We continue our series of reports on the fascinating variety of musical instruments that students in World Music in the Schools enjoy working with . . .

The berimbau (bee-rim-bau) is a single string percussion instrument, described as a musical bow with African origins. It is the main instrument used to produce the complex rhythms in Brazilian music that accompanies capoeira, a Brazilian martial art. The berimbau consists of a flexible wooden bow called the biriba or verga, a steel string called the arame, and a gourd called cabaça. The berimbau is played with the help of a small, thin stick called the baqueta or vareta, a metal or stone disk called dobrao or pedra, and a caxixi (shaker).

Every part of the berimbau plays a role in the production of the music and rhythm:

Biriba (verga) — The berimbau takes its name from this wooden rod, which is known as the backbone of the instrument. It can be made of many different kinds of wood, but the Brazilian species Eschweilera ovata (Cambess.), of the family Lecythidaceae is considered to be the best material for this part of the instrument.

Arame — Made from a piano string or salvaged from an automobile tire, this steel string has to be strong enough to withstand the tension of the biriba, as well as the battering of the baqueta. Its vibration produces the sound of the berimbau.

Berimbau illustration

Cabaça — Made from a hollowed-out and dried gourd, the cabaça is used to amplify the sound of the arame.

Baqueta — This beater is made from wood, and is used to strike the arame and produce sound.

Dobrão — Usually a coin or flat metal disk, the dobrão is used to vary the sound of the berimbau. When touched against the metal string it produces a higher pitch, and when pulled away from the string the pitch becomes lower. As an alternative to the coin, some players use a small flat stone (pedra).

Caxixi — A small percussion instrument, which consists of a closed basket containing seeds, which is shaken to produce a rhythmic sound. When played with the berimbau, it is held by a loop handle in the same hand as the baqueta, so that it shakes when the baqueta strikes the arame. It is believed that the caxixi summons good spirits, and wards against evil ones.

Berimbau closeupTo assemble the berimbau, the arame is attached to both ends of the biriba and pulled taught, which bends the beriba into its characteristic bow shape. The cabaça is attached to one end of the berimbau with a lace, which also helps the musician support the berimbau with their pinky finger while playing.

There are three sizes of berimbau, often played in an ensemble, and each contributing a different aspect to the music:

Gunga — This instrument has the largest cabaça (gourd) and the most flexible verga, and it produces the lowest pitch.

Médio — This berimbau uses a smaller gourd, with a tone and pitch between that of the gunga and the viola.

Viola — With the smallest gourd, and a less flexible verga, this instrument produces the highest pitch, and is used to add rhythmic fills between the steady rhythm shared by the other berimbaus in the ensemble.

— Claudia Lyra, World Music in the Schools Teaching Artist and artistic director of the Brazilian ensemble Nós de Chita

You can view Claudia demonstrating the berimbau on the Center for World Music’s YouTube Channel.

Natasha Kozaily grew up on the small island of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean Sea, 180 miles south of Cuba and 195 miles west of Jamaica. Her parents came from opposite sides of the globe (her mother, a native Cayman Islander, and her father, far from his native Lebanon), resulting in Natasha’s deep love and curiosity for the wide world around her. This can be seen throughout her music, teaching, art, and life.

Natasha has been a teaching artist for the Center’s World Music in the Schools since 2015, when she conducted a 12-week residency teaching Caymanian song and folklore at the San Diego French American School. Natasha has subsequently taught for the CWM at several other schools, including Hearst Elementary and the Museum School, where she also teaches ukulele and songwriting.

A nomad and creative tour de force, Natasha embraces the arts in all its forms. Lover of the stage and theater, she honed her craft at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City where she graduated in 2007. She studied classical piano from the age of seven, and graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Cardiff University in Wales, specializing in Ethnomusicology. Her undergraduate ethnomusicology thesis entitled “An Island’s Story: Told through the music of Julia Hydes” is celebrated and treasured as the first and only in-depth writing on Caymanian folk musician and drummer, Miss Julia Hydes (b. 1909, d. 2015). In 2014, Natasha was honored in celebration of Cayman’s National Heroes Day with The Emerging Pioneer Award for her significant contribution to the culture and heritage of the Cayman Islands.

