Look me up on Google Scholar, or see the list below.



Polak, Rainer (2004) Festmusik als Arbeit, Trommeln als Beruf. Jenbe-Spieler in einer westafrikanischen Großstadt. Berlin: Reimer Verlag. ISBN 978-3-496-02840-6


Download an extract (chapts. 1-3) of the book [pdf].

Download the audio samples [zip].


Young Scholars Award 2004

African Studies Association in Germany

Rainer Polak's book cover page


Articles, Chapters/Entries, and refereed Proceedings




Jacoby, N., Polak, R., Grahn, J. A., Cameron, D. J., Lee, K. M., Godoy, R., Undurraga, E. A., Huanca, T., Thalwitzer, T., Doumbia, N., Goldberg, D., Margulis, E. H., Wong, P. C. M., Jure, L., Rocamora, M., Fujii, S., Savage, P. E., Ajimi, J., Konno, R., . . . McDermott, J. H. (2024). Commonality and variation in mental representations of music revealed by a cross-cultural comparison of rhythm priors in 15 countries. Nature Human Behaviour[pdf]




London, J., Jacoby, N., & Polak, R. (2022). Theoretical and Practical Aspects of Cross-Cultural Corpus Studies: Two Case Studies from Mali. In D. Shanahan, J. A. Burgoyne, & I. Quinn (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Music and Corpus Studies. Oxford University Press. [link]


Polak, R., & Doumbia, N. (2022). Learning to dance in rural Mali. In A. v. B. Wharton & D. Urbanavičienė (Eds.), Dance and Economy, Dance Transmission: Proceedings of the 31st Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) Study Group on Ethnochoreology (pp. 282–290). Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre.  [pdf]


Jakubowski, K., Polak, R., Rocamora, M., Jure, L., & Jacoby, N. (2022). Aesthetics of musical timing: Culture and expertise affect preferences for isochrony but not synchrony. Cognition, 227, 105205.  [pdf]


Polak, R., & London, J. (2022). Tempo, meter, and form: An analysis of “Dansa” from Mali. In L. Shuster, S. Mukherji, & N. Dinnerstein (Eds.), Trends in Word Music Analysis (pp. 143–159). Routledge. [pdf]


Polak, R. (2022). Non-isochronous Metre in Music from Mali. In M. Doffman, E. Payne, & T. Young (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Time in Music (pp. 252–274). Oxford University Press.  [pdf]




Jacoby, N., Polak, R., & London, J. (2021). Extreme precision in rhythmic interaction is enabled by role-optimized sensorimotor coupling: analysis and modeling of West-African drum ensemble music. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. Advance online publication. [link]


Polak, R. (2021). Presenting yourself through dance: Participatory and presentational aspects of dance performance at local festivities in southern Mali. In V. Apjok, K. Povedák, V. Szőnyi, & S. Varga (Eds.), Dance, Age and Politics: Proceedings of the 30th Symposium of the ICTM Study Group on Ethnochoreology (pp. 67–82). University of Szeged. [pdf]


Polak, R., Repetto, R. C., Holzapfel, A., & Pearson, L. (Eds.). (2021). Proceedings of the first symposium of the ICTM Study Group on Sound, Movement, and the Sciences (SoMoS). Zenodo.


Clayton, M., Tarsitani, S., Jankowsky, R., Jure, L., Leante, L., Polak, R., Poole, A., Rocamora, M., Alborno, P., Camurri, A., Eerola, T., Jacoby, N., & Jakubowski, K. (2021). The interpersonal entrainment in music performance data collection. Empirical Musicology Review, 16(1), 65-84.  [link]


Wald-Fuhrmann, M., Pearson, L., Roeske, T., Grüny, C., & Polak, R. (2021). Music as a trait in evolutionary theory: A musicological perspective. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 44. [pdf]





Polak, R. (2020). Review of the book Thought and play in musical rhythm: Asian, African, and Euro-American perspectives, by Richard Wolf, Stephen Blum and Christopher Hasty (Eds.). Ethnomusicology Forum, 1–4. doi: 10.1080/17411912.2020.1839925 [link]


Polak, R. (2020). Non-isochronous meter is not irregular. A review of theory and evidence. In M. Aydintan, F. Edler, R. Graybill, & L. Krämer (Eds.), Gegliederte Zeit: 15. Jahreskongress der Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie (GMTH) : 1. bis 4. Oktober 2015 (pp. 365–379). Olms. [pdf]


Polak, R. (2020). Wozu polychrone Pulsation? Funktionalistische Perspektiven auf metrische Strukturen in malischer Musik. In M. Sharif & K. Stepputat (Eds.), Understanding Musics: Festschrift on the Occasion of Gerd Grupe's 65th Birthday (pp. 19–36). Shaker.


