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above: Glen Velez at PASIC

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The Sunday after PASIC teaching artist Bob Bloom gave an afternoon workshop.

Read a review of Bob Bloom's sunday afternoon workshop.

Next year's PAS conference will be in Columbus Ohio. Read about it at PASIC.ORG

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PASIC 2006 Highlights - Austin Texas
A Review by Eric Stuer

[at right: Participants in a Glen Velez clinic clap in three and prepare to speak some South indian rhythms.]

Time flies. PASIC 2006 has come and gone, and, a week later, we are still reflecting on the music we heard and made, and the people we met and visited with..This PASIC was a good one, for the most part, clearly with some magic moments. It was an excellent year for FRAME DRUMMING.

There were over 7200 participants this year. As with any conference this size, we cannot report on all of it first hand. Too much was going on to catch all of it. Very often we would look at the schedule and see two or sometimes even three interesting things occuring at once in different areas of the convention center. You just have to choose. This year, we checked into the drum circle activities, world music, and we did manage to see a couple of our favorite drumset artsts as well..

It was excruciating: Keiko Abe or Glen Velez? Fransisco Aguabella and Jesus Diaz or the World fusion ensemble D'Drum? Argh!! We could go again and quite happily see entirely different concerts and workshops. T'would be a great time to clone oneself, and just go everywhere. But alas, our staff of two could only be so many places at once. The convention began on Wednesday, but we arrived Thursday evening.

Thursday -
Deb arrived in time to get some good shots of San Jose Taiko, which she said was quite an exciting performance. I had other pressing work in Fort Worth, though, and I did not manage to get there until just before the Thursday night drum circle with Toni Kellar and Christina Boiano. They did a fine job, but it was over too soon.

Let me take a moment to say that, although PAS has indeed integrated recreational drumming into it's conference in the past few years, it still has a ways to go in this regard. It will continue to improve, I think. They have an incredible number of events to manipulate and coordinate, and they adjust each year to how it went the year before. It's getting better. the Thursday night drum circle was charged with positive energy; lots of good players and facilitators were there, everyone ready to play, and the air was full of potential. It just went by so fast, and we weren't really ready to quit.. If a bar or restaurant within walking distance had done a late night drum circle, they could have packed the joint easily.

(at right: Toni Kellar and Christina Boiano, co-facilitators of the Thurs. 10PM drum circle). There were a large number of facilitators there this year, and we met a lot of folks we had only known online..

Friday -

[You can click on these little thumbnail images to go to the enlargement in the photo gallery, then use your 'back button to get back here..]

To visit the gallery and see ALL the pictures, click here

Dave Holland's recreational drumming lab was well attended, and Dave presented a number of immediately usable techniques and ideas for rhythm based event presenters. Along with Mountain Rythym designers, he has designed the shaker block, which when used two or more at a time can be shaken and also clapped together while playing alone or with a partner. I went to the Mountain Rythym booth to buy some shaker blocks later that day, but they had sold out within moments of his workshop. I do intend to get some. Dave also showed ways of working with concentric circle groupings and had a good way of integrating the participants' drumming sound effects with stories and songs. His Mountain Rythym signature model bass drum is nice; it sounds very good and has an insert which protects the head so the drum can be used for storage while in transport.

Jamal Mohamed gave a good basic workshop on beginning doumbek techniques and rhythms, and TOCA gave out FREE little PVC ultralight djembes for everyone to use in the workshop and take home. These tiny drums feel a little TOO light for me, and to my way of thinking, don't make the best doumbeks. He actually played his solo on that Mid-East narrow necked ceramic drum we all know so well. We appreciated the gifts, and yes, the doums and taks worked - sort of. It will make a good kids' drum.

Abbos Kosimov's whole troupe was astounding. These four Uzbeki drummers, along with NY's Alby Roblejo on some numbers, demonstrated the most amazing abilities on the Doira, a calf or horse skin frame drum with rings on the inside. They tune them way up, and they slap them hard, so much so that they use tape for the blisters, in almost the same place that congueros tape up when they have to play a lot. Everyone on the stage had tremendous technique, and they had FUN with it, tossing and passing and rolling the drums across the stage at one another with a grin, never missing a beat. (Notice the drum in the pic at left, rolling across the stage, seemingly unattended.) Watch a video of the troupe at PASIC.

