Shave and a haircut, two bits

Shave and a haircut, two bits

“Shave and a haircut, two bits” is an aural folk rhythm of American culture. Anyone born or living in the US knows that rhythm. But when we look at its origins, we can see that there are discrepancies. The second note of the rhythm is where our ears let us down. If we were to count out the rhythm, the word ‘and’ is where mainstream culture gets rhythmically lazy. Our ears are the laziest part of the human body. They hear what they want to hear, putting the second note on a downbeat instead of an upbeat which is where it belongs to make it swing like Bo Diddley or any Afro Cuban band. “Close enough” is what our ears are telling us. This may work when we were listening to Ozzie and Harriet, but now ethnic grooves are saturating our technological culture in so many ways that our personal sense of what is rhythmically correct is being questioned, resulting in a certain level of uncertainty and even anxiety in our perception of the world. I work with this rhythm as a therapy with drumming and the results are fascinating. We have a survival trait that eliminates unnecessary date inflow, in order to keep us from info overload. Our senses are filters allowing only certain levels of sound, taste, touch, sensations of any kind; including rhythm. But with rhythm sensing, we have a disadvantage based on what our ancestors allowed us to feel; which was not much, considering that morality had a big say in just how little folks were allowed to shake their bootie. So we do not hear the subtle syncopation in the Clave rhythm, or Bo Diddley beat and put the second note on a “safe” downbeat. And it sounds lifeless. If we can hear the sixteenth note BEFORE that safe downbeat. One de and DA; and put the second note there, suddenly the world changes. We are swinging. It is an adventure in rhythmic healing, taking a chance; putting the littlest note in that spot pushes the groove into another realm, and that is where the trance really is. The combination is referred to as a ‘three two clave’ meaning that the five note signature lick is grouped into first three notes, then two notes. Firstly we need to get the three notes into a tripolet form. They are evenly spaced where the second note is pushed to hit just before the humdrum downbeat. Then comes the last two notes as the mop up crew. When someone finds this rhythm in themselves, they light up like a Christmas tree; it makes my day. We are discovering that we can psychologically shift out of trauma patterns by learning new rhythms with our hands. This is momentous stuff in this new field of rhythm therapy and we can thank the groove makers like Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Willy Dixon and the rest for their innate survival wisdom that comes up into our busy minds from a deep well of understanding that does not use the intellect so much as soothe it, or rather puts our critical mind into neutral for a while so that we can experience the truth and soulful wisdom that does not exist in words, but in our hearts and bodies. Take a chance and dance for true romance!

excerpt: “History of the Groove” Russell Buddy Helm ©2014 all rights reserved

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