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Body percussion:the art of utilizing the human body to create sounds and rhythms

Updated on September 12, 2012
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Michelle is a professional freelance writer who loves music, poetry, pets, and the arts. She is a techno-geek as well.

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The human body is indeed a wonderful musical tool, an instrument everyone has at all times. When utilized at its fullest musical potential, the sounds it produces are awe inspiring and can keep your feet and hands moving the entire day.

So it is that I discuss body percussion, a musical genre that anyone can enjoy. Simply put, body percussion is the use of the human body to create rhythm.It can include hitting the chest, slapping the thighs, stomping the feet, clapping, whistling or even flicking the cheeks. In the case of Ethiopian music, even armpits are used to create percussive sounds and rhythms!

The four main sound that head this amazing percussive variety of music are

Stomping

Pastch

Clapping

Snapping

These sounds are produced by the most accessible musical instrument to us all, the human body.


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Why I love body percussion

There are many reasons why body percussion is a much loved musical form.It is truly fascinating how the human body can create the most enchanting rhythms imaginable!

It is accessible.

Even if one may think that he or she is not musical, everyone has an innate sense of rhythm. Everyone can make use of the human body to create sounds, even if he or she has not had much training in music.

It in inexpensive.

Body percussion is experiencing music in the most cost free way possible. There is no need to purchase expensive musical instruments for musical enjoyment!

Body percussion is mobile!

One may need a little space, but body percussion can be experienced anywhere, at any time. You only need to move the most mobile musical instrument of all - yourself!

Body percussion is truly creative expression.

Personally, one of the most creative forms of expression is doing things from scratch, and body percussion really involves creating out of almost nothing. it is musical expression in its barest form.

It can be performed on its own or with instruments.

Body percussion can be enjoyed on its own or with musical instruments. So if there is no instrument available, there is nothing to fear. Music can still be enjoyed anyway!

Creating rhythms is a fun activity anyone can enjoy. Once involved, the snapping and the foot stomping is difficult to stop!

Saman Dance from Acheh

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Different types of body percussion

Body percussion is an ancient musical form which has been used by people the world over since time immemorial. Here are some of the oldest forms of body percussion still used in parts of the world today.

Ethiopian Armpit Music

Hailing from Africa, this form of music was enjoyed in courtship rituals and of course as entertainment. Musical instruments were not easily available, so the human body was turned to as a form of enjoyment. It may sound quirky, but the armpits create terrific rhythms. Ethiopian Armpit Music is a captivating and one of the earliest forms of

The Gumboot

Close to the African heart, The Gumboot is essentially the music of Africa, involving the use of the gumboots as a drum kit. Originally performed in the diamond mines of South Africa, black diamond mine workers were not allowed to talk, so they stomped their gumboots as a form of enjoyment and communication. This form of music later evolved into a dance form which honored their struggles.

The Indonesian Saman

A harmonious dance hailing from Indonesia, specifically Acheh and performed in the Gayo language, this dance is traditionally performed by men in odd numbers. It uses body percussion in a subtle way, including clapping, rocking motions and other movements in complete harmony.

Two rows of odd numbered performers dance in unison, in what is actually a religious ritual. led by a Sheikh, this tempo of the dance increases as it progresses, making it interesting to watch.

The Hambone

Body percussion is a popular form of music in the USA, with popular percussion groups and performers coming to the fore. So, what is the Hambone?

This percussive dance, also known as the Pattin' Juba was an African-American plantation dance brought over to the United States by West African plantation workers who performed it because rhythmic instruments were not allowed due to fear of secret codes hidden in the drumming.

The Juba is a percussive dance style that includes steps line the "Pigeon Wing" and "Blow the Candle Out." It usually ends with a step known as the "Long Dog Scratch." Modern Tap dances of today have their history in the Hambone!

The flamenco

Having its roots in Andalusa and a dance of the roman gypsies who brought it over to Spain, the flamenco is a combination of music, song and dance.The dance is percussive, characterized by clapping and rhythmic tapping. Body slapping is sometimes used as well. A social dance, it is very much enjoyed still.

Stepping

A percussive dance developed by African American college students, this dance uses steps, claps and the spoken word to produce a compelling combination of sound and movement.

