Nicky Campbell’s seminar was a wide ranging interdisciplinary presentation centered around musical traditions from the once great African empire of Mali and its outstanding at the time cultural and trading center of Timbuktu. Not particularly emphasized in the talk but indicated in the photo was another very important aspect of the festivals that the Danilo Pérez Foundation organizes — the identification and development of those kids whose talents make them good enough to play with the adults.
The Percussion Festival has class(es)
photos and captions by Eric Jackson
Yes, the Central American Percussion Festivals that are one of the cultural features of August in Panama City are promoted as a series of excellent concerts that one need not be possessed of beatnik tendencies to appreciate. But like all of the stuff that the Danilo Pérez Foundation does, it mainly has an educational purpose. The stars of the evening performances are the teachers by day. Nobody gets rich from these events — at least, not directly so in a pecuniary sense — but Panama does get enriched.
Pepe Peña, a festival regular, brings Vene iterations of the Yoruba beat into the mix, and this year something different that Venezuela is doing. He’s introducing drums made from petroleum products rather than from trees and animal hides. He touts it as a boon to the natural environment and has a point, but for Venezuela as the era of fossil fuels phases out it’s a step in the direction of using petroleum as a manufacturing raw material, an obvious but not easy move for an economy based almost entirely on oil and gas.
Among the things that Omar Díaz’s presentation got into was the relationship between a drummer and a percussionist when playing together in the same band. The basic rule is that the drummer is the “pilot” who sets the beat and the percussionist is the “co-pilot” who embellishes and enhances the drummer’s lead.
Colombian musician Juan Pablo Ruiz had as his main topic Brazilian percussion, which he covered. In passing he also talked about how the African call and response style in music is incorporated into the samba beat and discussed the science and philosophy of music therapy, in which music is used to mend or develop damaged or dysfunctional human nervous systems.
So what is “tambojazz?” For one thing, the subject matter of Chale Icaza’s class. The term was coined by the late Panamanian pianist Víctor Boa. Precisely what Boa meant and what his most important influences were are matters of academic debate. Boa’s music, like most jazz, was a fusion of genres. Icaza demonstrated and described the numerical sequences of a number of musical forms from the drummer’s perspective, and explained why some things fuse better than others.
Parenting is one of the big things in Danilo Pérez’s and Patricia Zarate’s life these days and in the back room while the adults and some of the young prodigies held classes beyond two sets of doors, there were these far less structured children’s activities, as in learning by play.
~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.