Royal hartigan

Blood drum spirit


I began my life hearing my uncle Ray Hart and my mother Hazel Hartigan tap dancing. Ray danced with Bill Robinson, Peg Leg Bates, the Step Brothers, the Nicholas Brothers, and the Hines Brothers. I started tapping at 3 years of age and felt the whole world through the sound of my taps on wood floors and bakelite mats. At 8 years I started playing piano and drums, listening to Errol Garner, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Thelonious Monk, and Oscar Peterson. I joined a drum corps at age 11, and shortly after added drumset to my studies. Since those early years drumming, dance, and piano have been a way to understand and express life and things beyond music.

I have studied drumset with Clifford Adams, Lenny McBrowne, Clifford Jarvis, Max Roach, and Edward Blackwell.

Since the early 1970s I have felt rhythms and time in many patterns: three or four layers at once, playing on different sides of the beat, and time cycles of 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 , 15, 17, 23, and so on, beats. Also, groups of uneven beats, with some longer than others. For me it is important to play these approaches in a way which is natural and not mathematical, so that the sound swings in whatever idiom I am playing: bebop, funk, blues, gospel, reggae, hip-hop, or Afro-Latin styles. My musical home is the African American tradition with a focus on jazz, so my drumset work centers on extending rhythm and time concepts without a repeating beat, flowing over any time cycle in the same way Elvin Jones or Jack DeJohnette make time flow.

My work at UMass Amherst from 1972-74 and 1978-81 with Roland Wiggins, Archie Shepp, Fred Tillis, Reggie Workman, and Max Roach showed me the importance of knowing the entire span of African American musical heritage, from African drumming, 17th -19th century plantation music, hollers, shouts, clapping plays, Blues, Ragtime, and Church music, through the early styles of Fletcher Henderson, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie, to the later innovations of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman. My teachers stressed the necessity of understanding the history and social conditions out of which the music has been created.

At Wesleyan I worked with master percussionists from Indonesia, India, Africa, China, and African America, with Edward Blackwell showing me the heritage of the drumset. For 12 years I lived in the sounds of Javanese gamelan, South Indian solkattu, and West African drumming and dance. I found a connection with the music of each culture and brought it home to the drumset.

The meaning of my work is to experience the essence of each culture through its drumming tradition, to play each with integrity, and to connect those realities with the African American jazz drumset.

As Baby Dodds said, 'Drumming is spirit.' I work to give my blood through the drum to share that spirit.



Blood Drum Spirit







Ohonam Mu Nyi Nhanoa

The spirit of a person is without boundaries.




African American jazz is an international music in its ability to encompass elements of other traditions. Blood Drum Spirit is an effort to adapt the deep structures of Asian, African, and Native American traditions into the African American sound, a life force creating a space for the gods to descend, a positive alternative for what we see as a corrupt and parasitic status quo on plantation earth.

Over the past centuries there have been political and cultural struggles which have impacted the world's peoples, and our music is a non-verbal manifesto for cultural and political self-determination, in opposition to the enslaving uses of armies, technologies, exploitive economics and 'religion', by the so called 'developed countries'.

This album crystallizes my work over two decades in world music. I have researched, performed, and recorded with master artists from China, Philippines, India, Indonesia, the Caribbean, West Africa, African America, Ireland, and Native America; most importantly, I have lived these musical traditions and through their wisdom, come a little closer to what lies behind the music.

The gongs of Javanese gamelan, the rhythmic vocables of South India, and the drum-dance drama of Ghana bring us to another time and place. We use our blood through the drum in us to touch spirits, and offer this to you.



A composition dedicated to the Native American and African American cultures in their survival and transcendance of external control. Our arrangement of bass lines, guitar sonorities, and cymbal interplay comes from a sense of the green fields, ancient mountains, and great trees of the North American woodlands.

The main body of Wadsworth Falls celebrates the heritage and dynamism of these peoples and is set in a driving four-four groove initiated by drumset, sounding the dawuro bell and apentemma hand drum rhythms from the Akom religious music of the Ashanti people of Ghana.

