Here’s a fingerstyle sungura piece, played with a guitar thumbpick and fingerpicks, but you can of course learn it with any other playing style. Getting the tablature below will be a tremendous help when it comes to practicing this tune. Sungura music is the Zimbabwean version of the African rumba, which you may know by the names soukous, makossa, kanindo, sebene or highlife. These styles may or may not have a couple of their own idiosyncratic traits, but they all sound at least audibly similar. This E major song has a I-IV-V progression of chords, from beginning to end. That should make you happy for a while, being an uplifting chord structure that’s rather familiar to the ears.
Maxed Out Syncopation Makes You Wanna Dance
We had a couple of African tunes now that featured syncopating rhythm patterns, but this one has a particularly strong character. Whoever composed this was struck by some helluva muse. Oh wait, it was me. Where’s the muse though?! Anyway. This beginning part of the song is a single line melody, but that doesn’t mean it’s all that easy to play it without mistakes. Watch out for those finger confusing fretting positions with string skipping between them. While playing these fingerstyle makes them somewhat less difficult to execute, if you don’t mute the in-between strings, those notes will ring out like a sore thumb. We don’t want that; not even a sore thumb pick. -.- If you get this part right, your fretting and picking fingers will settle into a groove that’s both relaxing and stimulating at the same time, which can feel rewarding. But hey, that’s why we play guitar, right? Let’s pretend.
Hammer-Ons & Double Stops
When it comes to the 2nd part, these chord implying double stops dominate the tune. This section starts with a hammered-on and pulled-off phrase that includes a skip between the high E and the G strings as well. Right after this, we arrive to the first double stop. In this one, you are required to hold the top note on the high E and let it ring out, while moving the note below it on the B string, also in the hammer-on & pull-off way. This motif sounds a little bit like a country guitar riff, if you’re familiar with them. There’s another such riff following the previous one right away in the next measure (measure 5, if you’re following the tab). This one’s happening just one string below the other one, on the B and G strings. It’s important to let the top note ring while you do the hammer-on and pull-off below it, so together they add up to the intervals that conjure the harmonic movement of the lesson. The ending phrase is a power chord on the D, G and B strings. The trick in this part is to let the bottom note (tonic) ring while you pluck the top two notes. It creates a feel as if the piece were much more complex harmonically and rhythmically than it really is, because of the emerging polyphony.