Abbos Kosimov has true charisma, with a kind personality, impossible to forget. A nice big smile reminds us that, after all, we are supposed to be enjoying ourselves. We are sure to see and hear more from him in the future. Watch him warm up on the Doira.

Chris Layton - Just on a hunch, we checked in on Chris Layton, former drummer with the Stevie Ray Vaughn band. We were, after all, in Austin, a decent music town. Rumor had been that Chris was bringing some strong Texas blues players to accompany him.

It was a good set. Sureness and unity of purpose are Chris Layton's strong points; among other things, he demonstrated the use of unison in the two hands for shuffles and eighth note rock grooves. Listen to an excerpt from one of Chris' recorded performances.

Kenwood Dennard - We had known about Kenwood's outrageous musical skills for years, because we had run into him briefly back in 1981 when he came through the Sahara Tahoe with Manhattan Transfer. He shows an indomitable spirit when he plays, and could go days without repeating himself, if he wanted.. What a monster. He keeps a keyboard on his left hand side, and thinks nothing of playing synth with his left hand and drumset with the other three limbs, often while singing or talking or whatever. What a solo performer. Go, Kenwood..

Hands OnSemble - This was a concert we'd eagerly awaited, but it was not as we'd hoped. Regular Hands On'Semble members Randy Gloss, Andrew Grueschow and Austin Wrinkle had invited guest artists Houman Pourmedhi , Poovalur Sriji, and Abbos Kosimov to perorm with them, and their new CD is excellent. These six gentlemen are among the most highly skilled percussionists in world fusion today. They had a large and impressive array of instruments, but alas, the PAS sound crew was NOT up to the task.

We were literally sitting on the front row, but we found it impossible to hear any low tones whatsoever from the mridanga or kanjira. Houman's tonbak was almost completely inaudible throughout the hour, his exquisite cajon solo completely lost in the cavernous convention center "hall". The mike was not even on, I don't think, for various instruments which desperately needed a boost. We heard more berimbau from the berimbau itself, 35 feet away, than we did from the sound system.

The musicians, to the last man, played admirably, valiantly, throughout the concert, their impeccable performances attesting to the talent each wields under pressure, but the incredible world percussion concert that was waiting to happen will have to wait until a different guy is behind the sound board.

I was unable to attend D'Drum's concert the day before, but the word on the street was that it had been the same sound man, same giant room, same result..what a shame..

None of this diminishes what HandsonSemble and D'Drum are doing for world music. They are playing a crucial role, stretching and blurring the boundaries of the instruments and musics they are involved with..

Rajna Swaminathan's 5 PM mridanga presentation was strong, and well attended. We expect to hear more from her in the future. Indian percussion undoubtedly has serious influence in world music today, and it is great to see teens like this young lady make such a strong showing.

Friday Night Drum Circle - By 10 PM Friday night, everyone was charged up from watching music all day, and ready to play. Chet Doboe of Hip Pickles was the facilitator, and he made a fine host. A lot of young students had showed up, including another Indian teenager named Rohan Krishnamurthy, from Michigan, who played excellent mridanga and tamborine..he's at

It was great fun. Everywhere one went around the circle, a different & interesting facet of the groove would emerge..At one point, Alessandra Belloni, N.Scott Robinson and Dror Sinai came in, full of Spirit, playing, dancing, and singing, and really heated the circle up..It was a very diverse mix too, but with lots of younger percussion students, pros and drum circle folks. Everywhere one went around the circle something musically interesting was going on.. Austin Djembefola Alseny Sylla was there with a djembe and a smile, and his presence was felt and heard throughtout the room..

It was over before everyone was really ready to quit. Later after the circle was over and we'd been asked to vacate the convention center, we were walking towards the exit and we came upon the three of them, grouped in a good sounding corner at the top of the stairwell, still inspired, and singing and playing in three. A small crowd gathered, as people began to sneak out their instruments for a few more moments of bliss..