Clogging

Another percussive dance style, clogging was a rhythmic dance movement developed during the industrial revolution in the United Kingdom. Industrial workers wore clogs, and these were used to tap on each other as well as on the floor. it can be performed with song or in accompaniment with tap dance.

Tap Dance

A more modern form of dance that has its roots in the Juba, this involves tapping shoes to create rhythmic phrases. It gravitates towards the jazz form. although it can involve some clapping, tap dance focuses mainly on, of course, the feet.


River Dance

A flamenco dance

Why is body percussion useful

Body percussion is not just a form of entertainment - it can be useful in many ways.

Bonding

Body percussion can be used as an ice-breaking, team building activity among staff in an office, or even in the classroom to create rapport. Percussion games can be weaved in to help people break the ice.

I used to use body percussion at the start of the year with new music classes. in a form of Simon Says, I got students to either follow a rhythm created by anyone in the class or, if Simon did not say anything, to create their own rhythms others may have to continue. For restless teens, it was a lot of fun.

Body percussion can be learned by anyone.

It is a perfect musical form for those who do not want to handle musical instruments to learn. All one needs is a sense of rhythm, which all of us, believe it or not, innately have.

Body percussion is fun!

If anyone is stuck for a quick fun activity at any time, why not try body percussion? It is inexpensive and a great stress reliever!

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Keith Terry Performs

Famous Body Percussionists

Keith Terry

An accomplished musician and dancer, this profoundly talented gentleman founded Cross-Pulse, a non-profit organization dedicated to inter-cultural music and dance. Keith began displacing what he was learning on the drums onto the human body. Influenced by the percussive dance moves mentioned earlier, he soon developed unique body rhythms very much his own.

Terry believes in internalizing rhythms, which can then be expressed in any number of ways.

Stomp

A phenomenal percussion group hailing from the United Kingdom, they have used percussive music so uniquely that it has become a form of its own. These performers not only experiment with body percussion, they combine it with the use of any everyday objects they can find.

Stomp! is so popular that it is used quite extensively in music education today to make activities in the classroom more engaging. I often get students to bring objects from home which can be used to create rhythms in groups. If they did not have instruments, the solution was simple.Just use the body!

The Barbatuques

From Brazil, this fantastic group uses the human body to create an wonderful organic mix of sounds. Scenic and talented, the group has a repertoire of its own improvisations, compositions and interacts well with audiences.\

River Dance

An Irish dance group, these fine young men and women tap dance to Irish rhythms to a fantastically quick beat . Pulsating and forceful, this group's percussive style is an up tempo one which is difficult to beat.

Body percussion is accessible, inexpensive musical fun. It is also a creative way for all to enjoy themselves!

Copyright (C) by Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin

No part of this work is to be reproduced without prior consent of the author.

Stomp Out Loud

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      Jeane Dave Salida Baterbonia 11 months ago

      I like body percussion. where can I study about how we do body percussion?

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for the link, Angy.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for the link!

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      Angy 4 years ago

      Hi, i lke this web about bodypercussion for childrens:

      www.bodypercussion-bapne.com

      Best regards

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      Charles 4 years ago

      Hi, I found this article about body percussion. I love it:

      http://www.jhse.ua.es/jhse/article/view/556/749

      Maybe you like it

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      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      What an enjoyable Hub to read! I saw the group Stomp a couple of years ago and loved them. I'm an ole country girl, you know, and clogging was very popular where I grew up.

      Voted UP, etc. and shared.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Doc. Check out another hub I have on Vocal Percussion too. It's a subset of this! Thanks for sharing!

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      Mohan Kumar 4 years ago from UK

      A- ha- so that's what its called. I have been delighting (?) my kids with various musical notes by tapping, clapping, making guitar noises with my nose etc. Now it has a legitimate name. body percussion. Awesome. shared!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, they are talented, newusedcarsscram! But anyone can do this. Just have fun! Thanks for dropping in!

