Students on the ThisWorldMusic/UMass Ghana study abroad program learning traditional Ewe songs.

The following is adapted from “Developing an African Drumming Program for Your Music Classroom,” created by ThisWorldMusic in partnership with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

This is the second in a series of three installments on arranging for an African drumming ensemble: 1) Arranging for Classroom vs. Stage; 2) Arranging Drumming with Singing and; 3) Arranging for Performance.

2. Arranging Drumming with Singing
One of the biggest challenges in arranging drumming with singing is the tendency for the drum ensemble to drown out the singers, especially the lead, or “call,” which is typically sung by an individual or small subgroup.

Possible solutions include:

  • arrange a song or song medley as an introduction to the drumming, perhaps as a way of ushering the performers on stage
  • if drumming and singing do occur simultaneously, arrange for the drum ensemble to drastically reduce volume and/or for certain less essential parts to drop out altogether, thus effectively creating a vocal interlude
  • mic the song leader and/or assign the lead part to a small subgroup, always making sure that call volume does not exceed that of response
  • arrange the song(s) for a large festival chorus that can match the drum ensemble in volume and intensity

I’ll post some audio examples shortly. Check back here, or follow me/us on Twitter.