The ghoema beat

02 Mar 2020

The ghoema beat is the underlying rhythm of the Kaapse Klopse carnival in Cape Town. With the establishment of the city as a port between West Europe and the east Indies and subsequent expansion of Dutch and British colonies, increasing cross-pollination between European, African, Southeast Asian and indigenous genres marked the onset of the beat.

As with most other creole rhythms, the ghoema is difficult to represent using Western music notation making deceptive clues about the metre. The beat is a one-bar pattern often played by the gummy, a lightweight barrel-shaped membranophone held with a strap over the shoulder and played with both hands. Initially, these drums were made from repurposed small wine casks with herd skin nailed over one of the two open ends, producing mellower tones at night and sharper tones during the day.

Here is a field recording I made of a small atja troupe performing the beat on low-tuned drums, and here is another one where I am playing with the recorder inside the right pocket of my satin jacket. Click here for more.

"ghoema beat transcription"

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