An extended epilogue is inspired by African American life in the United States, with the church as the center of the community. The slow three-pulse heartbeat comes from my experiences in the Price Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. SOLOS: Kevin McNeal, guitar; Wes Brown, bass; David Bindman, tenor saxophone. c 1984 the Ashanti people of Ghana, royal hartigan.



A trio for saxophone, bass, and drums, inspired by the musical and spiritual power of West African master drummers such as Freeman Kwadzo Donkor and Abraham Kobena Adzenyah, and African American masters such as Louis Armstrong, Chick Webb, Charlie Parker, Max Roach, John Coltrane, Elvin Jones, and Edward Blackwell. I see this power as uniting on all levels in the 21st century; in music, a meeting of the acoustic and traditional areas of each culture.

My effort is to incorporate the double-headed string-tension, hourglass-shaped drum, known as donno, with the drumset in a meaningful way, by playing traditional rhythms on the donno and bass drum, reflecting the conversation between donno and the larger, deeper gongon drum found in the Bambaya and Damba musics of the Dagomba people and the Bima Frafra music of the Frafra people of northern Ghana. High hat and the axatse gourd rattle elaborate each new underlying pulse feeling.

The donno-gongon conversation played between donno and bass drum signals changes during the piece, a West African practice. Bass and saxophone follow the drums' lead, developing over each new style. Wes Brown's and David Bindman's work in West African drumming enables them to respond to the rhythmic changes. SOLOS: royal hartigan, drum; David Bindman, tenor saxophone; Wes Brown, bass. c 1993 the Dagomba and Frafra peoples of Ghana, royal hartigan.



I lived and worked with the people in the Philippines for two years, learning their values, speaking local languages, and taking part in their activities. I came to appreciate and feel part of their way of life. I dedicate this suite to the Philippine people and master artist Danongan Kalanduyan.



A traditional kulintang piece accompanied by bass, flute, and guitar. Kulintang is the name given to both the indigenous gong and drum ensembles of the Southern Philippines and the ensemble's leading melodic instrument, a suspended set of eight or more kettle gongs played with mallets. Babandir is a small gong which states a timeline. Dabakan is a carved wooden drum found in Kulintang ensembles, while agung is a pair of large deep gongs providing a timbral and rhythmic heartbeat. The kudyapi is a boat-shaped lute of the southern Philippines.

I play the solog melody on kulintang with bass drum outlining a dabakan drum rhythm, while Kevin McNeal provides a repeating babandir pattern adapted as sampled kudyapi sounds on guitar. Wes Brown suggests an agung gong rhythm on bass, and David Bindman's retuned flute accompanies the main melody.



This movement is inspired by the city sounds, smells, sights, and tastes of Manila. Walking by markets, the plaza, restaurants, and movie houses in the great city I experienced a strange excitement and calm at the same time. Jazz was playing on radios and as a background for some Philippine movies, one movie score with a vamp similar to the opening section of this piece. A contrasting section moves from five-four time to a five-eight feel.



The melody of the introduction performed in the traditional instrumentation of a kulintang ensemble of the Maranao people of the south Philippines. The melody is played on the kulintang melodic gong chimes accompanied by a single small babandir kettle gong stating the timeline. The deep agung gongs create an interlocking foundation while the dabakan drum gives a rapid rhythmic pulse.

The kulintang ensemble is a manifestation of precolonial indigenous Philippine culture, and is included here to give direct meaning to my work, as a symbol of Philippine resistance to external neo-colonial influences. SOLOS: royal hartigan, kulintang; Wes Brown, bass; Kevin McNeal, guitar; David Bindman, flute and tenor saxophone; royal hartigan, overdubbed kulintang ensemble. c 1992 the Maranao people of the Philippines, Danongan Kalanduyan, royal hartigan.



I have arranged Juan Tizol's and Duke Ellington's composition in a fast fifteen-eight meter to signify the survival and perseverance of oppressed peoples in such diverse places Chile, Soweto, Nicaragua, Native America, Northern Ireland, disenfranchised Amerika, and Haiti. This work is dedicated to Salvador Allende, Nelson Mandela, Daniel Ortega, the Wounded Knee resistance, Bobby Sands and the Irish resistance, Medgar Evers, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and countless unnamed others who have given their lives for social justice. We make a musical analogy of their paths to aNorth African caravan, and my use of hand and rim sounds on drumset is based on North African hand drumming.

