The drummers of We All Break, who are in town to play the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, offer a clinic in the drums of Haitian Vodou. Vodou drumming is an ensemble art form featuring polyrhythm, conversation, improvisation, power, and surprise delivered through a myriad of highly evolved techniques.
A syncretic tradition with Dahomean, Yoruban, and Congolese roots, Haitian drumming is ordered in accordance with “nations” of rhythms, such as Rada, Nago, Kongo, Ibo, Petwo, Djouba, and Banda, among others. Daniel Brevil, “Fanfan” Jean-Guy Rene, Markus Schwartz and Ches Smith will demonstrate the rhythms of these categories through ensemble playing and break down the constituent parts with examples of each drum pattern. They will offer spiritual and political context, which is inseparable from the development of the drumming and the birth of Haiti as an independent nation. Questions and comments from those in attendance will be encouraged.
Master drummer Daniel Brevil grew up in Vodou tradition in Port-au-Prince, Haiti accompanying his father to Vodou ceremonies, becoming an in-demand drummer in the process. He furthered his knowledge at Haiti’s prestigious Ecole Nationale des Arts on the way to becoming musical director to Haiti’s premiere Folkloric dance troupes and collaborating with a who’s who of Haitian and American artists.
Born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, “Fanfan” Jean Guy Rene is a master drummer currently working in New York. He regularly plays and officiates at Vodou ceremonies in NYC, as well as performances and community events with the Vodou activism organization Fanmi Asòtò, which he co-founded. He plays with a variety of other groups in a wide range of music with the leading lights of konpa, rara, rasin, jazz and pop.
Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Markus Schwartz is a Grammy-nominated percussionist, recording artist, and educator who has devoted more than twenty-five years to learning the wealth and complexity of traditional Haitian religious music. Traveling to Haiti since the early 1990s, Markus followed the lead of his mentor percussionists who embarked on pilgrimages to the Haitian countryside to learn the intricate and powerful drumming styles of numerous lakou (historic religious compounds). He has since become a first-call percussionist on NYC’s Haitian and jazz music scenes, performing and recording with a diverse array of artists across many genres.
Ches Smith is an NYC-based drummer, percussionist and composer with over 20 years of work to his credit in jazz, creative music, and experimental rock idioms. For the last 15 years he has studied Haitian Vodou musical traditions (predominantly with Brevil, Rene and Schwartz). Vodou ceremonies and folkloric contexts currently sit alongside jazz tours and recording dates in his monthly calendar.