Scott Messersmith & Dave Watts Explain Sounou

Messersmith & Watts: Sounou

Round up all your drum buddies to play this piece, a five-part rhythm called sounou. It comes from the Kaarta region of Mali and is traditionally performed at celebrations such as weddings and parties. Exs. 1 and 2 introduce the pattern’s foundation instruments — the dun-dun, sangban, and kenkeni. African in origin, these drums are similar to Western bass drums (though, of course, played with sticks). The kenkeni is the smallest of the three and often includes a mounted bell (Ex. 2). Two djembe parts (Exs. 3 & 4) help thicken the groove, and we’ve modernized the whole piece by adding a funky drum-set beat in Ex. 5. Ex. 6 is a djembe lick that can be played at the beginning or the ending of the rhythm. For some authentic sounou sounds, check out recordings by master drummers Abdoul Doumbia and B’kaye Kouyate.

Drummer for The Motet, Dave Watts is also the primary composer and arranger of all the band's music. He has most recently performed and recorded with Keller Williams, Kyle Hollingsworth, and George Porter. Scott Messersmith grew up in New Orleans as a freelance percussionist and in 1997 moved to Boulder, Colorado, where he and Watts met and together planted the seeds of The Motet. They have studied Cuban, Brazilian, and West African music traditions and have brought these influences to the forefront of The Motet's music.

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