After graduating, Natasha moved to San Diego, California where she now writes, records and performs music under the moniker NATULA. When Natasha is not touring she enjoys sharing the gift of music with others, teaching private piano, ukulele, and voice to students of all ages at Kalabash School of Music and the Arts in the Bird Rock neighborhood of La Jolla. She also teaches various workshops on Caymanian Folk Music and Songwriting to kids and adults in San Diego and abroad. She believes that music is not only a wonderful tool for self-expression, but also a key to understanding ourselves and humanity in this beautifully diverse world we all belong to.

Pak Djoko Solo Festival

Djoko Walujo Wimboprasetyo, respectfully addressed by his professional colleagues and his adoring students as Pak Djoko (“Father Djoko”), is one of the most highly regarded senior performers of Javanese classical music. An esteemed artist, court musician, and composer, he is one of the most sought-after instructors of Javanese orchestral music in the world. Pak Djoko is a distinguished grand master of the Javanese gamelan—an orchestra of some twenty musicians that varies in size, instrumentation, musical style, and social function. Typically, however, a Javanese gamelan includes tuned bronze gongs, gong-chimes, single- and multi-octave xylophone-like metal instruments, drums, flutes, bowed and plucked stringed instruments, wooden xylophones, and both male and female singers.

Pak Djoko at CCA

For more than two decades, Pak Djoko has directed Javanese gamelan ensembles at the California Institute of the Arts, at the Los Angeles Consulate General of Indonesia, at UCLA, at UC Riverside, at San Diego State University, and at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego.

As a dynamic teacher of university students as well as K-12 children, Pak Djoko recognizes that gamelan is an excellent tool for music education. Indeed, anyone can learn to play gamelan, since no previous knowledge or experience is required, one learns and plays by ear, without written notation, and the simple playing techniques of the various instruments makes the musical experience almost instantly accessible to children and adults of all levels alike.

Pak Djoko studied gamelan music in Java from an early age, under the tutelage of many well-known and distinguished gamelan teachers, including such luminaries as Raden Lurah Dhamowijoyo, Raden Ngabehi Prawira Pangrawit, Raden Mas Handoyo Kusuma, Bapak Harjaswara, Bapak Sunardi Wisnubrata, Bapak Promono, and Bapak Hadi Sumarta. He continued his studies in music at the Indonesian Arts Institute, Yogyakarta, and also in Indonesian law at the University of Gajah Mada. From 1975 until 1992, he served as professor of music at the Indonesian Arts Institute, after which he accepted the position of visiting artist at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. Significantly, Pak Djoko’s most distinguished teacher, K. R. T. Wasitodiningrat, a revered senior Javanese gamelan teacher residing in the United States, selected Pak Djoko to be his successor as the Javanese gamelan teacher at the California Institute of the Arts.

Pak Djoko has performed widely, composed award-winning music for Javanese dance-dramas and shadow-puppet plays, or wayang kulit. He has received awards from the Javanese Ministry of Education, the Governor of the Special Region of Yogyakarta, Radio Republic of Indonesia, and the Governor of Central Java.

Canyon Crest GamelanAs the musical director of the Javanese gamelan ensemble at San Diego State University since 1992, and at Canyon Crest Academy since 2010, Pak Djoko has been the revered teacher of many students in San Diego. For the past five years, he has served as distinguished teaching artist for the Center for World Music’s World Music in the Schools program, which is partially supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council. He has also served as artistic director of the Center for World Music’s gamelan festivals at Canyon Crest Academy and Ellen Browning Scripps Park in La Jolla.

At his home in Yogyakarta, Central Java, Pak Djoko hosts musical soirées—in support of local Javanese musicians as well as for American university students studying gamelan in Java or traveling to Java in search of deep cultural immersion.

—Lewis Peterman, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, School of Music and Dance, San Diego State University

Setar

We continue our series of reports on the fascinating variety of musical instruments that students in World Music in the Schools enjoy working with . . .

