100 Years of Beat

Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany
26 Apr 2018 - 29 Apr 2018

100 Years of Beat

The first drum set came on the market in 1918 and triggered a musical revolution: It took over urban dance music and established the triad of bass drum, snare and hi-hat as the combination used the world over. While percussion in European music had long only had an embellishing function, now the drummed backbeat became the heartbeat of music. In others words, African diasporic beat practices in North America and the Caribbean completely realigned European-defined music.

100 Years of Beat tells this story and investigates the relationship between played and programmed beats. It presents style-formative drummers and explores (back) beat concepts from Brazil, Japan, Ghana, and the Congo as well as rhythm practices of Indian and Colombian music.

When in the eighteenth century drums were prohibited in North America—partly in fear that enslaved Africans and African Americans would use them as a means to organize revolts—the instruments disappeared, but not the drumming. Instead of using instruments, people then drummed on barrels and with spoons and “pattin’ juba” (also known as the “hambone”) was developed. This dance that uses the entire body as a drum introduced the roles given to the various frequencies that were later transferred to the bass drum, snare and hi-hat.

The first proto-jazz dance orchestras of the late nineteenth century performed with multiple drummers, each playing on one drum. Then, in 1918, the Ludwig Drum Company in Chicago put the first drum set on the market with bass drum, snare, hi-hat, tom toms and cymbals. With two foot-pedals, drummers were now able to play four instruments at one time. Similar to “pattin’ juba,” now only one body was responsible for the beat.

HKW curator Detlef Diederichsen explores the music of the past 100 years and traces leitmotifs of pop history from unexpected perspectives.

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Find the complete program here

Some selected events on Sunday, Apr 29:

15h Lecture Freddi Williams Evans: Congo Square. African Culture in New Orleans
The prize-winning author talks about the square where, in the 18th and 19th century, enslaved and liberated Africans and their descendents laid the foundation stone for African-American music culture.

16h Panel Tracing Roots and Breaking Ground in Sonic
Continuities, breaks, cultural heritage, or innovation—how does the history of African American music relate to the African diaspora? How has Black culture shaped the sound of modernity?

17h Lecture He Zhao: The Beat Continuum
The anarcho-musicologist on how colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade impacted on the sociopolitical evolution of African rhythms in the Americas.

18h Panel Global Pulse with Stefanie Alisch, Angie Balata, Flowking Stone und He Zhao, Moderation: Georg Milz
The pulse of the backbeat is omnipresent in Pop music. How can global musical innovation be understood as the result of migration? What role does the beat play in global musical history?




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