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Tamboo Bamboo

Just heard from some of my friends in Cap Haitian on the north coast of Haiti. They connected me to some musicians from that area that have been preserving a musical tradition that goes a long way back to other Caribbean nations and also to West Africa. When West Africans were brought to the Caribbean to work as slaves, most colonial governments banned the playing of music from back home. Each island had a different experience with this prohibition on African music, but suffice it to say that drumming ensembles were largely seen as a threat to colonial order. Musicians were often left with the only option of adapting their musical traditions to the materials and musical styles of their captors to avoid punishment. One tradition that grew up among several Caribbean cultures is “Tamboo Bamboo.” Just as drums of different pitches create a collective rhythm in the drumming ensemble, bamboo of differing lengths can create a array of pitches that can be joined into a collective rhythm. In those countries that banned drums, bamboo was often a viable substitute. In addition to the pitch created by blowing into the bamboo tube, a high pitched rhythm was created by a single stick on the side of the bamboo. I now have a recording of a tamboo bamboo group and it is so beautiful and mind twisting. It is hard to imagine how this rhythm is created by musicians that each play a single note within a complex pattern. I am considering the use of this rhythmic structure in one of the movements of the Missa Kreyol. It has great potential.

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