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Rhythms from Around the World

Aim: How can we identify, create, and perform rhythms from around the world?
Summary: Students explore a variety of rhythms from around the world.
Standards: US 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10; NYC 1, 2, 3, 4
Grade: 5th
Concept: Rhythm & Meter
Artistic Process: performing, creating, responding, connecting
Materials: audio excerpts of various world rhythms, Student Worksheet
Time Required: 20 minutes


1.   Teach students three rhythms inspired by music from around the world (see Student Worksheet (PDF)). Use body percussion to play each rhythm as a class. Clap along with listening tracks.

  • What similarities do you notice among the rhythms?
  • What differences do you notice among the rhythms?

2.   Once students are comfortable with clapping the rhythms, experiment by performing with different tempos, dynamics, and instruments.

3.   Create an arrangement that uses each rhythm in succession.

4.   Create an arrangement that has different groups performing different rhythms at the same time.

  • What similarities and differences do you notice among the rhythms?
  • What was it like to perform multiple rhythms at the same time?
  • Are there certain rhythms that you think sound best together? Why do you think that is?

5.   Invent a name for a new part of the world or universe. Create a new rhythm that would come from the part of the world that you named and perform this rhythm in the arrangement with the other world rhythms.

Going Deeper

  1. Add a melody to each of the rhythms.
  2. Use text from a poem or story that relates to each area of the world to add lyrics to the arrangement.
  3. Have students research and listen to songs from different parts of the world. In small groups have them explore these questions as they listen:
    • What rhythms do you hear in this song?
    • What instruments do you hear?
    • What part of the world do you think this song is from? What do you hear in the music that makes you think that?

Global Encounters

Explore the music of India, Mexico, and Turkey through Carnegie Hall’s Global Encounters.

Explore Caribbean Rhythms from the San Andrés:
Smithsonian Folkways’ Caribbean Rhythms

Explore the rhythms of African countries through the BBC:
BBC’s Rhythms of the (African) Continent


Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

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