“Hambone, hambone/Where have you been?/’Round the world and back again”
Hearing this rhythm always makes me smile…Some call it, “Hand Jive,” others say “Bo Diddley Beat,” it has origins embedded all over the world.
For thousands of years, drum rhythms have served purpose for communication, special occasions, and celebrations. Long ago, these rhythms were spread around the planet, along with the people who played them.
The songs Pattin’ Juba and Hambone emerged from 18th
century plantations in North America. Both incorporate a syncopated rhythm. In other words, a rhythm accenting the off beat. The songs also use the body as a rhythm instrument. Patting the thighs, clapping, and stomping up a stunning patterns and improvisation, true Hambone players are an interesting spectacle. Afro-Cuban rhythms on the claves (short wood sticks that make a clicking sound) are also syncopated in a similar manner to the Hambone or Juba rhythm.
So how do you Hambone? Let’s start with the knee slap:
Slowly, stomp your foot to a steady beat. Now count 1, 2, 3, 4 each time you stomp. Add a knee slap on the thigh, followed by a slap on the chest, end with a slap on the inner thigh on each beat. Challenge yourself and try it with both hands and build speed. Practice until you can make the chest slap louder than the others. Now you are accenting the off beat. Try and make your Hambone sound like the Hand Jive or Bo Diddley Beat.
Calling all students songwriters, musicians and singers! We are looking for submissions to be showcased in our Cleveland County Artists feature: