Special to The Capital Times
Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart believes rhythm lies at the center,
not only of all music, but of life itself.
When Hart brings his Global Drum Project to Overture Hall on Friday,
he will tap into the wellspring of that universal rhythm with the aid
of international percussionists Zakir Hussain on Indian tabla, Sikuru
Adepoju on Nigerian talking drum, and Giovanni Hidalgo on congas. The
result of the percussion summit, Hart says, reaches well beyond the
sum of individual performances. He talked about his new group, and a
little bit about his old one, in a recent phone interview.
What is the Global Drum Project?
This is a trance band, and it's specifically made for the trance. The
music has one foot firmly planted in the archaic world of membranes
and ancient instruments and the other planted in the digital domain.
The palette we're able to draw from is greatly enhanced and
increased. We can morph our instruments into instruments as yet
unborn, that don't have names. If you're looking for adventure on the
edge, you go for improvisation and for creating things that have
never been heard by you or by anyone else.
OK, what is a "trance band"?
The basis of trance music is a certain kind of redundancy, but not to
be boring. It alters your priorities and changes your brain wave
functions. Trance music propels you into another dimension. Some
people call it the sacred dimension. Others call it "the zone." You
know when you've got it because you feel weightless and your
priorities change. You don't think about the bills. You don't think
about what hurts. It's another realm of consciousness.
Much of what the band does is based on non-Western musical styles.
What started you in that direction?
I've always been intrigued by the rhythms of different cultures. I
grew up in New York City, which was a hotbed of cultures, the melting
pot as they say. With those cultures came their rhythms and their
dances, specifically Latin music and African music. I used to listen
to the Folkways recordings when I was a kid. The music lit a light
inside of me that always wanted to hear something different besides
what was on the radio.
That's one aspect of it. The other is the ability to bring together
different cultures to actually communicate and have a musical
conversation on stage. That's what we should be doing in world
affairs. Music is a perfect metaphor and way of understanding one's
culture. There's no better way to see into another culture and find
out what its hopes, its fears and its dreams are because music
contains all of those elements.
Is there much crossover between your work with Global Drum Project
and your work with the Grateful Dead?
Oh, absolutely. Both are trance bands, polyrhythmic and
improvisational in nature, and there's great love in the grooves.
Jerry (Garcia) would fit in perfectly in this band. He always wanted
to be a drummer anyway. He played a banjo, which is a membrane
instrument and similar to a percussion instrument because it's picked
using finger picks. He never could really drum, but the next best
thing was a banjo. He eventually took that technique to the guitar,
but he always was a frustrated drummer.
Does trance music work as effectively on the musicians as it does on
That's a good question. The "trancer" and the "trancee" are two
different things. If you're the trancer, you can't be completely the
trancee because you can sometimes lose facility, the ability to
maintain the trance. When you get too deep into that zone, you
sometimes can't manufacture the proper groove because you might get
too loose or ineffective in that trance. You have to ride that edge
and not cross it because sometimes you might lose your ability to
trance. It's a fine art, and over the years I've learned to be able
to ride that edge.
What will Madison audiences experience with Global Drum Project's concert?
That's up to them. If they come with an open heart and open mind,
they'll see visions and feel feelings that are sublime and wondrous,
hopefully. No two will have the same experience. They'll create
something original and totally unique within themselves.
People go to church to experience a connection to the "seed sound,"
the Big Bang, the moment of creation. Science now knows that the Big
Bang has a sound. It's 52 octaves below middle C. Translated and
brought into our hearing, it correlates to B-flat. The cosmic low end
of the universe is B-flat, which is still washing over us. Perhaps
we're trying to connect to that.
Maybe that's what music is about. It's not a luxury, but a necessity
right up there with sex and food. This is what the 21st century is
all about musically. After people experience the personal power of
the trance, they can go out and do some good with it. That's what I'm
trying to accomplish with this band.
Events for drummers set
Madison area drummers are invited to take part in a workshop and a
community drum circle before the Global Drum Project show Friday at
A workshop for experienced drummers will be held in the Wisconsin
Studio at the Overture Center from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Led by
percussionist and educator Helen Bond from Grayslake, Ill., the
workshop will focus on djembes and dununs (bass drums) used in the
traditional music of Guinea and West Africa. The cost for the
workshop is $10 with a ticket to the show and $15 without a ticket.
The community drum circle will be held in the Overture Hall lobby
from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Participants can bring any rhythm instrument,
including drums, tambourines and shakers. Drum circles, which can
range in size from a handful of players to thousands of drummers,
celebrate a community's innate creativity and connect individuals
through a common purpose of self-expression. Overture's community
drum circle is free and open to the public. Participants will be able
to safely check and store their drums and other instruments during