The Talawa Africana Rhythm Complex

Illustration Description

General Structure

The Talawa Africana Rhythm Complex (TARC) is illustrated as a circle with a thick black border, symbolizing the encompassing nature of Ethero Rhythm, which holds together all the other modes of rhythm within its bounds.

Central Elements

  • Circle: The circle represents the holistic and integrative nature of rhythm in Africana dance.
  • Polygon/Cube: Inside the circle is a 3D polygon or cube, signifying the multidimensional aspect of rhythm, illustrating that the model is to be understood both dimensionally and as a flat illustration.
  • Dancer at the Center: At the heart of the cube is a dancer, symbolizing the central role of the performer in navigating and integrating the various rhythmic modes.

Quadrants of the Circle

The circle is divided into four sections, each representing a different mode of rhythm, with the dancer at the center exemplifying the integration and performance of these rhythms:

  1. Top Quadrant – Ethero Rhythm:
    • Symbol: A drum
    • Label: “Ethero Rhythm”
    • Meaning: This quadrant represents Ethero Rhythm, emphasizing its role as both a distinct mode and the encompassing concept of the entire model.

    Detailed Explanation of Ethero Rhythm:

    • Concept: Ethero Rhythm represents the rhythm that transcends the physical realm, encompassing mental, imaginative, and metaphysical aspects.
    • Memory: The ability to recall rhythmic patterns and movements.
    • Visualization: Mentally picturing rhythmic sequences and dance movements.
    • Nostalgia and Ancestral Echoes: Connecting to past experiences and cultural memories.
    • Aesthetic Norms and Deity Realms: Incorporating cultural and spiritual dimensions of rhythm.
    • Projection: Imagining future rhythms and movements.
    • Importance: Ethero Rhythm underscores that rhythm is not just a sensory experience but also a deeply ingrained mental and cultural phenomenon, connecting past, present, and future.
    • Example: Sometimes, if there is a strong Ethero association to music, such as European Classical music, dancing afrobeats or hip hop to it can create cognitive friction. This friction arises from the contrast between our cultural training to hear the music one way and the different visual representation engaging with it. From a rhythmic standpoint, this is not wrong; it prompts us to re-experience and re-evaluate what we thought we knew. Ethero Rhythm is what we use to visualize rhythm and movement. Without Ethero Rhythm, we could not create new.
  2. Right Quadrant – Sonic Rhythm:
    • Symbol: A drum
    • Label: “Sonic Rhythm”
    • Meaning: This section focuses on auditory rhythm, the rhythms that we hear.

    Detailed Explanation of Sonic Rhythm:

    • Concept: Sonic Rhythm involves the auditory perception of rhythm.
    • Beats and Tempo: Foundational elements of musical rhythm.
    • Sound Patterns: The arrangement of sounds in time, creating rhythmic structures.
    • Auditory Experience: How rhythm is heard and processed by the listener.
    • Importance: Sonic Rhythm is fundamental to music and dance, providing auditory cues that guide movements and create musical structures.
    • Example: A tap dancer can display virtuosity by having contrasting optic and sonic rhythms. The body can display a seemingly calm and cool groove with flowing arms while the feet deliver a hot and uptempo tirade of sound. The optic and sonic experience of the rhythm creates a contrast and friction, intriguing and capturing the audience’s voluntary and involuntary attention.
  3. Bottom Quadrant – Optic Rhythm:
    • Symbol: A drum
    • Label: “Optic Rhythm”
    • Meaning: This quadrant pertains to visual rhythm, the rhythms that we see.