The setar is a Persian (Iranian) stringed instrument with a small, pear-shaped soundbox and four metal strings. Its name means “three strings.” A fourth drone string was added about 150 years ago by the mystic Moshtagh Ali Shah. This modification gave the delicate instrument a “bigger” sound and more complex tuning possibilities. The resonating box of the setar is attached to a long neck that has twenty-five gut frets. The soundbox is made from mulberry wood, while the neck is made from walnut. The instrument has a melodic range of just over twenty scale degrees. Although it is traditionally played with the nail of the right index finger, in the past three decades two distinguished master performers, Mohammad-Reza Lotfi and Hossein Alizadeh, have introduced new techniques to give setar playing a whole new life.

Today the setar is generally considered the supreme instrument for performing Persian classical music. However, it was almost forgotten during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries owing to the increased popularity of the tar, a similar but larger instrument with a fuller sound. The tar is a double-chambered string instrument that has three sets of double strings with the same fretting on its neck as the smaller, more delicate setar.

In 1984, a pivotal recording of a setar solo performed by the master Mohammad-Reza Lotfi brought the smaller instrument to the attention of a whole new generation of Persian classical music enthusiasts. Indeed, Lotfi’s historic album, in memory of the great musician Darvish Khan, enticed many young instrument makers and musicians to fall in love with the sound of the setar, and thus a new generation of setar makers and players has recently emerged.

—Kourosh Taghavi, World Music in the Schools Teaching Artist

See the setar in action on YouTube: Lotfi Taknavazi Setar Niavaran Concert.

NEA Grants

On Wednesday, May 6, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced that it will make a $55,000 award to the Center for World Music to implement world music and dance instruction in San Diego schools. The award was among 1,023 awards totaling $74.3 million made by the NEA nationwide in this funding round.

The grant was the largest grant for arts education awarded in the San Diego area, and the third largest in California.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The NEA is committed to advancing learning, fueling creativity, and celebrating the arts in cities and towns across the United States. Funding these new projects like the one from the Center for World Music represents an investment in both local communities and our nation’s creative vitality.”

For more, see our press release and the announcement from the NEA.

Kin Ho and Jeanne Cate Teaching

We continue a series of articles featuring the wonderful teaching artists of World Music in the Schools:

Spend some time in San Diego folk dance circles, and there’s someone you’re sure to meet pretty quick. That would be Kin Ho, CWM teaching artist, performer and instructor of traditional folk dance genres from around the world. Everywhere you look in the local folk dance circles, you’ll find Kin as performer, teacher, and organizer. He finds that students in the Center’s World Music in the Schools program respond well to the movement and rhythm (and fun!) of folk dance, and that—when opportunity presents—their parents enjoy joining in.

Kin was born in Canton Province, China. His family moved to Hong Kong when he was a toddler, and he spent his school years in that cosmopolitan city learning and performing international folk dance and Chinese traditional dance, including the Lion dance with drumming. After immigration to the United States, Kin taught and directed the Chinese Folk Dance Troup of Stockton. Moving to San Diego some twenty years ago, he performed with San Diego State University’s yearly International Folk Dance Concerts. He has taught folk dance classes extensively to both adults and children at all levels and at a variety of festivals and events around San Diego. Through San Diego’s International Dance Association, which sponsors the folk dance classes that he teaches in Balboa Park, Kin is involved with the planning and presentation of several annual folk dance festivals at the Balboa Park Club. He also teaches Greek dancing at the Folk Dance Center in North Park.

Kin’s wife and partner in the folk dance scene, Jeanne Cate, is likewise prominent in the San Diego folk dance world. Indeed, Kin and Jeanne were recently featured in an article in the San Diego UT. Jeanne also often helps out in the World Music in the Schools classrooms.

Both enjoy “spreading the old-country spirit” through dance. Everyone who learns one or more of these international dance traditions, Kin says, carries “a little corner of the world” with them.

Mbira

We continue our series of reports on the fascinating variety of musical instruments that students in World Music in the Schools enjoy working with . . .

The mbira is a hand-held musical instrument that evolved in sub-Saharan Africa. In its many different forms, it is capable of producing both intimate singable melodies for meditation and vigorous percussive rhythms for dance. It can be used to delight and entertain, or it can be used to lend solemnity to religious ceremonies. Made from a small block of wood, with rows of tuned metal strips (lamellae) attached, the mbira naturally produces a subdued soft tone that can be amplified by placing it inside a large hollowed-out calabash gourd resonator (deze).

