Sunday, September 27, 2015

2nd Annual Festival of the Drum

I remember a friend of ours who enjoyed bringing drums as gifts to children probably so that they could drive their parents mad when they played in the house.  My son, Danny’s, first torture of his parents was playing the violin, which drove his poor baby brother to distraction at a few months of age.  So Danny’s solution was to stuff cotton into Hunter’s his ears.

Therefore, I guess, it was perfectly logical for him to eventually take up the drums and that he did.  He did this more seriously and still plays today.  He even put together a small band called Pockets of Wonder in his town of Traverse City, Michigan.

When I told my wife I was going to write about the 2nd Annual Festival of the Drum,  she said, “Oh, you have done that before!”  True, see it here.  Then again, I have written about some art fairs annually for a period of time and I think the festival of the drum is more fun and a lot shorter!  Unfortunately, some of my favorite performers from last year did not make it this time but there was plenty to keep us entertained.  There also did not seem to be as big an audience as last year, but that may have been deceiving since everyone was trying to find shade under the portal or among the trees on this very hot autumn day.  The Museum Hill CafĂ© was also full, hiding a lot of people who were enjoying their lunch with entertainment.

We did not stay for the entire 4 hours of drums but we did see the majority of the players.  There were 2 sets by Native Americans, as well as one group playing Japanese drums and another Vietnamese group.  The latter was from Albuquerque.

We arrived when the Japanese drums were in their final frenzy, which was most exciting with its different sized drums.  Taiko Sol is a collaborative drumming project in Santa Fe.  The participants are born in the U.S. and their interpretations of the music are distinctly American.  Taiko in Japanese refers to various percussion instruments, but outside of Japan usually refers just to the drum.  Sol is the Spanish word for Sun.  Their teacher is of Lithuanian and French Canadian heritage. One of the performers, Alliyah Noor, who gave me the players backgrounds is of Pakistani and German heritage, and another performer’s family came from Japan.   American ensemble Taiko has evolved in the States from the older more traditional form.

There were two Native American Groups.  The first we saw was the Black Eagle Drum Group from Jemez Pueblo.  As it was put on line they”…brought honor, big time, to Jemez Pueblo and to all of New Mexico when they won a Grammy for Best Native American Music Album…, Flying Free”  They have also won other awards.  They are now writing their own songs in their ancient Towa language.  Their leader, Malcom Lepa, explained that when they started out in 1989, at first, they “sounded like a bunch of coyotes in the river”.   They have vastly improved but I was quite happy that we heard them outdoors since the sound of large drums can be very loud and all encompassing.  By the end of the set people were getting up to dance.

The other Indian group was from Pojoaque pueblo, the Red Turtle Dancers led by David Trujillo.  The group started about 6 years ago.  These were 4 young Native Americans, 2 boys and 2 girls who first did a Buffalo Dance and then a Butterfly Dance to traditional songs, which, of course included the drum.

Probably the most fun and exciting drum performance that we heard was founded by a Vietnamese group, called Van Hanh Lion Dance of Albuquerque.  The music was performed by drummers and cymbalists and the leader was about 10 years old.  He had to stand on small stand to be able to reach the drum but he was amazing.  I was told that he has been playing for two or three years.  The lions are formed by a taller young person as the head and a smaller child behind as the tail.  They would dance around and go up and nudge people.  I did not understand the purpose so one of the animals literally took my head into his mouth… thank goodness he did not bite it off!  The concept was to feed them money.  My wife really got into this and fed them several dollars during the dance.

The event was sponsored by the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC) but it was truly international in musical tastes.  I am going to keep writing about them in hopes that they come back every year and grow!

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