    Detailed Explanation of Optic Rhythm:

    • Concept: Optic Rhythm pertains to the visual perception of rhythm.
    • Visual Patterns: The rhythmic arrangement of movements and gestures.
    • Observation: How rhythm is seen and interpreted through visual cues.
    • Spatial Arrangements: The organization of movements in space to create visual rhythm.
    • Importance: Optic Rhythm emphasizes the role of sight in understanding and experiencing rhythm, highlighting the visual component of dance and movement.
    • Example: A tap dancer can display virtuosity by having contrasting optic and sonic rhythms. The body can display a seemingly calm and cool groove with flowing arms while the feet deliver a hot and uptempo tirade of sound. The optic and sonic experience of the rhythm creates a contrast and friction, intriguing and capturing the audience’s voluntary and involuntary attention.
  4. Left Quadrant – Tactile Rhythm:
    • Symbol: A drum
    • Label: “Tactile Rhythm”
    • Meaning: This section represents the rhythm that we feel, encompassing the sense of touch and bodily sensations associated with rhythm.

    Detailed Explanation of Tactile Rhythm:

    • Concept: Tactile Rhythm involves the physical sensations associated with rhythm.
    • Vibrations and Pressure: The tactile feedback from rhythmic movements.
    • Kinesthetic Experience: The bodily perception of rhythm through movement and touch.
    • Physical Interactions: How rhythm is felt through physical engagement with the environment.
    • Importance: Tactile Rhythm highlights the role of touch and physical sensation in experiencing rhythm, particularly in dance where movement and physicality are key.

The Talawa Rhythm Matrix

The Talawa Rhythm Matrix, conceptualized by Thomas Talawa Prestø, offers a comprehensive framework for understanding the multifaceted nature of rhythm in performance. This Africana model categorizes rhythm into four distinct yet interconnected modes: Sonic Rhythm, Optic Rhythm, Tactile Rhythm, and Etheric Rhythm. Each mode encapsulates a different sensory or metaphysical experience of rhythm, creating a holistic approach to rhythm that integrates auditory, visual, tactile, and metaphysical elements.

Sonic Rhythm

Sonic Rhythm refers to the rhythm that we hear. It encompasses the auditory experience of rhythm, focusing on the production and perception of sound-based rhythmic elements. The attributes of Sonic Rhythm include:

  1. Sound and Rhythm: The fundamental auditory patterns that create the sense of rhythm.
  2. Call and Response: A dynamic interaction where a phrase or motif is echoed or answered by another.
  3. Echo and “Room”: The spatial dimension of sound, how it reverberates and fills the environment.
  4. Audible Emotion: The expression of feelings through sound.
  5. Movement Sound and Sonic Efforts: The sounds produced by physical movements, enhancing the rhythm.
  6. Breath: The rhythm of breathing as an integral part of sound production.
  7. Words and Utterances: The rhythmic patterns of spoken language.
  8. Object Sonality and Materiality: The sounds created by different objects and materials, contributing to the overall rhythmic texture.

Sonic Rhythm primarily subcategorizes aspects of performance that are auditory, emphasizing the interplay of sounds, the environment, and emotional expression.

Optic Rhythm

Optic Rhythm refers to the rhythm that we see. It involves the visual perception of rhythm and emphasizes the observation and interpretation of visually expressed rhythmic patterns or movements. The attributes of Optic Rhythm include:

  1. Movement and Gestures: The visual patterns created by bodily movements.
  2. Symbolism: Visual symbols that convey rhythmic ideas.
  3. Visual Objects: Objects used in performance that contribute to visual rhythm.
  4. Scenery: The background and setting that create a visual rhythm.
  5. Scenography: The design and arrangement of performance space.
  6. Colours, Shape, and Form: The visual elements that create rhythmic patterns.
  7. Integration of Visual Materials and the Environment: How visual elements interact with the performance space.
  8. Visual Breath and Groove: The visual equivalent of breath and flow in rhythm.
  9. Visual Emotion: The expression of emotions through visual means.

Optic Rhythm subcategorizes aspects of performance related to visual perception, focusing on how movements, gestures, and visual elements contribute to the overall rhythm.

