Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Limited vocal range in Rap and Native American Shamanic singing. As well as rhythm dictation by a beat, or drum.

Rap music has many different faces and different versions, but overall rap music is a form of music that incorporates poetry with music. Rap though not always can be a very monotone type of music when it comes to vocal ranges. Most rappers don't really focus on the dynamics of their voice; instead they rather use their voice as the main way of sending their message. The monotone voice, if given the right beat or rhythm, may add a nice flow to the song, almost like a droning sound in an Indian raga, or the drone pipes in the bag pipes of Scotland. Rapping in a monotone does capture the audience in the way that it is able to keep the music on one level. The only changes come from the beats of the background music. Vocal range isn't necessarily important since rap is mainly sought after for the message it is sending out. With that being mentioned, we now look at how the main component of a rap song is its beat.
The rhythm of the song is laid out for the whole song. What makes up the rhythm is the base beat, the “Bom. Bom. Bom.” sound that can most definitely be heard in all rap songs unless the rap is “freestyled” (where the rapper is strictly only using his voice as the main rhythmic dictator). Although rap has other musical components, rap at its most simple form consists of a beat for rhythmic structure, and of course the rapper who will rap the song. Rap relies heavily on the base beat for its main structure. The base beat can be compared to the base line in any orchestral piece, it unifies the whole piece by giving it a foundation and structure.

The rap in the video is a good example of what I was trying to say. The rapper does not fluctuate his voice whatsoever to try to harmonize or anything. It is simply monotone to give the rap that nice flow. If you notice, the fact that he is rapping in a monotone gives emphasis to the beat and music in the background. Sound is a key part of what people look for in a rap song. This definitely embodies the simple but effective way of executing a rap effectively.

Native American Shamanic singing:
            Shamanic chant is usually used in most Native American tribes, for healing ceremonies, where the sham(an/en) is the only one who knows what the text is talking about to their gods. It can include more than one person and most certainly more than one drum. This music uses monotone for the person to enter a state of trance. Monotone is able to do this because it keeps the listener focused on what he or she is listening to, again like the drone pipes of a bagpipe. It’s a way keeping the melody simple and allows for any improvisation by any other voices (if any). The monotone is shamanic chant is used mainly as a drone as the video will show. The male voice does the monotone and the female is able to act on it by improvising and changing herpitch throughout the song.
            The drum also plays a key part in shamanic chant (or any sort of Native American chant) because to Native Americans, it is a way to communicate to higher beings, their Gods in other words. When put into musical terms, the drum is the foundation for rhythm in they Shamanic chants. It sets the layout of whatever the song will be, but the drum, being that it is such an important part of Native American music, not only keeps time. The drum player can speed up or slow down the song at his own will, depending on the intensity of the ceremony, and this adds to the texture of the piece entirely, as is seen and heard in the video.

In the beginning of the song in the video, it is a bit hard to pick up on the monotone, which isn’t unusual for this type of chant, since the degree of monotone depends on how intense the moment is for the singer. The video proves that the monotone allows for the other singer to fluctuate her voice in an improvisational sort of way. The video also shows how the development of the drum is key to how the chant is carried out and concluded. The drum allows for a wide range of melodies to be produced with the same rhythm, and then change it in an instant ot something else.

            Both rap and shamanic chant share the fact that they have monotone, but the way they are used is very different. In rap the rapper uses the monotone to either make the background music more evident, or to make the message clear to the audience. The rhythm key in rap is he base beat, which is heard in all rap songs. It allows for the rap to remain on a steady pace, and as well as keeping time, it also adds to the musical texture of the piece.
            The monotone in Native American Shamanic chant is mainly used as a gateway to a state of trance, but like I previously mentioned, it also serves as a drone like in many other types of music. The drone allows for improvisation and a sense of polyphony in the chant, which isn’t really seen a whole lot in Native American music (polyphony). The drums in Native American music serve almost the same purpose as the base beat in rap. They add to the texture of the piece while being the key component of the rhythm and the song.

·         Densmore, The American Indians and Their Music (rev. ed. 1936); C. Kaywood, A Bibliography of North American Folklore and Folksong (1951); C. Hofman, American Indians Sing (1967); and many books by F. Densmore on music of individual tribes (most repr. 1972).
·         Gupta, Sourabh. "History of Rap Music." Buzzle Web Portal: Intelligent Life on the Web. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <>.
·         "YouTube - Shamanic Drumming and Chant Rattle." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <>.
·         "YouTube - MF Doom - Mr. Clean." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <>.
·         "Native American Drums Have a Rich and Sacred History." NativeNet - Dedicated to Literature of Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <>.
·         Lyon, William S. "Encyclopedia of Native American Healing." Google Books. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <>.