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African Drums

Unbeknownst to many, one of my secret passions is playing the drums. I have played the drum set on stage at various night clubs, parties, basement jam sessions, and even a few concerts. My old friend and colleague Owen Matsui donated his first set of drums to me when he left Seattle to go back home to Hilo Hawaii in 1999. Matsui’s old tubs have been located in my basement for years along with an old bass amp and Fender Rhodes suitcase model which I recently sold. My Rhodes piano was only on Craig’s list for about twenty minutes before a buyer called and said “I’m coming over with cash”. That particular electric piano was used for countless engagements over several decades; I even had a dream wherein I was looking for it and found it in a forest. Although I miss that keyboard, I figured I should sell it while I could still move it; it was very heavy.

I play my inherited drum set quite often just for the enjoyment of laying down a funky groove in the order of a James Brown type song or a Harvey Mason style beat. My playing is not fancy but rather incredibly solid and no nonsense. I also enjoy the congas, bongos, and other percussions; however, the trap set is the instrument that I always come back to for fun and a break from piano.

One of the great things about going to Franklin High School in the late sixties was the fabulous music programs and musicians that were so meaningful to us. Besides an award winning choir, excellent stage band, and our own self-taught jazz class, we had an African Drum Ensemble. The drum ensemble showed us how each player could play a simple and solid rhythm in conjunction with all the other members to create an extraordinary wall of sound. We had to listen to each other and enjoy the cool and funky grooves while maintaining our individual contributions to that groove. The concept inevitably splashed over to many of the students and when we had choir rehearsals I loved to tap out a little rhythm on a table top and all the singers in my section would join in with various percussive counterpoints to make a fun and synergistic time. This feeling of comradery is truly a natural high and ideally, should be enjoyed by all.

[Editor’s Note]
Deems Tsutakawa is a local Sansei musician. He can be reached at deemst@deemsmusic.com.