UTM Percussion Studio adds rhythm to Civil Rights Conference
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 12:02
UTM’s Percussion Studio brought rhythm to the 13th Annual Civil Rights Conference with their presentation of “The Roots of Rhythm.” Watkins Auditorium was close to capacity Tuesday afternoon with busloads of local elementary school students as well as UTM students who came to hear the music and learn about the history of percussion.
Dr. Julie Hill, head of UTM’s Percussion Studio, took the audience on a trip through time and across continents to teach how percussion has evolved since the 1500s. The journey began on the African continent and followed the slaves to the Caribbean and on to the Americas.
The first two countries visited were Guinea and Zimbabwea. The natives of Guinea used non-pitched instruments including kenkeni, sangban and agogo bells and played in Fankani style. In Zimbabwea, the style of rhythm was Shona and the national instrument was the mbira, which was often accompanied by the hosho.
The third stop on Hill’s rhythm tour was the island of Trinidad. Not having been allowed to bring their instruments on the crowded slave ships, the kidnapped Africans used what they found to make a rhythm inspired by their homeland, yet unique to their new home. They formed “junk bands” and used native bamboo, glass bottles and various found metal objects to create music. During the time of WWII, the island had an abundance of empty 50-gallon oil drums, which led to the creation of steel pan drums. Steel bands remain popular in Trinidad today.
After leaving Trinidad, the Percussion Studio transported the audience to the island of Cuba. Cubans enjoy the steel drums from Trinidad but also add their own traditional percussion instruments. They include congas, timbales, bongos, cowbells and claves. This rhythm became known as Son, pronounced "soan." Played slowly, the Son can sound like a Cha Cha while if it is sped up, it becomes a Mambo or Salsa.
The fifth stop on the journey brought the audience back to the United States. The rhythm continued moving north via the Mississippi River where it further evolved to create New Orleans Sound, Dixieland, Zydeco, Ragtime, Vaudeville, Blues and Jazz. The audience learned that the United States has made an important contribution to the world of rhythm. The drum set you see in most modern bands from country to rock 'n' roll is a true all-American invention.
The sixth and final destination Hill and the Percussion Studio introduced was Brazil. While Samba Reggae is played in Brazil, Maracatú is the most African-like style of music played there, and the rhythm is made using instruments including repinique, caixa, shakers and surdos.