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A Fireside Chat With Hamid Drake

By Published: February 26, 2003

HD:Well, that is one of my resolutions for this year actually. I am glad that you mentioned that. That is something that I really want to concentrate on this year, doing more of that. It has been good for me to work with a lot of other people and to be in a very supportive role because that has its advantages, but one of my resolutions for this year is to begin the process of putting more things out specifically out under my own name.

FJ: There was Brothers Together (Eremite) with Sabir Mateen .

HD: Yeah, with Sabir. He is great. Sabir, he is a great musician, a great artist. I had heard Sabir play quite often from going to New York and everything, but playing with him was a whole other experience. I think he is great.

FJ: What are the various nuances between drums and frame drums?

HD: First of all, let me say that all drums are primarily string instruments (laughing) because historically, the skins for all drums was made from some animal part, some goat or cow or deer. Also, historically, in the past, all strings were also made from some animal part. So drums really, a drum head is really a large expanded string that is draped over something just as strings in the past were gut or goat skin that was draped over a pole. The frame drum is probably one of the oldest drums in the world. We see it in all the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, old Greek statues of people playing frame drums. It is basically a wooden hoop with a large stretched string or skin draped over it. So basically, it is a string instrument also. The frame drum is a type of, musicologists call it menbranophones. The frame drum is one of the oldest drums in existence. The only difference between frame drums and your modern, standard drum kit is that the modern, standard drum kit is played with the sticks. Traditionally, most frame drums with the exception of a few are played with the hands, skin on skin. There are some cultures that do play frame drums with sticks, primarily the Celtic culture from Britain. Some Native American cultures play the frame drum with a stick or a mallet. Frame drum is just a type of, one of the many varieties of drums that we find in existence today. Another unique quality of the frame drum is usually when people play the frame drum, they sing also. It is the drum that is easy to sing with. It is the same with congas. Very seldom do you see players of the drum set singing as they play. That doesn't seem to be a part of the tradition of drum set playing.

FJ: Art Blakey is not breaking out in song on his Blue Note sessions.

HD: Right. It has always been part of the tradition of frame drumming to sing as one plays and also with other types of hand drums too, the conga and stiff like that.

FJ: Have you reached the mountaintop?

HD: Oh, no. Definitely, I don't think I have reached it and I can't say when that might be. I think we are always experiencing hills and valleys. Definitely, I haven't reached it and I hope I never reach it (laughing). I always want to have room for more growth and development.

FJ: You are certainly on the hill.

HD: Thank you, Fred.

Photo Credit:
Frank Rubolino

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