Jacoby, N., Margulis, E. H., Clayton, M., Hannon, E., Honing, H., Iversen, J., Klein, T. R., Mehr, S. A., Pearson, L., Peretz, I., Perlman, M., Polak, R., Ravignani, A., Savage, P. E., Steingo, G., Stevens, C. J., Trainor, L., Trehub, S., Veal, M., & Wald-Fuhrmann, M. (2020). Cross-cultural work in music cognition. Music Perception, 37 (3), 185–195. doi: 10.1525/mp.2020.37.3.185  [pdf]





Polak, R. (2019). Jembe music. In D. Horn, J. Shepherd, G. Kielich, & H. C. Feldman (Eds.), Bloomsbury encyclopedia of popular music of the world. Volume XII: Genres: Sub-Saharan Africa (pp. 315–319). London: Bloomsbury Academic.  [pdf]


Polak, R. (2019). Celebration. In J. Sturman (Ed.), The SAGE International Encyclopedia of Music and Culture (Vol. 2, pp. 476–480). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.    [pdf]




Polak, R., Jacoby, N., Fischinger, T., Goldberg, D., Holzapfel, A., & London, J. (2018).
Rhythmic Prototypes Across Cultures: A Comparative Study of Tapping Synchronization.
Music Perception, 36(1), 1–23. doi: 10.1525/mp.2018.36.1.1   [pdf]


Polak, R., Tarsitani, S., & Clayton, M. (2018). IEMP Malian Jembe. A collection of audiovisual recordings of Malian jembe ensemble performances, with detailed annotations. Open Science Framework (OSF).
doi: 10.17605/OSF.IO/M652X  [link]




Polak, Rainer (2017) The lower limit for meter in dance drumming from West Africa. Empirical Musicology Review 12 (3-4), 205-226.  [pdf]   [full text]


Neuhoff, Hans, Rainer Polak, and Timo Fischinger (2017) Perception and Evaluation of Timing Patterns in Drum Ensemble Music from Mali. Music Perception 34 (4), 438–451.
doi: 10.1525/mp.2017.34.4.438  [pdf]


London, Justin, Rainer Polak, and Nori Jacoby (2017) Rhythm histograms and musical meter: A corpus study of Malian percussion music. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review , 24(2), 474–480. 

doi: 10.3758/s13423-016-1093-7    [pdf]




Polak, Rainer, Justin London, and Nori Jacoby (2016) Both isochronous and non-isochronous metrical subdivision afford precise and stable ensemble entrainment: A corpus study of Malian jembe drumming. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 10, 285. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2016.00285     [full text]


Polak, Rainer, Nori Jacoby, and Justin London (2016) Kulturelle Diversität in  der empirischen Rhythmusforschung: Drei Analysen eines Audio-Korpus von Percussion-Ensemblemusik aus Mali. Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie, 13(2).  [full text]




Polak, Rainer (2015) Pattern and Variation in the Timing of Aksak Meter: Commentary on Goldberg. Empirical Musicology Review 10(4).  doi: 10.18061/emr.v10i4.4883    [full text]




Polak, Rainer, and Justin London (2014) Timing and Meter in Mande drumming from Mali. Music Theory Online 20(1).  [full text]


Polak, Rainer (2014) Bala; Bara; Bàtá; Bendre; Bonkolo; Dùndún; Dunun; Jembe; Sabar; Tama. New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Polak, Rainer (2014) Die Djembe. Eine Trommel aus Westafrika im Kontext der Globalisierung. In: Gyula Racz und Hermann Schwandner (Hg.), Das große Buch der Schlagzeugpraxis. Regensburg: ConBrio, 219–39.  [pdf]




London, Justin, and Rainer Polak (2013) Microtiming in Ngòn: Categorical production and perception of a non-isochronous meter. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Performance Science 2013, edited by Aaron Williamon and Werner Goebl. European Association of Conservatoires (AEC), Brussels, Belgium: 645–650. [full text]


Polak, Rainer, and Justin London (2013) Mande ensemble drumming: An introduction to Ngòn. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Performance Science 2013, edited by Aaron Williamon and Werner Goebl. European Association of Conservatoires (AEC), Brussels, Belgium: 639–644. [full text]


2012 and earlier


Polak, Rainer (2012) Urban Drumming: Traditional Celebration Music in a West African City (Bamako). In: Eric Charry (ed.) Hip Hop Africa: New African Music in a Globalizing World. Indiana University Press (African Expressive Cultures), 261–281.  [pdf]


Polak, Rainer (2010) Rhythmic Feel as Meter: Non-Isochronous Beat Subdivision in Jembe Music from Mali. Music Theory Online 16(4).   [full text]


Polak, Rainer (2007) Performing Audience: On the Social Constitution of Focused Interaction at Celebrations in Mali. Anthropos 102(1), 3–18.   [pdf]


