Issue 30: A simple version of Kuku for Djembes

This is a simplified 3-part djembe pattern based on “Kuku”, which I learned from a colleague. It uses just tone and bass sounds. Part 1 makes a good accompaniment to the song “Funmje Alafia“.

Part 1 (over 16 beats)

beats 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
tone R
bass R L R
Where’s my Choc Late


beats 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
tone L L R
bass R R
Give me my Choc Late

This takes weeks and weeks to teach; some children can do it nearly straight away, others struggle for ever. INSIST on using the correct hands; rather than say “Left” or “Right”, use the words “Best” hand and “Other” hand in order to avoid confusing left- and right-handed chldren. Start with your “Best” hand and get the children to sit on their other hand if necessary! It’s useful if you can demonstrate the pattern left-handed and right-handed. Sp,etimes I roll up one of my sleeves, so that the children can clearly see the two hands being different.

Teach the word “Choc-late” first. Add “Where’s” and “Give”, and that’s quite enough to start with. These are all played with you “Best” hand.

Next, complete the first half of the pattern with the “other” hand playing a bass for “my”. It might be helpful to say the words with a pitched voice; growl “where’s my choc” and squeak “late”.

Use the same slow and steady process to teach the second half; by now you will have to be extra vigilant and determined about insisting on which hand they use. If the children get “lost”, encourage them to go right back to “Where’s — choc-late, Give — — choc-late” with just one hand, and then pick up the rest of the pattern from there.


Part 2 and part 3 don’t normally give as much trouble;

Part 2 (over 8 beats)

  beats 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
tone R L R
bass R L R
Doub -le Doub- -le Choc -late

(this chart originally had the highlighted beats written as bass notes rather than tones; this is the corrected version)


Part 3 (over 8 beats)

  beats 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
tone R L R L R L
Give Me My Choc -late cake

Layering up the three patterns can be quite a challenge! Don’t try it until all three patterns are solid.

I’ve looked at various version of Kuku on the internet – they all appear to be different, and tend to have comments along the lines of “this is the way we like to play it”, or “this is our version”.  So, this is “Simon’s Version” for primary school children.




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