By Ravi Raman
Beating out a rhythm is, after vocalisation, the oldest form of music making. You can make a beat with almost anything as the outrageously talented Noel Crombie (formerly of Split Enz) proves with his Spoon Solo. Or like the Congolese orchestra Konono No 1 show off in Konono Wa Wa Wa, producing a dazzling and multi-layered track of ancient-to-future music using discarded steel pots, pans, radiators, sheets of tin, trunk covers, car hoods, and more.
Or you could go conventional (in a sense) and use various drums to thrum out polyrhythmic music that both energises and entrances. Art Blakey & The Afro-Drum Ensemble in their Ife L'ayo (There Is Happiness In Love) and Kodo Dadan - which according to YouTube means "men drumming" - are standout examples of this aspect. The latter's furious display of energy leads us to the next grouping, which for one reason or the other have passed on to legendary status.
Leading the rock'n'noll pack is Santana and Soul Sacrifice, which has become one of the defining moments of Woodstock. More than 40 years later, it still collects lore like an ancient storyteller - the track started as a jam in LA, it was the only act to play without a published record to their name, the drummer was youngest performer at that festival, the entire group was on acid ... on and on. This track also showcases the symbiotic relationship that audience and band share and feed off.
Like goalkeepers, drummers are maligned for being slightly off-kilter but it is they who bind the band and track/song. Led Zeppelin's John Bonham shows this with his disciplined performance In Trampled Under Foot, laying out and maintaining the beat and succeeding to such an extent that it became a Led Zep staple and firm fan favourite.
Next up is Ian Paice, one of hard rock's early standout drummers and who, like Bonham, influenced countless other skinsmen. The Mule by Deep Purple is another track to have gained star status in the rock'n'roll pantheon. The track suggested and picked for the playlist here is from a live show in Japan.
Grand Funk Railroad with their somewhat autobiographical We're an American Band, shares this status as does Josie by Steely Dan in which, acting as a sessions drummer, Jim Keltner proves the indispensable nature of percussionists. The multi-instrumentalist musician and author Neil Peart wrote and played Working Man and it provided the launch of for Rush.
Billy Squier's much sampled The Big Beat and highly acclaimed The Rat by The Walkmen take the next two spots in the playlist which closes out with Billy Cobham's hard-charging drums, whose jazz-trained technique pushed the envelope for all rock drummers, in You Know, You Know by that stellar ensemble Mahavishnu Orchestra.
The A-list playlist:
Noel Crombie (Split Enz)- Spoon Solo
Konono No 1 - Konono Wa Wa Wa
Art Blakey & The Afro-Drum Ensemble - Ife L'ayo (There Is Happiness In Love)
Kodo "Dadan" ("men drumming")
Santana - Soul Sacrifice at Woodstock
Led Zeppelin - Trampled Under Foot
Deep Purple - The Mule
Grand Funk Railroad - We're an American Band
Steely Dan - Josie
Rush - Working Man
Billy Squier - The Big Beat
The Walkmen - The Rat
Mahavishnu Orchestra - You Know, You Know
The B-list playlist:
I'm leaving Miles Davis and Max Roach alone, for what more can one say than they are extremely good. But I just have to make special mention to the Gasper Lawal track - this is a master percussionist in full flow folks. Tito Puente's Call Of The Jungle Birds and The Hardest Button to Button by White Stripes, featured here in The Simpsons, are just two examples from the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" brigade that makes up our B-List.
Tito Puente - Call Of The Jungle Birds
Smoke City - Numbers
Gasper Lawal - Witch Dance
Richard Thompson - Black Cab Sessions
Cream - Swlabr
Talking Heads - Warning Sign
The Beat Farmers 'Beat Generation'
King Crimson - The Talking Drum
White Stripes The Hardest Button to Button (Simpsons track)
The Cravats - Precinct
Ras Michael - Keep Cool Babylon
Max Roach- The Drum Also Waltzes
Miles Davis - Freedom Jazz Dance
Guru's Wildcard pick:
Palghat Mani Iyer - Thani Avarthanam
Mani Iyer was a musical genius and one who was consistently brilliant for over six decades and still holds complete sway over the minds and hearts of the generations that have followed. Without a doubt, he can be credited for raising the miridangam player's status from a sideman to an artist's.
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Share: songs with outstanding percussion. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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