By Deems Tsutakawa For The North American Post
There are times when I miss hanging out with my old friend and superb conga drummer Stan White (he moved to Atlanta a few years ago). His father owned a record store in the south side of Chicago, where he grew up, and he has been playing hand drums his whole life.
White also played drums and percussion on several of my albums. Besides Afro-Cuban jazz, and rhythm & blues, he is a master at Bata’ drumming which uses an hourglass shaped two headed drum. The very popular Afro Cuban drumming style as well as Bata’ drumming originated in West Africa and was transported across the ocean many centuries ago. Unbeknownst to most people, West African drumming was originally very religious in its participation and societal function.
In modern times, many people play these styles for enjoyment too. For some reason, drumming has always moved me in a deep and spiritual way. In the past, I would have my band “break it down” to where the other musicians would stop playing and only piano and congas were still jamming. In the nights following these jams, I would have beautiful dreams of visiting far off places like the Caribbean Islands and other tropical places.
Stan and I would also just hang out, drink, shoot pool and see live music at various venues like Jazz Alley. I remember picking him up and heading downtown to see some cool jazz and on the way we would just talk silliness and rather unimportant things, and we would laugh.
Did I say laugh? Man, we would bust a gut. I have read many science articles which clearly state that laughter is the best of all medicines for many ailments. People of all ages and walks of life get great benefit from laughter.
Stan told me that when he was growing up he would get in trouble from his mom for laughing too much to which I said wow, the same thing happened to me. As a matter of fact, I was told that I would not have any friends if I continued to laugh out loud.
Perhaps, it is somewhat “unJapanese” to indulge in loud and boisterous laughter but as they say here in the good old USA: “if the spirit moves you then go for it” and that is how I like to roll.
[Editor’s Note] Deems Tsutakawa is a local Sansei musician. He can be reached at deemst@ deemsmusic.com.