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Experimentations with Timelines in Afro-Bahian Jazz: A Strategy of Rhythm Complication

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Timelines are well known temporal organizers in various types of African diasporic groove-based musics. But what happens when they are deliberately cut, rotated, or staggered? This article explores some compositional techniques used by Orkestra Rumpilezz, a big band from Bahia, Brazil, that combines jazz with Afro-Bahian carnival and sacred music and that bases its compositions on traditional and modified timelines. The paper offers metric interpretations of the orchestra’s timeline experimentations and relates them to their stated goal to “dignify and demonstrate the high level of rhythmic complexity of Afro-Bahian music.” The main demonstration is that the composer’s experimentations with timelines are a technique to increase rhythmic complexity and to elevate the status of Afro-Bahian music. Additionally, I propose a way to expand existing timeline models to account for more subtle and implicit relationships of timeline alignment found in Brazil. The main goal is to discover how the orchestra’s claimed rhythmic complexity is expressed through arrangement. This is achieved by combining music theory, analysis, and ethnographic work in Bahia.

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