The influence of African music on Western pop is clearly evident in the work of artists such as Paul Simon (Graceland is the most famous example of Simon plundering other cultures to put a fresh spin on his songwriting) and, more recently, Vampire Weekend:
The combination of a rich rhythmic vocabulary and simple diatonic, triadic harmony make the music of many African regions an ideal mine of ideas for aspiring pop writers – speaking of which, have you heard ‘Always Like This’?
The bass begins with a simplified version of the main riff, which implies a chord progression of Db – Ab – Bbm – Ab. After 4 bars things get a lot busier, adding semiquaver runs composed of the chord tones from the Db and Bbm chords. Semiquavers at 120bpm aren’t always a walk in the park, particularly when you have some large interval jumps – luckily the line fits under the hand in one position using one finger per fret:
In terms of the right hand approach, the descending patterns of semiquavers are performed using a technique known as raking, where one finger is ‘dragged’ across multiple strings to pluck a sequence of notes rather than using alternating fingers. If you’re new to this, then it will take some time before it doesn’t feel weird; take is slowly, concentrate on your sound and only bring the speed up when you hear that the technique is becoming intuitive.
Once you’ve got the main riff up to speed, the good news is that there’s nothing else to worry about for the rest of the song; bassist Ed Nash keeps things much more relaxed during the bridge sections, and there are frequent sections where the bass is resting for multiple bars. The main riff is reprised for the outro, where Ed throws in a nice little variation, playing the ascending figure at the end of the second bar up a diatonic 6th (Db, Eb and F rather than the usual F, Gb and Ab) to create a harmony line with the guitar.