1 July 2015

Jazz Education Review: Asaf Sirkis Rhythm Workshop @ Brighton Jazz School

    Asaf Sirkis Rhythm Workshop at The Verdict, Brighton, in association with Brighton Jazz School. Charlie Anderson reviews a workshop given by drummer and percussionist


    Asaf Sirkis is best known for his work with saxophonists Gilad Atzmon and Tim Garland but he is also an accomplished teacher and clinician who enjoys sharing what he has learnt using the South Indian system of Konnakol, which is the art of vocally performing syllables accompanied by specific hand percussion movements. In jazz this system has been popularised by guitarist John McLaughlin.

    Asaf began the workshop by explaining, “I think that rhythm is so important to what we do as musicians. When we sing or play we do it within ‘the grid of time’. The more aware you are of rhythm the more effective your notes are.” He also explained that in the Western system of music education, the rhythmic aspect is often lacking and that feeling confident with rhythm will result in more confident performances.

    Asaf then began to teach the basics of Konnakol and had the whole audience vocalising and clapping. It was obvious that some people grasped the complexity of the system much more quickly than others but Asaf was quick to ensure that the whole audience were able to do it, without leaving anyone behind. The Konnakol system is effective for improving weaknesses in what Asaf calls ‘an area of tension’ where the player finds it more challenging.

    Asaf gave very clear explanations and instructions to the audience, particularly when explaining ‘junction points’ and adding accents to vocalisations. Taking it at a slow pace enabled everyone to participate and understand the importance of breathing and the placement of accents.

    This masterclass was an excellent introduction to the Konnakol system. You can learn a great deal from watching the YouTube tutorials but having it explained and demonstrated in an interactive way was extremely effective.

    Admittedly, after a couple of hours of clapping and vocalising we had only scratched the surface of a complex system of singing and rhythm but this served as a great introduction and the audience went away with enough to keep them busy exploring and developing what they had learnt in the workshop.


Asaf Sirkis presents an excellent series of tutorials on Konnakol on his YouTube channel here:



The audio recording of this masterclass will be available from:

Brighton Jazz School website: www.brightonjazzschool.com


This masterclass was part of a series of summer masterclasses offered by Brighton Jazz School. The next masterclass is by pianist Aaron Goldberg on Wednesday 8th July at 3pm followed by vocalist Tina May on Saturday 18th July at 1pm. See the Brighton Jazz School website for more information: www.brightonjazzschool.com.


Charlie Anderson

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