Saturday -

Glen Velez' Saturday workshop focused on the common 10" tunable tamborine. He applied South Indian, Southern Italian, Celtic, and Basque techniques, blended into a style he coined as 'Mediterrasian'. As a prelude to his workshop, he had us clap and sing some rhythms in three, using the South Indian system..

Quite a few people had apparently not heard Glen Velez before his clinic. It brought a smile to my face to hear the gasps in the audience as he so effortlessly pulled out the most exquisite music from a $30 ten inch tamborine. What a gem.

We spent much of Saturday afternoon visiting the exhibitors and so on. Got ourselves a couple pair of kosikas, visited all Tycoon Percussion offerings. This is a new California based company; some but not all their products are available from Mid-East. They have good quality stuff, but they are on the pricey side, considering the market. The sparkle congas and lug tuned sparkle djembe look and sound good. Tycoon timbales look very good too, but are priced up with the Meinls and so on. Their tube shaped cajones are a bit too thick in the sides to fit our taste.

The always crowded Cooperman booth had a stream of top rated players coming through all weekend, and we even met Rick Walker, looping there on a couple of pedals with a little battery powered amp..

The Closing Drum Circle -

Close to 5 o'clock Saturday I ran into REMO's John Fitzgerald walking with REMO facilitator Toni Kellar; they were headed towards the area in the 1st floor where the closing drum circle was to be, so I tagged along. As of yet, there were no drums, no chairs, no sign of the massive circle which was scheduled to be there within 15 or 20 minutes. Kalani was on the scene, and gradually other facilitators began to show up, all ready to help. John Fitzgerald was on his cell phone to PASIC logistics people and helpers; the drums arrived before the chairs did, and soon a big tentative circle of drums marked out the area where we were to the clock struck five, helpers showed up with the chairs, some drummers were already playing, sitting on the overturned drums, to get the groove going. it is truly good to watch all the facilitators in this type of situation. Everyone wordlessly found the place to be helpful and make it work. It would never have fallen together so smoothly but for the facilitator community kicking in to help.

It all fell together just in time, and in the high ceiling of the convention center, the reverb and room sound was intense. It was like a really big house going down the street, about a hundred drummers I guess, maybe more.. There was a walkway/balcony, way up on the next floor, and a few people had gathered there to watch the circle from that vantage point. I wondered what it would sound and look like to them. People were walking by, going to their cars, and they didn't ALL stop to participate, but enough of them did to make for a very large and entusiastic group. At one point Kalani put the smaller kids in the middle, making them the focal point for the circle, which worked very well, and he even sculpted all the way down to just a guy with a flute..It is wonderful to see a closing circle like this at PASIC. This would have been unheard of only a few years ago..

The austin paper posted a brief video HERE.

Incidentally, John Fitzgerald, the recreational drumming guy for REMO, was all over the place; it was a trip to watch him work all weekend, throughout the conference, actually, since he was involved not just in the logistics of the recreational drumming activities but in the concerts and workshops of various other REMO endorsees as well. He wears a lot of different hats, deals with lots of pressure, and then when the time comes, he effortlessly gets up and facilitates a group of drummers too, as if that is all he has to do. He makes it look easy.

At 8 PM, at the closing concert: Airto was incomparable. His set was the high point of the conference, for me at least. Airto is truly one of the very greatest percussionists of our time. Very down to Earth, he was clowning at one point, pretending to have stuck himself in the eye with the microphone during his pandeiro solo.. instead of Flora, he brought his daughter, who sang wonderfully. He also brought a percussionist who also did the beat box vocal thang at one point during the show. Airto did overtone singing while playing his frame drum, and I could not help but think of Glen Velez the day before, and how he had said the overtone singling was related by nature to the frame drum. Airto and Glen Velez, it seems have arrived by different paths at the same destination.

Anyway, that was PASIC 2006. The next day was Bob Bloom's Facilitation Workshop, then back to Dallas. In 2007, the convention will be in Columbus Ohio, then again in Austin in 2008. We shall keep you posted..

STU, November 2006

Some people
prefer a photo essay
See all the pictures
from PASIC 2006


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