The mbira can be played as a solo instrument or as part of an ensemble, with other mbiras or with drums (ngoma) or rattle shakers (hosho). When two mbiras are played together, each renders a different but complimentary interlocking musical part (kushaura or kutsinhira). As a native-trained teaching artist, I currently teach a solo mbira type from Zimbabwe—the karimba—in the San Diego K-12 public schools.

Garit Imhoff, World Music in the Schools Teaching Artist

See the mbira in action on YouTube. Also, San Diego students playing the Zimbabwean karimba.

View Teaching Artist Garit Imhoff in performance with Zimbeat on YouTube.

We continue our series of reports on the fascinating variety of musical instruments that students in World Music in the Schools enjoy working with . . .

The tabla is a paired drum set from the northern regions of South Asia (North India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and parts of Afghanistan).  Consisting of a high drum (dayan) and a low drum (dagga or bayan), the tabla is played with the fingers, using a variety of different strokes and hand positions, to produce up to twenty different sounds.  Each of these sounds in turn has a name, or a syllable.  Together, these syllables (for example: ta, tin, dha, dhin) are used pedagogically as a rhythmic solfège—the syllables are sung to the student in order to teach rhythmic phrases, which are then reproduced on the drums.

Although the tabla was invented and popularized in the Mughal courts of Delhi approximately 300 years ago, the systems of music it stems from are over two thousand years old.  The tabla, in a sense, is a modern instrument that reflects South Asia’s embodiment of the ancient and the new—it has both Hindu roots and an Islamic Mughal past while continuing to thrive as a vibrant tradition, both within the contexts of North Indian Classical music as well as in the global musical landscape.

—Miles Shrewsbery, World Music in the Schools Teaching Artist

See the tabla in action on YouTube: Tabla Legend Ustad Alla Rakha | Interview with Zakir Hussain (Alla Rakha’s son) | Miles Shrewsbery Tabla Solo

Learn more about Teaching Artist Miles Shrewsbery and his music at tablamiles.com.

Kourosh Taghavi

San Diego Participant Observer, March 12, 2015

Kourosh Taghavi, master of Persian classical music and pillar of the CWM’s World Music in the Schools program, is featured in an article by Amanda Kelly.

Kourosh Taghavi, instrumentalist, vocalist and Persian classical musician boasts a passionate approach to music that has impacted audiences around the world. His collaborative projects with master musicians and local cultural organizations work to fulfill his lifelong dream to promote Persian classical music. . . .  “It is a very holistic approach to music instead of just notation and sounds,” he says. “Your daily life is so attached to your music and your music is so attached to your daily life they are almost inseparable.”

Read the full article here.

The San Diego Participant Observer is published online by the Worldview Project.  It is a great source for keep up-to-date on cultural goings on in San Diego and environs. Thanks to Tom Johnston-O’Neill and the dedicated crew at the Worldview Project for their support of World Music in the Schools and other Center for World Music projects!

Metal and Castanha Agogos

The first in a planned series of reports on the fascinating variety of musical instruments that students in World Music in the Schools enjoy working with . . .

The agogô is an instrument used widely in West Africa, Brazil, and throughout the world. The name comes from ágogo (AH-go-go) meaning “double bell” in the tonal Yoruba language and is onomatopoeia for the two sounds it makes. In my classes for the Center for World Music we use the Afro-Brazilian agogô (ah-go-GO). The agogô is a type of handbell similar to our cowbell. It has two or more bells attached to a handle and is played with a wooden stick. The bells can be made of metal, castanhas-do-Pará (Brazil nut shells), coconuts, gourds, wood, or large seeds. The agogô is found in a variety of Afro-Brazilian musical styles including maracatu, maculelê, batucada of the samba schools, afoxé, songs of capoeira, and more. It is used in ceremonies and rituals of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé.

—Stefanie Schmitz, World Music in the Schools Teaching Artist

Agogôs in action on YouTube:  Demo with Stefanie | A Four-Toner in Brazil |  Brazil Nut Shell Agogô

More on Stefanie: StefanieSchmitz.net