Djembe & Mande Music Page/Review Section(last revision 02/11/99)
TITLE: FRESH & PRIMITIVE ARTIST: SUNDRUM, FEATURING MICHEL SEGUIN AND KENNY ENDO FORMAT: CD COMPANY: GOODWOMAN PRODUCTIONS NUMBER: GW 40011
(Available from: Goodwoman Productions P.o. Box 786, Sequim, Wa 98382; Fax (360) 681-3556, email@example.com
Sundrum's FRESH & PRIMITIVE is a glimpse into part of the future of hand drumming in the United States. Looking around the broad drumming community we see groups which fall into three main categories: Community (people of various skill levels gathering to drum recreationally in a facilitated format, Thunder Drumming (a sort of leaderless jam), and Culturally Specific (focused on learning and performing the rhythmic traditions of another country or people).
Sundrum is a group in Hawaii which falls into another category entirely. They are led by Michel Seguin, a French-Canadian percussionist with decades of professional recordings, performances and students to his credit. Sundrum's music is based on a synthesis of the percussion music of many cultures. Part of the future of hand drumming in the United States will be the development of our own drumming traditions - FRESH & PRIMITIVE is a sort of mutation, a "jazz" drumming form in its birthing stages.
Seguin has traveled around the globe immersing himself in the rhythms of other cultures. None of the compositions on this cd are traditional arrangements, but unique juxtapositions of Mandeng, Wolof, French Carribean, North African and other drum cultures woven in with Seguin's own unique creations. I recognized parts of Lamba, Kuku, Soli, Boukarabu patterns, Baladi, Yanvalou, Thieb, Bideo, Tabala, and Gwoka.
Other than Seguin and special guest artist Kenny Endo, an internationally renowned Taiko Master, none of the members of Sundrum are professional musicians. These are committed hobbyists and the "family" vibe comes through clearly on this recording - this is the music of people who play together often and have heaps of fun doing it! The grooves are deep, danceable and peppered with the sort of wordless songs that everyone can sing along with. The instrumentation on the cd is predominantly djembe, dunun, sabar and hand percussion including bell, shaker, and caringya. Lower tunings of the drums gives the music a grounded, earthy quality.
Kenny Endo's Taiko drum and bamboo flute "conversations" with Seguin on lead djembe, tama and sabar provide consistently interesting counterpoint. Seguin's sabar studies with Doudou N'Diaye Rose are evident not only in the rhythms, but also in the use of long "baqs" or phrases played by the whole group. As you listen to this album bear in mind what a broad education his students recieve through being exposed to so many styles, techniques, original calls and extended group breaks.
This review would be far from complete without mention of Seguin's
phenomenal playing. At 57 years old many hand drummers would relax into accompanyment roles backing younger players. Not so here - check out the opening track, "One Drum" for a major lesson in what a master player can do with a single instrument. Seguin's fiery attack is laced with timbres and tones that most people will be amazed came from a djembe. His slow, low and sweet playing is just as inspiring. Clearly here's a man with all the chops you'd ever need, putting the technique of many traditions to impressive use. On "Tipi Bougarabou" he demonstrates amazing agility and musicality playing on multiple drums. "Traveling Drum" leaves you wondering how a non African player could play tama with this kind of command.
This is a recording which is best experienced with headphones in order to catch all the layers and subtlties.
In addition to Hawaii, Seguin has started Sundrum groups in Canada, the mainland United States, and Hong Kong. His sons are now leaders in their own right, carrying forward and teaching many of Seguin's compositions. In a generation or two there will probably be at least one new repetoire of "traditional" rhythms in the Americas - Sundrum.
In closing, I also want to say with gratitude that Seguin was my first
teacher, laying the groundwork for what would eventually become my
fascination with Mandeng music. I'm not entirely certain of my objectivity in this review but I can say what Seguin said to me - "I hope the music makes you smile!"