Polak, Rainer (2005) Drumming for Money and Respect. The Commercialization of Traditional Celebration Music in Bamako. In: Jansen, Jan and Stephen Wooten (eds.), Wari Matters: Ethnographic Explorations of Money in the Mande World. Münster: LIT, 135–161.   [pdf]


Polak, Rainer (2004) Die Kommerzialisierung der Hochzeitsfestmusik in Bamako. In: Beck, Kurt, Till Förster und Hans Peter Hahn (Hrsg.), Blick nach vorn. Festgabe für Gerd Spittler zum 65. Geburtstag. Köln: Köppe, 235–249.  [pdf]


Polak, Rainer (2001) Festmusik: Zur Ethnographie musikalischer Gattungen in Westafrika. In: Marianne Bröcker (Hrsg.), Berichte aus dem ICTM-Nationalkomitee Deutschland IX/X. Bamberg: Universitätsbibliothek, 19–50.  [pdf]


Polak, Rainer (2001) Ein Musikinstrument geht um die Welt. Zur Verflechtung lokaler, nationaler und internationaler Kontexte im Bamakoer Jenbe-Spiel. In: Bauer, Ulrich, Henrik Egbert und Frauke Jäger (Hrsg.), Interkulturelle Beziehungen und Kulturwandel in Afrika. Beiträge zur Globalisierungsdebatte. Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang Verlag, 291–312.   [pdf]


Polak, Rainer (2000) A Musical Instrument Travels Around the World: Jenbe Playing in Bamako, in West Africa, and Beyond. The World of Music 42(3), 7–46. * Reprinted (2006) in: Post, Jennifer (ed.), Ethnomusicology: A Contemporary Reader. NY: Routledge Press, 161–185. * Reprinted again (2012) in: Baumann, Max Peter (ed.), Readings in Ethnomusicology. Berlin: VWB Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung, 134–170.  [pdf] [audio samples zip]


Polak, Rainer (1998) Jenbe Music in Bamako: Microtiming as Formal Model and Performance Practice. Iwalewa-Forum 2, 24–46.


Books of Music (Transcriptions of Field Recordings)


Polak, Rainer (2008) The Jenbe Realbook, Vol 2. Nürnberg: Bibiafrica.

 [pdf, English] * [pdf, Deutsch]


Polak, Rainer (2006) The Jenbe Realbook, Vol 1. Nürnberg: Bibiafrica.

[pdf, English] * [pdf, Deutsch]


CD-Liner Notes (Selection)


Polak, Rainer (2008) The Mali Tradition: The Art of Djembe Drumming, Vol 2. Nürnberg: Bibiafrica  [pdf]


Polak, Rainer (2006) The Mali Tradition: The Art of Djembe Drumming, Vol 1. Nürnberg: Bibiafrica  [pdf]


Polak, Rainer (1997) Dònkili – Call to Dance. Festival Music from Mali. PAN CD 2060  [pdf]


Polak, Rainer (1994) Bamako Fòli – Jenbe Music from Bamako. Self-edited. [pdf]


Reviews of Books and CD


Polak, Rainer (1999) Andreas Meyer: Afrikanische Trommeln. The World of Music 41/1.


Polak, Rainer (1999) Gilbert Rouget: Guinée. Musique Malinké. The World of Music 41/2.


Polak, Rainer (1999) Thomas Hale: Griots and Griottes. The World of Music 41/3.


Radio Features, Bayern 4 Klassik (Bavarian State Broadcasting)


Polak, Rainer (2008) Musik der Griots. Part 1: Was ist ein Griot? Preisgesänge, Heldensagen und Popmusik aus Westafrika


Polak, Rainer (2008) Musik der Griots. Part 2: Griots in der Diaspora


Braun, Herbert, and Rainer Polak (2006) Ali Farka Touré und die Legende vom Mali-Blues


Polak, Rainer (2005) Sanza, Mbira, Kalimba: Lamellophon-Musik aus Zentral- und Ost-Afrika


Polak, Rainer (2005) Balafon-Musik aus Westafrika. Part 1: Ursprünge


Polak, Rainer (2005) Balafon-Musik aus Westafrika. Part 2: Auf der Höhe der Zeit


Polak, Rainer (2004) Tam-tam global? Die Djembe-Trommel aus Westafrika. Part 1: Festmusik


Polak, Rainer (2004) Tam-tam global? Die Djembe-Trommel aus Westafrika. Part 2: Feed-Back


Polak, Rainer (2002) Tala Tarangini – Wellen des Rhythmus. Das Karnataka College of Percussion und die Trommelkunst in der klassischen Musik Südindiens


Polak, Rainer (2001) Afrikanische Harfenisten zwischen Hofmusik und Weltmusik: Kora-Musik aus Mali