What is the break or call?

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The Call or "Break" is a signal used by the lead djembe drummer to communicate changes to the rhythm.

The call can be used to:

  • Start the rhythm
  • Stop the rhythm
  • Indicate changes in the dance steps

The call also contains musical information about the rhythm about to be played.

It helps indicate:

  • The starting tempo of the rhythm
  • The cadence or "feel" or "swing" of the rhythm
  • Whether the rhythm is in more of a binary feel (two or four or eight beat) or in more of a ternary feel (three or six or nine beat)
  • The bigger rhythm family to which this particular rhythm belongs

In some cases, the call can also help the drummers in the ensemble stabilize or re-calibrate the rhythm when the playing goes a little sideways.

The call provides a reference point for all of the drummers.

Different traditional rhythms have specific calls. You will learn some of these different calls in the Challenge Lessons.


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