PASIC 2006 Highlights - Austin Texas
A Review by Eric Stuer
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.
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
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..
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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..
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
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
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 play..as 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.
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
austin paper posted a brief video HERE.
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
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
prefer a photo essay
all the pictures
from PASIC 2006