Saturday, February 28, 2009

Help a Kid Get a Drum

I just ran across this great site that allows you to give much needed help to the teachers in our US schools.

This site, helps teachers looking for materials (like drums) to find donors to help out. You get to decide exactly what project or school you donate to.

The nice thing about it is that the site uses the crowdsourcing idea where even if you donate tiny amounts, it still helps because there are many others doing the same thing. Kind of like the "tiny streams coming together eventually becoming a great river" idea.

Of course, I found the particular part of the site where teachers are looking to get drums for their students for group drumming in the classroom. I've seen first hand, as I'm sure many of you have, the confidence, self-esteem, sense of community, and joy that drumming with others provides.

The way I see it, the more drumming we have in our schools the better :)

Help out here..

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bata Drummers

Courtesy of Awoyinfa Ifaloju

This is a short clip of some young Bata drummers, children from a long long lineage of Ayan drummers from the area to the north of Oyo town & Ogbomoso towns, which is the traditional and cultural heart of the Yoruba of Nigeria. Bata is also worshipped like any other Deity of the Yoruba people, and can speak like a human, people accustomed to the traditional Yoruba language can decipher the words that the Oni-Ilu (person drumming) is saying and will often sing along to the words of the drum, Bata is also closely related to the Orisa Sango and to Egungun society.

The highly developed artistic forms of the Yoruba people has many things to showcase to the world. These drummers are around 6-8 years of age and have been drumming several years under their mentor.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Photo of Summer Rhythm Renewal participants in concert...

Learning to work well with other people is a vital skill that we need for the vast majority of jobs we do. And at the heart of working with people is the ability to communicate with them. Notice that I use the word "with." This word implies that there is more than just you in the situation. If you want to be perceived as someone who is easy to work with, someone that people like to work with, then honing your ability to communicate is vital.

Drilling down further into learning the art of communication is your ability to listen well. The very best communicators, and usually the easiest people to create things with, tend to be the best listeners. When you are truly listening to someone you are directing all of your focus and attention to the other person, fully experiencing and trying to understand what it is that this person is trying to say. This approach of listening is very different than what many of us do, which is as the other person is speaking, we are thinking about we will say next, while only hearing enough to get the gist of what is being said to us.

If you really want to know and understand what someone is trying to say to you, an effective technique that you can use is to simply re-state what the other person has just said to you and ask them, "Did I understand you correctly?" This is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to eliminate mis-communication. It's also a way to deepen your relationship with this other person because when you show this level of attention to them, it communicates the message that you truly care and that what they have to say is important to you.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Framing your experiences with other people

The drive to grow is what keeps you progressing. If you desire progress, this drive will never stop for you, and you'll always want to share what you discover with those you love. While you can definitely have an effect on someone, you will rarely be able to put your hands on someone and twist them into what you want them to be.

A significant challenge in a relationship is to see someone you love that you know could benefit and grow from what you personally know, but the person is either uninterested or unwilling to "go there". Dealing with this kind of frustration, while unnerving, can also be viewed as a gift. It gives you one more part of yourself to come to terms with. This part has to do with just allowing life to unfold as it does.

Whenever you can reduce the emotional charge of your frustration at someone else's lack of growth, you will have grown as a result. This is a way to change the frame of how you view your closest relationships. You have the choice to view them in terms of how much they aggravate you, or you can view them in terms of how much they can help you to understand yourself.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Phil Donahue Covets My Shirt

This was backstage at the Conan O' Brien Late show performance. Phil was one of the other guests that night. He seemed like a cool guy, but we only had 2 minutes and then we had to play our segment...

TV performances were always so strange. The build-up of how much they were going to effect our career was always so huge, which in turn made me put extra stress on myself to make sure it was the "best performance ever". Most times I felt like I over-played, instead of just relaxing and enjoying the experience.

Whether shows like this ever had a "career defining effect" is up for debate. I know our publicists, label and management sure liked to tell everyone over and over again that we "did Conan"...

On the set, everything was incredibly regimented and planned out to the second. We would be given a specific time allotment and were told we couldn't go over it, so we'd practice whatever song we were doing and have to edit it down in rehearsal to the amount of time we had.

Friday, February 20, 2009

My "I wanna be a Rock Star someday" notebook from High School

This was my math notebook from 11th grade, I think....