Tactile Rhythm

Tactile Rhythm refers to the rhythm that we feel. It encompasses the sense of touch and bodily sensations associated with rhythm, where movement and physical interactions contribute to the rhythmic experience. The attributes of Tactile Rhythm include:

  1. Vibration: The felt sensation of rhythmic movements.
  2. Felt Rhythm: The internalized sense of rhythm through physical sensations.
  3. Touch and Texture: The tactile qualities that contribute to the perception of rhythm.
  4. Proximity: The spatial relationships and their tactile impact on rhythm.
  5. Immersiveness: The enveloping nature of rhythm that can be felt throughout the body.
  6. Dimensionality: The three-dimensional experience of rhythm through movement and touch.

Tactile Rhythm subcategorizes aspects of performance that involve physical sensations, emphasizing the internalization of rhythm through bodily interactions.

Etheric Rhythm

Etheric Rhythm refers to the rhythm that we remember or imagine. It involves the mental and imaginative aspects of rhythm, including memory, visualization, and the ability to mentally recreate or conceptualize rhythmic patterns. Etheric Rhythm encompasses:

  1. Memory: The recollection of rhythmic patterns and experiences.
  2. Symbolism: The metaphysical representation of rhythm through symbols.
  3. Culture: The cultural context and significance of rhythm.
  4. Ancestorism: The connection to ancestral rhythms and traditions.
  5. Practice and Praxis: The continuous engagement and embodiment of rhythm.
  6. Repetition with a Change: The evolution of rhythmic patterns through subtle variations.
  7. Spirituality: The spiritual dimension of rhythm, connecting to higher realms.
  8. Identity: The role of rhythm in shaping individual and collective identity.

Etheric Rhythm integrates with all other levels, providing a metaphysical and imaginative dimension to rhythm. It subcategorizes aspects of performance related to memory, culture, spirituality, and identity, offering a deeper understanding of how rhythm connects us to our past, present, and future.

Expanded Understanding of Etheric Rhythm

Etheric Rhythm is a unique and profound concept that extends beyond the physical realm. It suggests that rhythm is not merely a sensory experience but a metaphysical one that transcends the limitations of time and space. This concept allows us to understand rhythm as a bridge connecting us to our memories, emotions, and cultural heritage.

  1. Memory and Nostalgia: Etheric Rhythm enables us to recall past rhythmic experiences, connecting us to our history and heritage. It evokes a sense of nostalgia, bringing the past into the present.
  2. Symbolism and Culture: It highlights the symbolic nature of rhythm in different cultures, emphasizing its role in cultural identity and heritage.
  3. Ancestorism: Etheric Rhythm connects us to our ancestors, allowing their rhythms to resonate within us, shaping our present and future.
  4. Practice and Praxis: The continuous practice and embodiment of rhythm reinforce its presence in our lives, evolving through repetition with change.
  5. Spirituality and Identity: Etheric Rhythm connects us to the spiritual realm, enriching our sense of self and identity through rhythmic expression.

Etheric Rhythm is a powerful tool for understanding the deeper significance of rhythm, allowing us to explore its impact on our perceptions, emotions, and cultural identity.

Rhythmic Ovahstanding

Rhythmic Ovahstanding consists of three interrelated components: Portent Rhythmic Ability, Rhythmic Ken, and Rhythmic Acumen. These components define a dancer’s deep comprehension and execution of rhythm within Africana dance.

