Urgency! Drum Chants for Kiribati and the Marshall Islands
This collection of drumset chants are played and developed in solidarity with communities and ecosystems facing upheaval due to climate change, and in support of the international climate research community.
“Think of waves on the beach. Some are high, some are low. That’s the weather. But in the background the tide is coming in. That’s climate change. Even though the waves haven’t changed their properties, they come closer and closer to your feet,” Martin Stendel (Danish Meteorological Institute)*
From my early thirties, I spent many years immersed in the grammar of Korean traditional drumming vocabularies including rhythmic forms associated with shamanism, farmer’s carnival music, Buddhist chant, and pansori. The priority for me during this intensive study period was to develop a deeper understanding of rhythmic grammar and rhythm aesthetics, as well as an understanding of how one can explore sound, energy, and rhythm through body movement.
My first days studying in Korea revealed my lack of any sense of a rhythmic aesthetic…my teacher at the time, Kang Sun il (a wonderful communicator and teacher), came to a gig and said that my playing had nice texture but no rhythm at all. At first I was confused as I didn’t understand what Sun il meant, but over time I realised that I was just a beginner when it came to working with rhythm as the primary organisational element. In Korea, much of the music is drum music. Not drumming within a song form, but drum music with its own internal phraseology that is a kind of alternative to drumming within song form. In drum music, “melody” can be created through, for example, rhythm line, rhythmic phasing, rhythmic tension and release, a range of working “ways” that are not about harmony or pitch. During those years I found it enormously exciting to gain a deeper understanding into the possibilities of creating music on drums using drumming parameters, not harmonic, pitch related materials.
Over the past few years I’ve been trying to use principles learned through apprenticeships in Korea, and in Australia with Mark Simmonds, and through ongoing musical and personal friendships with Scott Tinkler and Greg Sheehan, to create a rhythmic language that is free from material I’d worked with previously. I love the idea of creating dense, fast, chattery rhythms that have a kind of guttural gurgling quality and wanted to find an expressive outlet for these thoughts. So this project is an attempt to create a personal drumming vocabulary, that I call “coiling”, in response to thoughts about densities, energy, line, gurgling/bubbling rhythm, and the possibilities of entangled rhythmic variants.
This series of recordings, the first being “Urgency! Drum Chants for Kiribati and the Marshall Islands”, feature a collection of drum chants that utilise coiling as the primary vocabulary element. The chants are developed and performed in solidarity communities and ecosystems facing upheaval due to climate change, and in support of the international climate research community.