Monday, July 24, 2006

Stick Fest, Gratitude, Hiawatha

Hello again,

It has been such a great two weeks since I last wrote in the blog. On Saturday the 19th I played tabla and conga with Steve Osburn on the stick, and Maruga Booker on the drumset at the 1st National Chapman Stick Festival in downtown Ann Arbor, MI. Mickey Richard sat in on a couple of tunes with his electric guitar and Craig Brann helped us out with some guiro. It was an interesting show. I really liked playing with Maruga, although our sound on stage was a little out of adjustment, the feeling was solid and groovy. I have been listening to Steve practice and rehearse his pieces for quite a while now, so I was very familiar with them, which always helps in a performance :) The set was just over a half hour long in the middle of a very hot sunny day. The stick fest lasted all day and had some of the top chapman stick players from around the country, including Emmet Chapman himself. It was interesting to see all the different styles of stick players. Later in the day I got to sit in on a jam with Bob Culbertson, Steve Adelson and Maruga. It was a great way to spend the afternoon, and to top it all off, as I was standing in the street watching, Ken Kozora came up to me and asked if I wanted to play with him and Mickey Richard just down the street at the Crazy Wisdom Tearoom. I grabbed my tabla out of the truck and went down and played till 11:30pm. It was a great day. Check out http://www.stickfest.org for pictures soon.


The next week I played two concerts in two parks with The Gratitude Steel Band. The first one was on Wednesday at Hines Metropark near Farmington, MI. It was a nice little show. We did alot of games with hula hoops, beachballs, and the limbo. Lamar Woodall came out and played some lead pan with us. It was great to play with him again. It has been a while and he is such a good player.
The next night was in the city of Gross Pointe Woods. It was a more intimate setting with a smaller stage and relaxed crowd. We played a lot of the same games for the kids. The music was sounding nice and everyone in the group was relaxed and feeling good. It is great to go to work and have everyone smiling and working together so well!

On Friday Jody and left for the U.P. for the 28th annual Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival (http://hiawathamusic.org/). I was scheduled to play in 2 workshops and host another. It was great to go back to my hometown of Marquette and be involved in a festival that I grew up with. The workshops went great. I played tabla with a West African ensemble made up of a kora player Mady Kouyate, African banjo master Cheick Hamala Diabate, a djembe player who introduced himself at Ishmael and a baliphone player whose name I can't recall at the moment. The sound of the tabla and their instruments was so nice. Cheik Hamala loved it. We talked a lot afterwords about how well the sounds went toghether. Hopefuly it will not be the last time I can play with them, they were the nicest guys, and incredible musicians.
Later in the day I hosted a World Percussion Workshop with Jessica Ross and Nick Joseph helping me out. It was so much fun. We brought a ton of instruments and had everyone playing and clapping. It was only an hour long and felt like it could have been two. The last workshop was a simple jam workshop where a whole bunch of guitar, mandolin, violin, flute, and percussion players sat in a circle and played. It was very mellow.
I had such a great time at the festival. It is a true gem. I hope to come back next year. When the music is over, the festival goers sit around camfires and play music all night. It is like being in a great musical dream.

Now it is time to head back to Ann Arbor and do another hand drum workshop tonight. I feel inspired. Thanks for reading.

John

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