd)
— FUNDE: The middle drum. It maintains the dominant, steady heartbeat rhythm on the 1st and 3rd beats
— REPEATER (“Kete”): The smallest and highest pitched drum. The drummer improvises but mainly emphasizes beats 2 and 4.
— you can also add a SHAKA (sekere), a shaker that accents the rhythms. Not essential to the circle, but it adds character.