The eight-piece ensemble, launched by Malayali musician Shyam Suraj from Wayanad, who goes by the stage name Shamrock, has been gradually carving a niche for itself in the Indian music scene, that too with African drums.
The group, that was known as Drum Events India for the past eight years, rechristened themselves Afro-d-Asia quite recently. Shamrock says, “Our concept of ‘drum circle,’ which is of African origin, has audience also participating by playing instruments in a performance. It is unlike anything the Indian audience is used to.”
The band has six musicians from Africa and two from India. Apart from Shamrock, it consists of drummers Emmanuel Osei Awuk and David Duncan from Ghana, singer Roy Soulchild from Cameroon, drummer and keyboardist Thomas Nii Pantry from Ghana, lead guitarist Patrick Nkongolo from Congo, bass guitarist Immanuel Delphin from Ivory Coast and saxophonist San Panther aka Santosh Kumar from Bengaluru.
The team has performed around 1,500 shows in India and have used a maximum of 4000 drums, Shamrock says, explaining, “We take along with us as many drums, depending on the approximate number of people in the crowd we are going to address. A few of the drums we play are djembes, djun djun, gome drum, kalabash, balafone, talking drum, kpalongo and drum kit.”
During the performance, the musicians and facilitators on the stage treat the audience first to a few minutes of conventional African music show, complete with vocals and instruments. “Post that, the listeners are given the drums, some warm-up exercises, tips and a short session of guidance on how to play the instrument with us. From there on, we progress to modulations, patters and more. By the end of the sessions, which are generally around 45 minutes long, the whole pack performs together,” he says.
The African instruments have a certain energy about them, that helps the audience to bond and have a lot more fun compared to other similar instruments, says Shamrock. Africans apparently use many varieties of drums to celebrate their weddings, birthdays and even for funerals. “I am also passionate about collecting African drums and I have also been adding percussion instruments from all over the world to the collection,” he says.
The musician, who was working abroad in an international bank, says he chanced upon the drum circle concept. Shamrock says, “While I was working in Dubai, a European musician named Julie Ann Odell visited my office for a team-building, activity-based music show. As my colleagues knew I too am a drummer, they asked me to join in. That’s how I struck a friendship with Julie, with whom I got the opportunity to jam even later and take part in a few events held at different platforms, including desert camps.” Shamrock learnt the basics of drum circle facilitation from Julie and was quite fascinated by the concept.
When recession hit the world in 2008, he left it all and returned to India. “That’s the time in which I contemplated doing something I really like and care about and wondered why not try this. My folks frowned a bit, but I decided to give it a try. At first, I coordinated with a few local musicians here and put together the group called Drum Events India. Julie also helped with hiring the African musicians,” he says.
The group performed in India for the first time in 2011. “It was in one of the IT companies in Chennai and slowly, it opened the doors to other similar companies for us. We present the performance as a team-building activity and even customise them to suit the objective of those who invite us,” says Shamrock, who performed for the first time in Kerala in 2013.
Alongside corporate events, they have also been performing at a variety of other functions such as weddings and festivals. The group’s singer Roy, who has even performed with cricketer Chris Gayle a few years ago, feels that Indians are quite welcoming to African instrumental performances.
“Just like many Indian instruments, we also perform weaving in a lot of feelings. The performances are also very organic and authentic,” he says. Meanwhile, Emmanuel feels Indian audience, like Africans, don’t spare the opportunity to dance. “They don’t hesitate to try things and if you add a dollop of Indian songs too, they go adorably crazy,” he says.
For the new year, the band has big plans. “As musicians who have been playing for corporates for a long time, we have been thinking of a new concept to be launched in their work spaces. It’s sort of a musical community termed Drumunity. We are thinking of pitching a little space everywhere for relaxation through music, using drums, shakers and more. We want to train facilitators of the same on how to run it and help employees unwind better,” Shamrock says, signing off.
Source link : https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/building-teams-with-thumping-african-music/articleshow/67321059.cms
Publish date : 2018-12-31 18:30:00