Slap Happy – Book Review

Slap Happy by Alan Dworsky and Betsy Sansby is an illustrated instructional book that teaches rhythms to groups of youth. The book comprises of 72-pages in total, 3 of which are blank charts at the back of the book that readers can photocopy and use to chart their own songs using the rhythms from the book. Sources for further study can also be found at the end of the book including CD’s, books and videos for West African rhythms for djembe drums and Afro-Cuban rhythms for conga drums. Beginning with simple practice patterns, the authors gradually increase the difficulty level.

The book is accompanied by a play along CD with 64 tracks ranging from 20 seconds to a few minutes; the last track is a sample excerpted from the authors’ band called Jaguar. (Based on the sample I am looking forward to ordering a copy of that CD.) The quality of drumming and sound of recording on the play along CD for Slap Happy were exceptional. The authors perform all of the rhythms on the CD – while Alan Dworsky and Marc Anderson play the drum sections. The extended recordings are accompanied with real djembe, conga and other traditional instruments, making the experience much more whole and with a lasting impact.

I think the book is guaranteed to bring peals of laughter. Certainly a physical workout, the activities in the book are a great way to burn energy, increase coordination and build group interaction skills. Youth will be pleased with the very funky sounding rhythms. You won’t find any hokey kids rhythms here – instead, you will learn popular West African and Cuban rhythms that can be heard in today’s music. There are parts that may be fairly advanced for preteens, especially the one-bar clave with feet, but most of the rhythms can be easily attained by 8 year-olds. One of the best aspects of this instruction manual is there is no need to invest in instruments at all.

The talented artist, Toni Pawlowsky, created the cover art as well as some of the illustrations along with contributing artists Jay Kendell and Robert Jackson. Printed on recycled, acid-free paper using soy ink – Slap Happy is definitely an environmentally friendly choice.

Alan Dworsky and Betsy Sansby have authored 8 books – at least 2 of which were given the “Best Percussion Method Book Award” by Drum Magazine. Interestingly, the authors were born only a few blocks from each other during the 1950’s in Minnesota. Thirty years later, they married and have been collaborating on producing music and books ever since.

I can think of a myriad of places that could apply this book: schools, programs for youth, churches, and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, Brownies or Cubs. Sleepovers, birthday parties and groups of siblings can get a lot of enjoyment out of Slap Happy, as well.

Author: Alan Dworsky and Betsy Sansby

Publisher: Dancing Hands Music

ISBN: 0-9638801-7-9

Illustrators: Toni Pawlowski, Robert Jackson and Jay Kendell