    • newusedcarssacram profile image

      newusedcarssacram 4 years ago from Sacramento, CA, U.S.A

      Interesting hub! But to make beautiful and creative sound and music patterns by using body involves lots of regular practices. So, the people who are doing this are really talented.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Wow, Peggy! You take Zumba classes!! How cool!! Movement always generates positive energy!! I enjoyed Riverdance when they came here to Singapore. Talented and wonderful performers. Thanks for dropping in and sharing!

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      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Great hub Michelle! Part of the exercise classes we are participating in at our local gym consist of a few Zumba dances and part of what we do at different stages include clapping hands or clapping our thighs at different points during the exercise. Makes it fun! The videos you included are great fun. I love those River Dance performers! Up votes and sharing.

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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Hi, Rema! Guess that's because of my own music teaching background. was introduced to body percussion when I first led a band and some of my students caught on. We all love it! Thanks for coming by!

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      Rema T V 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      I am wondering how I missed this hub of yours Michelle. It is fascinating, entertaining and informative. Superb. How did you think of making a hub on such a creative and interesting topic? Fantastic.

      I enjoyed the hub especially the Indonesian Saman dance video. And all the great pictures too. Hats off Michelle! Cheers, Rema.

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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Alecia! glad that it was comprehensive enough. I can see that you are really into music, so do give body percussion a try! You'll definitely enjoy it! thanks for coming by!

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      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      When I read the title, all I could think of was beatboxing but this has opened a whole new world up for me in terms of learning about music. Very interesting and informative hub!

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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Eddy! Glad you've enjoyed it!!

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      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      A great hub midget and thanks for sharing.

      Eddy.

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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Ah, will look into that, Hatter! Thanks for coming by and glad the music provided entertainment!

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      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Don't forget the German's crazy slap dancing. Seriously, thank you for this. It was very entertaining and informative.

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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Glad you like the music, Richard!! Percussion is a universal experience and it can be enjoyed by all. Thanks for coming by!

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      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Michelle -

      Don't know how I missed this. Great job! So many example given and a great storyline to go with it! Am familiar with many of these, but some are brand new. Great Hub!

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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      I guess the pain can be ignored after a while, Jo! the Spanish would definitely do a great flamenco...glad it got you dancing! Thanks for coming by!

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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Body percussion will be great for the little ones, Sasha! Blessings to them! Thanks for coming by!

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      Sasha Kim 5 years ago

      Fabulous hub Michelle! I really enjoyed all the examples from all over the world. With two little ones I use body percussion to entertain them on a daily basis ^_^ voted up and pinned

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      Jo Alexis-Hagues 5 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      I love STOMP and River dance, I saw the Flamingo performed in Madrid years ago, I was still vibrating when we left, I probably sat too close to the stage. A great idea, body music, but maybe a touch painful. :) This is amazing as usual. Voting up.

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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Audrey!! Thanks so much!! Really grateful for the share and am so glad you've stopped by!

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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      I Love, Love this!!! Music is everywhere!!! Sharing this everywhere!

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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks Jools, for coming by!! Percussion bands are fascinating to watch. It's awesome how they manage to create rhythms just using their bodies alone!! Thanks so much for the lovely comment and the share!

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      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      Michelle, interesting hub. I have seen a band a bit like STOMP. I saw them play outdoor live in the park at Edinburgh and they were amazing; almost the whole of Princes Street was at a standstill.

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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Body percussion is cool, Ignugent, and people used it as a form of creative expression before the actual introduction of instruments. Glad it's been informative! Thanks for coming in, Meldz!

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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      It's a great icebreaker, especially for the older ones, Janine. Glad that the teacher in you enjoyed it! Thanks for the vote and sharing, my friend.

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      ignugent17 5 years ago

      Michelle,

      In the Philippines they have this contest in some shows. They are using the body to create sound. I know armpit is very common. I did not know the different forms of body percussion. Thank you very much for the information. Enjoyed it!

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      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      Michelle, I loved your article on body percussion and especially loved it different uses like being able to use it for ice breakers in a classroom. The teacher in me enjoyed hearing about using it indeed in this way. Thank you for sharing this one and have voted up, shared and tweeted too!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Body percussion is the art of using the human body to create sound and rhythm. There are different forms of body percussion and it is not only creative, but useful. Get to know famous body percussionists.