It helps me to understand why I failed math so many times. I had other things on my mind.
After all, it was the 80's...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Beginners Djun Djun Lesson with Jim Donovan

Photo by Kaylyn Oshaben

One of the most beautiful, yet sometimes overlooked African drums are the djun-djuns.
The voice that the djuns give really help drumming music become more dynamic and musical, especially when combined with iron bells.

Below is a beginner lesson from my Rhythmic Foundation DVD.
This video shows you how to hold the stick and how to strike the drums efficiently. The next step after learning this basic technique would be to attach the bell to the djun djun and learn to do the bell in one hand while playing the djun in the other hand.

In traditional West African drumming, there are 3 sizes of Djuns: The smallest is called the kenkeni, the medium drum is the sangban and the large is called the dununba. The iron bells that attach are referred to by some as toke' bells.

The djuns and the bells are typically the drums that carry the melodies of WA drumming music, while the more popular djembe is used primarily as an accompaniment instrument. The exception to this being the lead drum or master drummer who uses a very high pitched djembe for soling and doing calls....

If you're looking for a few masters of these instruments:
Check out Mamady Keita
or Michael Markus

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I was working on ideas for my world music class and I came across this music I want to share with you

Khoomi is an incredibly beautiful and unique singing style from Mongolia.
The singers are able to make 2 to 4 different notes with their voices at one time...

Khoomi singers make these multiple sounds by bending (or folding) the tongue, while tapping the tongue point on the front teeth. By making the lips into an "O" shape the melody converges, the sound buzzes and chords happen...

There is something about this music that instantly puts me ease.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Best Guitarist I've Ever Witnessed...

I want to introduce you to an Italian friend of mine named Paolo Schianchi.
He is a truly remarkable guitarist and a gentle soul...

It's rare to meet someone who is setting the bar for other musicians. Paulo is one of these people.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Drummer *IS* Someone Who Drums.

Photo by Kaylyn Oshaben
PJ Roduta pictured in photo at the Summer Rhythm Renewal Concert

This was my response to someone asking a question about what makes a person a "real" drummer:

A drummer *is* someone who drums. The only separation if you can even call it that is the time, effort, intention and attention invested into your art. The art begins the first time you strike a drum. It may be crude at first, but it is completely valid and real. Sheer determination trumps natural gifts any day in my opinion. The best drummers IMHO are the ones who listen and serve the situation at hand. These are the folks who actually contribute energetically to the betterment of all concerned. Drumming works just like life, just like relationships. Bad drummers serve themselves first without regard to the whole picture. Watching masters play is a great way to get better. Listen first to what they're playing but also focus on how they blend, lift, propel, and affect everyone else around them. The greatest players are those who lift everyone up with them.

- Jim Donovan

Friday, February 13, 2009

Three Rivers Stadium : Opening for the Grateful Dead 95

95 was the big year.

For me, playing at Three Rivers was like finding the Holy Grail. I had spent my childhood watching my beloved Steelers and Pirates play, and win here. I spent years imagining myself playing here...

Little did I realize what form that would take.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Benefits of Hand Drumming

Benefits of Hand Drumming
by Laurie Loeb

Reprinted with permission

The benefits (to Alzheimer/dementia patients) of these rhythm activities, in addition to providing fun, include combating loneliness and isolation; exercising fine and gross motor skills and spacial and temporal relations; stimulating cognitive skills of perception, attention, concentration and memory; exercising creativity; increasing sense of productivity, self-esteem, and empowerment. The residents also find both relaxation and energy through the activities, memories are triggered to become more accessible, and mental alertness and clarity are increased during and immediately following the sessions.

Additionally, staff and residents' families derive much satisfaction from seeing these clients, historically so difficult to engage, joyously participating and positively responding.

The most remarkable aspect of this rhythm program is the high degree of repeated and sustained participation that does not occur with any other on-going activity offered to the residents. For people who suffer from Alzheimer disease and other forms of dementia, this level of engagement is both rare and extremely valuable.

