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Learning The Zabumba Rhythms
By: Adriano Santos
When the subject is Brazilian rhythms we should remind people that samba and bossa nova are not the only rhythms coming out of Brazil. As the largest country in South America and the only one that has the Portuguese as a national spoken language, this tropical paradise offers a wealth of cultural influences, coming from Europe, Africa and
native Indians. The intense mixing of races created a very distinct culture, which is strongly expressed through their amazing music and complemented by more than one hundred different rhythms.
In this Lesson we will feature the percussion instrument call Zabumba and study four rhythms coming from the northeast part of Brazil, usually performed by the traditional and folkloric groups of that region. The idea is to expand your knowledge about new Brazilian rhythms that can become part of your vocabulary arsenal.
The Zabumba is a strap on shallow low end drum (16” or 18”), with animal skin or synthetic drum heads on both sides. The top drum head (thicker) is usually played by a mallet and the bottom head (thinner) is played by a thin bamboo or plastic stick called bacalhau. This combination creates two different sounds, low on top and high in the bottom, similar to a bass drum and snare sound on a trap set.
This instrument is found not only in Brazil but also in different parts of the world such as Turkey, Greece, India, Spain and Bolivia, just to name a few. Baião, Xaxado, Côco, Xote, Arrasta pé, Caboclinho, Maracatu de baque virado and Arraias are just some of the rhythms from the northeast that are worthy to be explored. These rhythms usually receive the accompaniment of triangle, pandeiro, agogô bells, pífano (bamboo flute), rabeca (violin) and accordeon.
It is during special celebrations through out Brazil and also on the Forró dance parties that you will find the Zabumba been played in many different ways by different musicians, creating a vast source of information involving new techniques, creative sticking combinations and original grooves to be learn from. It is important to point out that all the rhythms played by the Zabumba are also playable on the drum set.
The Zabumba should be hung by a strap, right in front of your body on the waistline or above in a diagonal position, this way you will have greater mobility on arms and hands. Learning the Moeller technique would help you to achieve a powerful and precise stroke. In order to have a lasting endurance it is important to be relax during the motion of your limbs.
Open and close sound
The technique used on the top of the drum with the mallets is simple but requires a lot of control and precision with the open (o) and close (.) strokes. By applying a little pressure against the head in the completion of the stroke motion you will be able to reproduce a muffled sound with a higher ton (picture #1). The open sound is simpler to achieve by striking the head and letting it ring by moving the mallet away from the drum head producing an open (o) low ton (picture #2).
For the bottom drum head the position of your hand resting against the lower rim is very important for a good control of the thin stick (bacalhau). Here you will also apply open and close strokes against the head using your fingers. The traditional grip concept is the most effective in this situation, the stick will be held using your thumb and the other fingers, placed under the stick, will help you to control the motion and avoid resonance of the head (picture #3). Remember that after you give a stroke you should remove the stick away from the head to avoid any unwanted vibration from a mallet stroke on the top head. (picture #4)
You should be able to do some research about the these rhythms by listening to these artists: Luiz Gonzaga, Jackson do Pandeiro, Dominguinhos, Sivuca, Banda de Pífanos de Caruaru, Silvério Pessoa and Cascabulho to name a few.
1 – Baião
2 – Xaxado
3 – Côco
4 - Xote