I had the opportunity to build a djembe for a man that designed a beautiful app called Piti Piti Pa. The app is a learning tool for students of West African Rhythms. It’s basically a library of traditional rhythms broken up by drum – shows notation – and has tempo adjustment… I’ll talk about the app in a minute, but first I want to brag on this beautiful djembe.
This drum is a customized RHD Pro Series Djembe, hard maple with walnut accents and a rubber foot. This djembe is just over 14″ diameter (a big guy). The engraving is of the app logo and the developers name. I love how it came out – but it wasn’t so easy.
The build went smooth as usual but I ran into some problems with the engraved fill color running into the grain of the maple. DEEP. So deep that I made a new base, sealed it with shellac, did a paper mask, engraved it, sealed it again with shellac, then did extremely light coats of the fill color. All in all it came out great. I love the natural contrast of the walnut and maple together. It’s a nice mix.
And here is the finished custom djembe!
So – about the app?
Piti Piti Pa – “Piti Piti Pa is an archive of African and African-influenced rhythms played with Djembe, Dununba, Sangban and Kenkeni instruments.”
Available on iPhone and Android.
Here is my official review:
I first downloaded this app on my iPhone and was immediately surprised and at ease by the user interface. Very intuitive and easy to navigate. I scrolled through the list of rhythms to see that almost all the popular West African rhythms I had learned or knew of where included along with some more traditional and not so popular rhythms. My initial reaction was this is a serious tool for learning West African rhythms.
I was pleased to find a tempo section to slow down some of the more complicated areas of some of these rhythms, it’s also a great tool to speed up a rhythm and practice playing at a more natural tempo. A lot of learning and instructional media for djembe demonstrates the rhythms much slower than they are actually meant to be played. Something that’s always bugged me a bit. Nothing bugs me like going to an African influenced drum circle and hearing Macaru played at a slow walking pace 🙂 OK, maybe there are some worse things, but.. Lets keep the pace up!
Isolating the different instruments in the ensemble is a huge help. These rhythms are complex and being able to break down the complete rhythm by each part or instrument is a must. Some of the bell patterns on the dunun section get tricky, and Piti Piti Pa lays it out in a comprehensive way.
I also really enjoyed the way the visual cues match the audio. The rhythm scrolls and highlights the note being played while the rhythm is playing. A huge plus on this app is that the audio is recorded drums – not MIDI or synthetic sounds to mimic a djembe or dunun which never quite get it – but actual drum recordings so it sounds like an actual rhythm being played. Very good idea to go this route! It really brings the app together and makes it that much better to use.
My only gripe with the app is that when I switched to an android phone – and downloaded the app again, I was a bit disappointed that the user interface I loved about the iPhone version was different. It doesn’t feel quite as natural on the android, but still plenty usable. Same quality audio and functions – just a little different. It definitely feels smoother on the iPhone.
Overall, the small price for the app is well worth all the info and knowledge at your fingertips. If you are a student of West African percussion this is the best app (or learning tool for that matter) that I have come across. I hope the developer ventures out and does a similar app for conga rhythms! Piti Piti Pa has my highest endorsement!