And then, for community drum circles:

  • The coming together of a diverse group of people previously unknown to one another, to share a common interest and activity, and good feelings.
  • A sense of collaboration and belonging, and the promotion of peace and harmony amongst the participants.
  • Provision of an intergenerational and family activity in which adults and children can participate together at their own respective levels of ability.
  • Provision of inter-cultural activity in which communication and collaboration can occur without words, and strangers can share innate rhythmic sensibilities.
  • Accessible to all, regardless of previous experience or lack thereof. All skill levels can participate simultaneously without the need to modify any level.
  • Good exercise for cognitive skills such as attention, perception, and memory.
  • Gross and fine motor skill exercise, including coordination and mind-body connections.
  • Opportunity to be introduced to, learn and play new instruments and musical forms.
  • Opportunity for self-expression and creativity.
  • Opportunity to produce one's own music, regardless of previous experience, or lack thereof.
  • Opportunity for live, active participation rather than passive entertainment (stupification?) by electronic devices such as TV, computer and video games, etc.
  • Opportunity for self-discovery and awakening of human potential.
  • Fun, fun, fun!!!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Someone Tell This Guy to Take a Breath

Here's a shot of a young me holding my breath for 15 minutes while playing a set at the 1993 Great Blue Heron Music Festival I mentioned a few posts ago. I'm playing my old Yamaha kit that got destroyed in a flood a few years later..

This festival was responsible for opening my eyes to all kinds of amazing people and music. One of the common themes that seems to run through most of the artists there (especially the old time fiddle music) is that the musicians are really listening and reacting to each other. There is so much musical magic to be had when we serve each other like that...

Pictured behind me in the purple shirt is festival organizer Dave Tidquist. This guy has such a nose for amazing music. I owe him a great deal for taking RR under his wing and supporting us like he did.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Common hand-drumming-related injuries and treatments

Common hand-drumming-related injuries and treatments

Common hand-drumming-related injuries and treatments
by Kalani

Injury Treatment

Soreness in hands, wrists & forearms from playing for long periods of time or playing hard. Ice alternating with heat, motrin, traumeel cream, arnica cream, taping the fingers before playing, not playing as hard, changing one's technique, staying relaxed when playing.

Tightness in the shoulders, neck & back from wearing drums with straps and/ or leaning over the drums. Warming up before playing, deep breathing, keeping good posture, yoga, tai-chi, adjusting straps & stands to fit one's body, massage, shea butter.

Ringing in the ears from playing loud or for long periods of time. Wearing ear plugs & not playing as loud.

Blisters & cracks on the hands from playing with sticks and/or bare hands. Using hand lotion, taping the hands,using pumice to reduce the size of callouses & using "new skin" to help heal & prevent blisters. Numbness in hands from playing. Warming up, not playing as loud & rest. Soreness in feet and / or back from standing. Using orthotics (soul inserts to raise the arch of the foot and align the ankle bones with the foot and leg).

As a general rule, most percussionists feel that warming up is an important part of practice and performance. Stretching and massage also seem to be good preventative measures for reducing injuries. As treatment, arnica is a popular remedy as is ice & heat.

An ongoing effort to improve one's technique, to stay relaxed and to breath deeply are also important factors in maintaining good health. Quick fixes include ibuprofen (for reducing swelling) and tape to prevent skin injuries.

The above information is a summery of the input that was gathered from an internet survey of 45 drummers & hand percussionists. The purpose of the survey was to identify health issues, both injuries and remedies, that are common among hand drummers. This information is part of a growing data base of health related studies that are being conducted and compiled by the Percussive Arts Society - Health and Wellness committee. Kalani is the world-percussion sub-chairman of the committee. Additional comments and input should be addressed to the above address.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

How to Get a Good Sound From Your Djembe

Bass tone
The bass tone is the low sound of the djembe. Using the weight of your forearm, strike the center of the drum with your open palm and bouncing your hand off the skin to get the best bass tone drum. Experiment with striking the drum a little off center to see how your particular drum responds. Keep in mind that each drum is unique and has its own "sweet spots".
Each stroke you play on the drum should be with relaxed muscles and motion. While doing this and the following strokes (except for the muted tone), imagine that you have strings attached from the drum to the palms of your hands. As you do this imagine these strings pulling the sound out of the drum. The head on a drum is a vibrating membrane which moves in an up and down motion. By using this imagery you may allow yourself to pull the best sound out of your drum.

Open tone (or just the "tone")
Continuing in a relaxed way, bring your fingers together as you strike the edge of the drum to create an open resonant sound. The edge of the drum should contact the fleshy part of the base of the fingers between the two joints closest to the hand. Be careful to avoid hitting the rim of the drum with the joints in your hands (under your knuckles and in the lines of you palms and hands).

