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Mountains O´ Things / Tracy Chapman

(Afoxé Rhythm)

Author: Facundo Alvarez, Percussion teacher and Facilitator

Hi, Welcome to this section on my website in which I go around several songs that are great to play percussion.

The idea of this section is to share some songs that are really useful for beginner percussionist to start playing percussion. Using songs to learn and practice percussionist is really helpful because at the same time you´ll develop your playing skill, your tempo sense and your musicality.

The teaching method that you´re going to experience along this video and the rest of this series is the one that I use in my Online Classes and Courses. I created this method myself and called “The Percussion Code”. In it I condensed the best of the knowledge and experiences I develop in my more than 20 years of experience facilitating percussion learning to people of all ages and musical brackground.

In this videoblog, we’re going to play congas over a really beautiful song by a singer and songwriter that I really like that is Tracy Chapman. The song is called Mountains O´ things and the rhythm of the song is built around an Afro-Brazilian rhythm called Afoxé. I think this is in part because the percussionist who recorded in the song is a very famous Brazilian percussionist: Paulinho Da Costa, a great session player during the 80s, the 90s and part of the 2000.

All along the song the main rhythm is Afoxé, but is played sligthly different in each sections of the song. So along the video I will teach you the basics of the rhythm and the specific rhythm play in each section of the song, so you can play the different rhythms in the congas and follow the song.

Also, below you can access to some FREE practice material to keep practicing and improving your playing craft along the song.

I hope you find this content challenging and fun.

Keep me updated of your progress with it.

Thanks for watching the video.

Facundo Alvarez

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Percussion Online Classes

In the Online Percussion Classes, I offers individual and face to face classes for you to start learn to play percussion from scratch and learn to play and make music with the percussion instrument you like – Bongó, Cajón, Conga, Djembé or Timbal Brasilero.

Percussion Online Courses

In the Online Percussion Courses I offer you different options for you to start to play percussion from scratch, develope as percussionist and learn to play and make music with the percussion instrument that you like: Bongo, Cajón, Conga, Djembé or Timbal Brasilero 

Activities suitable to all ages and levels

You don´t need to have previous knowledges of music or percussion to get started.

Brazilian Afoxé Rhythm

A Fusion of History, Culture, and Celebration

Afoxe a musical expression of brazilian culture and heritage

Afoxé origins


To truly appreciate the Afoxé rhythm, we must journey back in time to the days of the African diaspora. With the forced migration of African peoples to the Americas, a fusion of cultures began to take place. In Brazil, this fusion was particularly pronounced, as African traditions intertwined with indigenous and European influences.

Afoxé emerged within the Afro-Brazilian religious context, deeply embedded in Candomblé and Umbanda traditions. These spiritual practices served as a sanctuary for the preservation of African culture and spirituality, even under the oppressive shadow of slavery. Through the rhythms, songs, and dances of Afoxé, these communities found a way to express their resilience and connection to their ancestral roots.

The Heartbeat of Afoxé


At the core of Afoxé lies a captivating rhythm characterized by its steady, pulsating beat. This heartbeat-like rhythm is created through a combination of percussion instruments such as agogô bells, atabaque drums, and ganzá shakers. Each instrument plays a crucial role in building the intricate layers of the Afoxé rhythm, providing a foundation for the accompanying vocals and dance.

The agogô, with its resonant metallic tones, serves as the guiding force, leading the ensemble with its distinct, bell-like sound. The atabaque drums bring depth and power, their thunderous beats grounding the rhythm. Ganzás add a shimmering quality, providing a sparkling contrast to the deep resonance of the drums.

The Celebration of Afoxé


Afoxé is not simply a musical performance; it is a communal celebration that invites all to partake in its infectious energy. It often takes the form of a procession, where participants move together in harmony, embodying the spirit of unity and shared cultural heritage.

During festivals and gatherings, individuals adorned in vibrant costumes and traditional attire come together to dance, sing, and play the instruments that give life to Afoxé. The rhythm becomes a vessel for expressing joy, gratitude, and spiritual connection, creating a powerful sense of belonging among participants.

Tracy Chapman

Mountains O´things song

Tracy chapman

Tracy Chapman’s “Mountains o’ Things” is a soul-stirring ballad that delves deep into the complexities of materialism and the human desire for more.

Released in 1988 as part of her self-titled debut album, the song showcases Chapman’s exceptional storytelling and emotive vocal delivery.

The song opens with Chapman’s distinctively rich, resonant voice accompanied by a simple acoustic guitar, immediately drawing listeners into its heartfelt narrative. The stripped-down arrangement allows the lyrics to take center stage, and Chapman’s evocative performance masterfully conveys the emotional weight of the song.

“Mountains o’ Things” serves as a poignant reflection on the insatiable pursuit of material wealth, as Chapman paints a vivid picture of a life cluttered with possessions that ultimately fail to fill the void within. Lines like “Rich man can’t sleep / Guess he’ll take a pill” encapsulate the emptiness and disillusionment that can accompany the relentless chase for affluence.

What sets this song apart is Chapman’s ability to capture the broader societal implications of materialism while also making it deeply personal. Her lyrical prowess shines through, as she tackles complex themes with simplicity and sincerity.

Beyond its lyrical depth, “Mountains o’ Things” boasts a timeless quality that resonates across generations. Its message remains as relevant today as it was upon its release, serving as a powerful reminder to prioritize true human connections over material possessions.

In conclusion, Tracy Chapman’s “Mountains o’ Things” stands as a masterful piece of musical artistry. Its thought-provoking lyrics and Chapman’s emotive performance combine to create a song that not only touches the heart but also prompts reflection on the values that truly enrich our lives. This track is a testament to Chapman’s enduring impact as a songwriter and musician, solidifying its place as a classic in the realm of introspective ballads.

Paulinho Da Costa

Brazilian Master Percussionist

Paulinho Da Viola, great percussionist

In the realm of percussion, few names resonate as profoundly as Paulinho da Costa. Hailing from Brazil, Da Costa’s mastery of rhythm and percussion instruments elevated him to international acclaim, leaving an indelible mark on the world of music. This blog post pays tribute to the life and legacy of this extraordinary percussionist.

Born on May 31, 1948, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Paulinho da Costa discovered his passion for rhythm at a young age. Raised in a country known for its rich musical heritage, da Costa immersed himself in the vibrant tapestry of Brazilian music, drawing inspiration from genres like samba, bossa nova, and choro.

talent caught the attention of renowned musicians, propelling him onto the global stage. He made the daring move to Los Angeles, California, where he quickly became a sought-after session musician. His ability to infuse Brazilian rhythms with diverse musical styles earned him a reputation as one of the most versatile and innovative percussionists of his time.

Da Costa’s career skyrocketed as he collaborated with an illustrious array of musical giants. His rhythmic finesse graced the recordings of artists like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, and countless others. His contributions can be heard on iconic tracks such as Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long (All Night).”

In addition to his work in pop and R&B, da Costa also left an indelible mark on the world of jazz, collaborating with luminaries like Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, and George Benson. His ability to seamlessly navigate between genres attested to his extraordinary versatility as a percussionist.

percussion facilitator

Facundo Alvarez
Percussion Facilitator

For 20 years I´ve dedicated myself to develope educational and recreational materials and experiences, with the goal of facilitate access to percussion learning to people of all ages

In all the projects I work motivated by the premise that "Percussion is for everybody" and that "Everyone can learn to play percussion".

My main goal is to help, as many people as I can, to live the unique experience of making music with percussion instruments.