I am a huge fan of world music and dance, especially if it involves a heavy drum groove, funky syncopation, and/or a sweet percussion melody.
My interest in world rhythms started with rock and roll. The congas on Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice” and the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” The clave played on Bo Diddley’s guitar. Michael Jackson borrowing Manu Dibango’s lyrics on “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.” Only later did I learn about Baba Olatunji, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Fela Kuti, and King Sunny Ade. While living in New York City in the late 1980s, I latched on to Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, and David Byrne as they explored global rhythms, collaborating with folks like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Youssou N’Dour, and Latin artists on albums like “Graceland” and “Rei Momo.”
In 1999 I wandered into the World Rhythm Festival at the Seattle Center and discovered one of my favorite musicians teaching a drum workshop. Baba Olatunji immediately drew me into African drumming, transforming me instantly from a world beat fan to a participant. Baba was obviously getting old, so I decided on the spot to study with him as soon as possible. My week with him later that summer at the Omega Institute was a perfect introduction to African drum and dance. Since then I have studied with pretty much every African, Afro-Cuban, and Afro-Brazilian percussion teacher in Seattle. I have traveled to Conakry, Guinea, to study with Mamady Keita and to Vancouver and Portland to study with Famoudou Konate.
I used to play for pretty much every African dance teacher (two of my favorites are Sarah Lee Koumbassa’s One World Dance, which I co-founded with her, and Lara McIntosh’s Wassa Dance) in Seattle and have jammed and performed with many of Seattle’s best-known African musicians.