The slap is a bright, popping tone. Firm your fingers and curve them slightly (you're still relaxed remember), strike the edge of the drum with the fleshy part of the hand, just below the fingers. Watch that your thumbs stay away from the rim of the drum. Let your fingers pop down and quickly bounce off the drum. To really get a strong "popping" slap. your drum head needs to be very tight. you should not be able to feel any "give" in the head if press down on the middle of your drum head.

Muted tone
This stroke is a muted Pa that creates a cracking, dry sound. Mute the head of your drum by resting one hand on it just before and during the strike of your other hand.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Found this old newsletter in the archive. 1991 ish?
Who knew nuns had so much fun!

Jenn Wertz used to put many of these newsletters together, I loved her handwriting, she was responsible for creating the "font" on our When I Woke disc.

Friday, February 6, 2009


DrumStrong is a phenomenal organization doing great work helping to beat cancer.

The founder Scott Swimmer is one of the most passionate people I've ever met.
At age 15, Scott's son Mason was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (a rare bone cancer) and underwent many months of chemo and extensive surgeries on his leg. Three years later he has beaten it and pitches for his varsity high school baseball team. Scott's experience with his own son's battle with cancer has led him to creating DrumStrong.... The world needs more people like Scott Swimmer.

Check out more here...

Friday, February 6th, 2009, 6 p.m.

NotSoSilent Auction

Benefiting Levine Children's Hospital


DrumsForCures presents our ‘NotSoSilent’ Auction with music by the world renowned Brubeck Brothers Quartet (Dave's sons), Jim Donovan (Rusted Root), Jim Brock & Jim Roberts and other musical surprises (join the JimJam). With a 'knock-yer-socks-off' opening act by internationally acclaimed Vinx. Enjoy the magnanimous Larry Sprinkle as emcee.

Our ‘NotSoSilent’ Auction will be at Spirit Square, 345 N. College St. Charlotte, NC, 28202 @ 6:00 pm, with a famous musical jam in the McGlohon Theater.

:: Fabulous hors d’oeuvres, open bar and over 100 exciting silent auction items including signed Lance Armstrong jerseys and posters, Willie Nelson, Mickey Hart, Stephen King and other celeb. autographed items, vintage wines, travel, restaurant & spa packages, 'Meet & Greet' Mickey Hart, premium Dead tix, a rare dw Timeless Timber drum kit and MUCH more.

:: All proceeds benefit the Levine Children’s Hospital cancer research and clinical trials programs.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

1993 Great Blue Heron Music Festival

This is a flyer from The 1993 Great Blue Heron Music Festival in Sherman, NY. This event is, in my opinion, one of the sweetest music gatherings in the US. The combination of good people, amazing roots style music, gorgeous setting and relaxed vibe make the Blue Heron a very special place...

I like the fact that the organizers go out of their way to make it a family friendly event without sacrificing any of the great music..

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Conan O'Brien is Tall

I am 6'1... Conan is a frickin tall human being. Maybe 6'7, 6'8??

All other things being equal, he's also a very warm and friendly guy.
He had us on his show twice...
Good times in the big apple.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Page & Plant Civic Arena 95'

Dream come true... imagine being able to watch your all time favorite band (minus the late great Bonham) for 2 months... I went out to the first row every night I could.

Both Plant and Page were good guys, Robert was exceptionally cool and helpful.

When we got this gig, it was on very short notice so most of the advertising had already been put out without our name on it. So when the lights would go down each night 20,000 people thought Led Zeppelin was coming out... you should have seen the looks on some of the faces when they saw it wasn't them.. but Rusted Root.

We had 25 minutes every night to win over a potentially hostile crowd. Luckily for us, we were used to playing 2+ hour shows, so we just condensed all of our energy into a shorter time.... Doing this tour was just the thing we needed to break our career wide open.

The icing on the cake was during the show the night this shot was taken, Robert Plant dedicated "The Song Remains the Same" to RR.... I had tears and chills. Then during the encore Jimmy Page came out wearing a RR tee shirt... I wish I had a photo of that...

It all seems like a dream now... a very good one....

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Ahh the Sunflower shot...this was taken in a field in Somerset, PA en route to some club of my favorites...