For Beginners: Your First African Rhythm Concept

For Beginners: Your First African Rhythm Concept

By Dave Holland


If you enjoyed my Body Jammin’ presentation at #Nafville2015, then you’ll love this quick tip!

In traditional western music, rhythmic phrases are often divided into even numbers of groupings; 2, 4, 8, etc. One of the many gifts that Africa gave us in music is the idea of taking an even number like 8 and dividing it into smaller, odd numbers of groupings: 3 + 3 + 2.  By dividing our phrase in this way, we’ve created a natural, syncopated rhythm by moving a stronger beat over to a weaker beat, or an upbeat. This universal rhythmic concept is the underlying pulse of much West African, Brazilian, Caribbean, jazz, ragtime, and hip-hop music.




I believe that the best way to learn world rhythms is to get the concept out of your head and put it into your body long before you attempt to play it on an instrument. I refer to this as a “kinesthetic bridge.” By using the instruments we are born with, you can literally embody these more complex concepts. By walking, dancing, and moving I believe we speed up the learning process, create more ‘ownership’ of these concepts and have more fun along the way!

Here are 2 short clips from recently produced resources that demonstrate this rhythm concept of 3+3+2 along with a simple body music application. So stand up, get ready to move and then click play on the link below!


To learn more from Dave Holland, make sure to take his World Rhythm 101 Video Course and check out his newest book/DVD release Body Jammin’, A Rhythm Facilitator’s Guide to Portable Percussion.

Dave Holland presented a session on “Body Jammin: A Music Educator’s Guide to Portable Percussion” at the 2015 National Conference. Submit a session proposal for the 2019 National Conference by February 10, 2019.

About the Author:

The creative energy behind Interactive Rhythm is world percussionist, teaching artist & drum circle facilitator Dave Holland. Dave has traveled to Brazil, West Africa, the Caribbean and Turkey to study with masters of the percussive arts and weave that experience into his performances, workshops & residencies. Dave now shares his passion for ‘all things rhythm’ with music making professionals through his books, DVDs, CDs & live workshops.

Dave has presented at the National Association for Music Education Conference, the International Orff Schulwerk Conference, the International Percussive Arts Conference, the National Drum Circle Facilitator Conference, the Early Childhood Music & Movement Conference, and numerous state and regional music education conferences and Orff Chapter workshops across the country.

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