The Lobi and Dagara nations of West Africa have, over centuries, developed a highly refined manner of performance, and a vast and complex repertoire. Their marimba, the gyil utilizes a technique wherein as many as three intertwining bass/baritone lines in the left hand set tonality and groove, while the right hand trades melodies with the soloist’s sung voice and improvises according to that melody. It seems upon first hearing solo gyil, that two or more musicians are playing simultaneously.

Marimbists who have been fortunate enough to study gyil become blessed with uncanny “independence”, “ sense of articulation”, and “sense of phrasing”. These are skills with a centuries-old pedagogy, skills that any good marimbist can attain.

This clinic will briefly introduce the gyil; delve, on marimba, into specific techniques; and highlight transcriptions at all technical levels, of Lobi/Dagara gyil music for both solo marimba and percussion ensemble.


MP3 Download: Introductory Song: Banda Jel :

Which contains all of the elements to be analyzed during the course of the clinic

1) Brief history and demonstration of the gyil Song “Joro”

2) Techniques that can inform marimba playing

a) Meta-dependence – explain the manner in which two mallets play five distinct lines simultaneously – play example 1 “Darkpe”

b) Meta-metrics – explain how two hands play two different meters simultaneously – play example 2 from “Fer Barre Kona Jeno” *

c) Lyrical approach to articulation – explain how this music is derived directly from the spoken/sung word – play from “Ganda Yina” **

d) Call/response or tension/release approach to phrasing, (not exclusive to African music, yet vitally important) explain and play from “Banda Jel” ***

3) West African gyil ensemble for Western Percussion Ensemble, using instruments that are readily available. (Please refer to the audio upload)

a) Kaang Koun Kpar – for solo marimba, three hand drums, and shaker.

b) Guun – 9 movements for gyil solo and percussion quartet (including two marimbas, timpani, bass drum, steel pan, 3 snare drums and various ethnic instruments (optional) – play movement I

c) Goodbye – for solo marimba and 4 pairs of claves

Introductory Song: Banda Jel (Which contains all of the elements to be analyzed during the course of the clinic)

+ Since this music is readily accessible, it would be nice to work with local university percussion students to present the ensemble works. I am willing to arrange such logistics.


Transcriptions and Downloads

Banda Jel

Kakraba Lobi left his home at an early age. Being younger and smaller in stature than most independent men, he was routinely disrespected and defrauded. History tells that he named himself “Banda Jel” (Lizard Egg), which has a very thick shell of a rubbery quality. You cannot cut it – it rolls away. You cannot stomp it – it rolls away. If you throw it at a wall it bounces back to you. Kakraba was never ready to give up or to shrink from adversity. This “self portrait” depicts the gentleness, vivaciousness, sense of humor, and drive needed to realize a dream.

Click to view



Song collection Number 2 – three short traditional pieces in three different grooves; one easy (for 4 1/3 octave marimba) , one intermediate (for 4 1/2 octave marimba), and one advanced (for 5 octave marimba).

Click to view

Fra_Fra_Song_p1 (.pdf)

Goodbye_p.1 (.pdf)

SOUND CLIPS – Downloads

06 Nanye 1′

08 Fer Barre Kona Jeno 30_

Youtube Video of “Song Collection Number Two” selections