I'm busy designing a directors pitch for a "neo-noir" feature film. One of the elements is obviously sound and music. My soundtrack is going to use a lot of natural sound-scapes (the film is set in a national park in South Africa) and I want the music to reflect the natural surroundings. Amon Tobin (foley room album) is part of my referencing due to his dark undertones and exceptional use of sound bits to create an overall tone.

What I am looking for is music that uses clapping, drums and voices as the primary driving force. I feel that these elements can be used to create phenomenal tension and suspense. I have listened to some African Gospel music and recorded a Nigerian Church busy with praise and worship. Often they have no instruments and revert to just clapping and singing. This is true for a lot of rural African music.

Any leads or ideas of music that come to mind will be very useful!

5 Answers 5


This might be a little left field but I was in Iceland last year and while touring to northern coast of the country I recorded this performance of a traditional Icelandic folk song at the cultural centre of a town named Ísafjörður. The children made the rhythm with a series of foot stomps, thigh slaps and hand claps, that doubled as a kind of dance, while they sang the melody.

The cultural centre also featured a really great accordion museum on the second floor. Iceland tends to surprise you a lot.


  • I opened a sound cloud account just so that OI could save this as my favorite this piece! Thanks for the share
    – jozua
    Jul 26, 2011 at 16:31

Hi Jozua!

You should try the International Library of African Music (http://ilam.ru.ac.za/). It is a fantastic resource for this. I notice you are in Cape Town, so you can even call them on 046-603 8547. Ask for Elijah - I'm sure he'll hook you up.

  • Amazing library, will be saving the link for sure!
    – jozua
    Jul 22, 2011 at 11:58

This may not be exactly what you have in mind but check out Steve Reich's Clapping Music. Rather than being strictly intellectual through its polyrhythms, it is mysteriously emotional, considering that it consists solely of handclaps.

You can find it on a disc called African Rhythms, along with some Ligeti poly work and pygmy chants that you might also find interesting.

Check it out here at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/African-Rhythms-Gyorgy-Ligeti/dp/B00008UVCD/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1311284504&sr=1-1

  • I just listened to the Amazon clips! it is exactly what I have been looking for! Thank you!
    – jozua
    Jul 22, 2011 at 11:57

One album comes to mind: Despite the fact that I hate the Grateful Dead, Mickey Hart did a project called The Rhythm Devils that released an album called "The Apocalypse Now Sessions." Guess what film it was used for? :-)

It's entirely drums and voices. Dark, mysterious, heavy at times. Very evocative and highly recommended. Might provide some ideas! Recorded close to where I live! :-)

The Garinagu of Belize are a New World example of direct African influence in terms of their folk music, also all drums and voices: An example can be heard here on my blog.

  • NJ, care you comment on why you italichateitalic the Grateful Dead? I can't say I'm a huge fan of them right now but I've heard of the Rhythm Devils and good things of them.
    – Chris
    Jul 23, 2011 at 5:13
  • @Chris, the only comment I can make is that it's a taste thing, entirely subjective. Millions worldwide love the Dead: I'm just not one of them. I don't think badly of anyone who likes the Dead, and I objectively recognize their skilled musicianship. The Rhythm Devils are totally amazing, though. The only Dead I tend to like tend to be the kind with "walking" or "living" in front of the term. :-P Jul 23, 2011 at 20:15

An old thread, I know, but I have to add Jisas Yu Holem Hand Blom Mi from the Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line. Some of the most effective and haunting use of music I've ever experienced. I works with the story on so many levels.


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