Jungle Drums

Augie Goupil; Thurston Knudson

Cover of the 1952 album Jungle Drums shows a line illustration of a percussionist over a solid orange background

Album Title: Jungle Drums

Artist(s): Augie Goupil; Thurston Knudson

Year: 1952

Genre(s)/Style(s): Polynesian

Track Listing:

  1. Conga Kongo
  2. Te Moana
  3. Orare Orare
  4. Marara
  5. Rhumba Uganda
  6. Sambo Tembo

Note: Something off? Please submit any album corrections in the comments.

Liner, Listening & Album Notes:

A re-issue of the 1941 recordings.

From the original (very dated) album liner notes…

Notes by Thurston Knudson

In the tropic belt which encircles the globe natives play upon their drums hi a manner which powerfully induces responsive movement in a listener. In the Belgian Congo. i laiti. Cuba. Brazil, the South Seas, Bali, India, Arabia, or Algeria (or even in temperate Beale Street or Harlem), there are strange similarities, not only in the swinging technique with which the hands move in beating on a drum-head, but also in the actual syncopated rhythms which have so insidious an effect. It has been the life-work of the present writer and composer of the accompanying album to find out which “jungle” rhythms are “con, e.- last ,hat patterns are used throughout the tot rid zone. and exactly what differences in drum-lingering exist in one region as opposed to those employed in another. His research has enabled him to identify the most “compulsive” of jungle rhythms as the same general “wave-pattern” which has permeated and given energy to much of our popular music during the last half-century in successive differing guises: “ragtime,” “iazz,” “swing,” “boogie-woogie”—and the current Latin-American variants.

That this general rhythmic “wave-pattern” was introduced to the New World by African slaves has been hell established. That the similarities to be found in certain rhythms used by non tropic dwellers elsewhere could be explained by the early and wide spread of  and the penchant of other races for imitating  grotesquerie is an interesting matter for speculation—but not essential to the author’s dynamic theory of the origins of rhythm. The author’s theory can lie staled in terms as simple as this: Mao’s idea of rhythm came into being because he had first made natural movements; conversely, the playing of a naturally evolved rhythm will tend to suggest movements like those which gave rise to the idea in the first place.

The motion of a man’s two legs in walking straight forward made him associate the basic even-numbered rhythm. “ONE-two,” with a bodily feeling of free. ,trees,ful progress. Beating a stick again, a hollow log with a pendular swing of the arm in that rhythm, resulting in an “elastic,” “bouncing” sound, could reawaken the same bodily feeling in a listener who hail previously walked. Since everyone treads heavier on one foot than on the other, deviation from straight forward progress is necessary for the idea to grow naturally in man’s mind of an odd-numbered rhythm (with an odd number of even-timed foot-steps to the measure). Beating out .a rhythm of this latter sort can tend to awaken a bodily feeling of restraint or hindrance.

The natural pendular swing of the arms in walking, causing a hand-slap against the leg to come midway between foot-steps. could easily have suggested an off-beat syncopation. A foot-step so “suggested” could not always conveniently be carried out; but a certain degree of nervous excitement does take place. Such a “premature explosion” of nervous energy tends to be accompanied by an exciting and pleasurable sensation (exemplified in the case of a sneeze). Primitive man may have found still more excitement in slap-ping his leg a little harder than normally.. that a hand-slap came alternately midway between foot-steps. then with a foot-step. then midway be-tween, and so on. If the reader will verify this, he will find he is making three hand-slaps for every four foot-steps; and he is hearing the “jazz wave-pattern” in its simplest form as jungle man prob-ably first discovered it. (Jungle man. probably—because we hid the pattern throughout the jungle belt, and because jungle man has more need for an anaesthetic and/or stimulant than do most men.) The “compulsion” of this rhythm is very strong, indeed: a happy balance between the expected and the unexpected.

A Central African variant of the stirring Carib-bean conga dance which took its name from the long, barrel-shaped drum, open at the small end, the explosive rhythm of which predominates. An origin for the Caribbean form. it has been suggested. may lie in the restraint imposed on the walk of  captives on the old slave-ships: their fourth step in any direction was hurriedly jerked b. cause of the chains on their legs. In spite of this “restraint,” the rhythm is still conceived in the “mode of freedom” because the even-numbered off-beat accompaniment of “hand-slap” syncopation proceeds smoothly without any interruption. In the African form presented in this record it is the second step of four in a measure which is hurriedly “jerked.” The solo figures are played bare-handed on the ngoma (a generic East African term for a large drum with a skin head). The African form of the conga drum is also played bare-handed. Conventional Cuban percussion furnishes the background.

A Tahitian phrase meaning “The Deep” or “The Ocean.” This composition is a photograph in rhythm of a war-canoe being propelled through large waves. The phrasing is Tahitian; some of the drum-fingering, African. The rhythmic odd-numbered feeling of “three” at the beginning is soon resolved into the free, even-numbered one of “four.”

A quaint old Tahitian chant which, strangely enough, is sung generally to an accompaniment of hands slapping the knee in an exact counterpart of the Cuban conga rhythm in which the “jerk” occurs just before the fourth heat in the measure. Augie Goupil contributes the characteristic Tahitian vocal effects by means of a fine control of the diaphragm. He also plays the toere (Tahitian wood-block) solo. The Pahau (Tahitian large drum with a skin head) is heard in the finale.

The Tahitian term for the Samoan and Hawaiian malólo, or flying-fish. This composition is another photograph in rhythm of the sporting in the sea of one of its best-loved inhabitants. The phrasing is Tahitian; the drum-fingering, African.

The ngoma and African conga are played bare-handed with authentic Uganda (East African) drum-fingering over a conventional Cuban percussion background as an outstanding example of the wide-spread use of the rhythm typical of the Caribbean rhumba. In the finale is heard on the tigonia an African elaboration of the familiar rhythm ordinarily played by the Cuban elates (a pair of short sticks of piercing sound).

SAMBA TEMBO (“Elephant” samba)
The samba is a Brazilian dance-form in which a relatively simple syncopated background under-lies solo and obbligato melodies moving in fast and complex  patterns. Throughout Central Africa such an arrangement is commonly toed. In this record the more complex rhythms are played bare-handed on the ngonta to take the place of the conventional melodic line. The long gourd rasp and Latin-American tympani supply the characteristic Brazilian accompaniment.

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