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Set work: 'Yiri'

Yiri by Koko

The main instruments used in Yiri are:

  • the balaphone, which is similar to a xylophone and is made up of wooden bars, 
  • the djembe which is a drum shaped like a goblet and played with the hands 
  • the talking drum that is played with a hooked stick and can be used to imitate speech by creating different pitches and slides.

A Background look on Yiri

In Yiri, there six musicians each dedicated to a different instrument:

  • Madou Kone - vocals, balaphone and flute.
  • Sydou Traore - vocals and balaphone.
  • Jacouba Kone - djembe
  • Francois Naba - vocals, tam-tam, dundun and maracas.
  • Keresse Sanou - talking drum
  • Tidiane Hema who does vocals and plays the maracas.

There are three clear strands in Yiri:

  • The balaphone ostinato - in combination, these produce a complex polyphonic texture.
  • The drum ostinato - in this piece they play a relentless one-bar pattern.
  • The vocal line - this is a simple pentatonic call and response structure.

Points to note about Yiri by Koko:

  • The tempo stays unvaried.
  • The beat is regular and unvarying providing a good beat.
  • The drum ostinatos persist throughout the music.
  • The dynamics are largely unvaried. 
  • Yiri is in the key of G flat major and is hexatonic meaning it is based on a size-note scale.
  • The balaphones tend to play short patterns from high to low emphasising G and D. They have solo breaks in between choruses which are more vituosic.
  • It is in 4/4 which is four crochet beats to every bar. However it does revert to other metres in a few bars such as 6/4 and 3/4.
  • Syncopation is used mostly in the vocals and balaphone sections.
  • The drums play a rhythmic ostinato which lasts throughout the piece consisting of a quaver and two semi-quavers played over and over again.
  • There is monophonic texture at the beginning which leads on to be heterophonic.
  • Balaphone at beginning uses tremolos and grace notes as decoration.
Russell Meyers,
Jul 13, 2011, 6:20 AM