  1. Portent Rhythmic Ability:
    • Concept: The skill of predicting and anticipating rhythmic events.
    • Explanation: This involves a combination of intuition, intelligence, skill, and calculation, enabling dancers to foresee and react to changes in rhythm.
    • Importance: Portent Rhythmic Ability allows dancers to anticipate changes in rhythm, making their responses appear intuitive and seamless.
  2. Rhythmic Ken:
    • Concept: The breadth and depth of rhythmic knowledge and perception.
    • Explanation: This refers to a dancer’s ability to recognize and navigate the complexities of polyrhythmic structures, seeing the “rhythmic terrain” and understanding potential rhythmic paths and interactions.
    • Importance: A high degree of Rhythmic Ken enhances the ability to perceive multiple rhythmic paths and possibilities, increasing RhythmoDynamic Relational Ability and sharpening Rhythmic Acumen.
  3. Rhythmic Acumen:
    • Concept: The ability to make quick, informed, and confident decisions in response to rhythmic cues.
    • Explanation: This involves making real-time choices that align with the music and movement, showcasing a dancer’s virtuosity and rhythmic intelligence.
    • Importance: Rhythmic Acumen is a key marker of virtuosity in Africana dance, reflecting a dancer’s capacity to read the music, anticipate shifts, and make compelling rhythmic choices.

Rhythmomodal Emulsification

Concept: Rhythmomodal Emulsification is the process of integrating different modes of rhythm (Sonic, Optic, Tactile, and Ethero) to create a unified and engaging experience.

Detailed Explanation:

  • Integration: This involves blending contrasting rhythms to enhance the overall sensory experience.
  • Synesthetic Experience: The combination of different rhythmic elements leads to a richer and more dynamic performance.
  • Importance: Rhythmomodal Emulsification highlights the synesthetic nature of rhythm, where different sensory perceptions of rhythm combine to create a holistic and immersive experience.

Rhythmomodal Synaesthesia

Concept: Rhythmomodal Synaesthesia describes the convergence of different rhythmic modes, allowing one aspect of rhythm to be experienced as another.

Detailed Explanation:

  • Convergence: Different sensory modes of rhythm (corpokinetic, optic, sonic, tactile, and ethero) merge, blurring their boundaries.
  • Multisensory Integration: This phenomenon involves the interplay of various sensory perceptions, enhancing the perception and appreciation of rhythmic complexity.
  • Importance: Rhythmomodal Synaesthesia emphasizes the interconnectedness of sensory experiences in rhythm, creating a richer, more dynamic engagement with rhythm.

Corpokinetic Acumen

Concept: Corpokinetic Acumen in African Diaspora Dance refers to the skillful navigation and integration of the four rhythmic modules (Sonic, Optic, Tactile, and Ethero) in dance.

Detailed Explanation:

  • Nuanced Movements: It involves making deliberate and expressive movement choices that enhance performance.
  • Rhythmic Engagement: Dancers with high Corpokinetic Acumen are adept at engaging with rhythm on multiple levels, creating nuanced and impactful performances.
  • Importance: Corpokinetic Acumen emphasizes the dancer’s ability to integrate various rhythmic elements seamlessly, showcasing their virtuosity and rhythmic intelligence.

Revitalizing the Ghost

Concept: Revitalizing the Ghost addresses the challenge of dancing to pre-recorded music by re-engaging with its rhythmic complexity.

Detailed Explanation:

  • Multimodal Rhythmic Modulation: This involves using optic, sonic, and tactile rhythms to create a dynamic and immersive experience.
  • Connection to Tradition: It emphasizes reconnecting with the depth and complexity of traditional African rhythmic practices.
  • Importance: Revitalizing the Ghost ensures that performances remain vibrant and resonant, even with pre-recorded tracks, by breathing new life into the music through rhythmic engagement.


The Talawa Africana Rhythm Complex provides a detailed framework for understanding rhythm in Africana dance. By integrating Sonic, Optic, Tactile, and Ethero rhythms, it offers a holistic perspective on rhythm as a sensory, cognitive, and metaphysical experience. Concepts like Rhythmic Ovahstanding, Rhythmomodal Emulsification, and Rhythmomodal Synaesthesia deepen our appreciation of the complex interplay between different rhythmic modes, enhancing both the performance and perception of rhythm in Africana dance. This model serves as a comprehensive guide for dancers and scholars alike, providing insights into the rich and multifaceted nature of rhythm in Africana performance theory.