SOLOS: Kevin McNeal, guitar; and David Bindman, clarinet.

c 1937 Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol.

Rhythmic arrangement, c 1972 royal hartigan.



Tala Vadyam is a composition by the late Tanjore Ranganathan, a master of the South Indian mrdangam drum. An introduction with string drone out of time corresponding to the Indian alapana leads to the theme and solos in an eleven beat tala (time cycle), sankirna rupaka, played at the fastest pulse division. This cycle, maintained for the rest of the piece, can also be heard in five-and one-half beats.

SOLOS: Brad Jones, bass; Michele Navazio, guitar; David Bindman, tenor saxophone; royal hartigan, drum. c 1983 Tanjore Ranganathan.

Melodic arrangement, c 1992 royal hartigan




This work, in three movements, expresses the struggles of African people in the Americas. It begins with Adzohu, a piece based on the Adzohu dance drumming of the Fon and the Eve peoples of West Africa. Traditional Adzohu songs speak about conflicts between land and water beings, symbolized by the elephant and the crocodile. I chose Adzohu drum, bell, and rattle rhythms from the Kadodo and Ago styles as the basis for the first movement in order to portray the act of abduction, past and present, of people and resources.



Through camouflaged lyrics and satire in songs and plays the African American captive community was able to survive despite the inhumane practices of slaveholders. Captives from several plantations were gathered together to eat the week's leftovers from the big house which had been cooked into a porridge. While eating this 'food' from an animal trough, the captives were expected to sing and dance for the entertainment of the plantation owners. Juba songs and clapping plays were often a part of these performances, a form of coded resistance. This dynamic continues today in new forms.



A drum solo for Rodney King, who was beaten senseless by police in Los Angeles, United States of Amerika, at the beginning of the last decade of the 20th century. And for all the uncounted others.



This blues is played in a fast seven-eight pulse and refers to the lyrics of Juba, 'get over double trouble...' Today, now, here, more than ever, in a time when private greed is jeopardizing the survival of our planet, its peoples, and their cultures.



SOLOS: Wes Brown, bass; Kevin McNeal, guitar; David Bindman, tenor saxophone.

c 1993 the Fon and Eve peoples of West Africa, royal hartigan.



Drum solo, c 1993 royal hartigan.



SOLOS: royal hartigan, drum; David Bindman, alto saxophone; Kevin McNeal, guitar. c 1990 royal hartigan.


Wounded Knee, South Dakota, is a place of great importance to Native Americans, as Chief Bigfoot of the Lakota people confronted the U.S. Army in 1890 and armed resistance against U.S. aggression reoccurred in 1973.

This piece mourns the historical and continuing genocide against Native Americans from the Eastern Woodlands through the Plains and Southwest into Central and South America: the Aztec, Inca, and Maya. Its theme is a Navajo song by Edward Lee Nate set over an eleven-pulse whaleskin drum rhythm from the Inuit Eskimo of Northern Canada. The rhythm is played on three rattles, singly and in combination, to express the diverse Native American nation: a gourd rattle, a wooden sistrum with metal jingles from the Yaqui People of the Southwest, and a cowhorn rattle from the Iroquois People of the Eastern Woodlands. Rattle and drum accents are derived from a practice of the North American Plains peoples, whose drum accents signal the dancers to dip low, in a style known as 'honoring the drum'. Here the drum and rattle accents call the return of the theme. Pontoosuc Lake and Springside Park are places of reflection near my home in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts, where I first became aware of Native American culture. This work is in honor of visionaries Black Elk, Crazy Horse, Greylock, Tcumseh, Osceola, Geronimo, Red Jacket, Bigfoot, Sitting Bull, and Red Cloud, and a response to the anti-immigrant hysteria in a land whose only non-immigrants are confined to concentration camps called reservations and ghettos.

SOLO: Kevin McNeal, guitar.

c 1992 Edward Lee Nate, the Inuit people of North America, royal hartigan.

Sources, David McAllester and Paul Hadzima.



This piece expresses pain and passion from the loss of loved ones in all our lives, with the hope of someday reuniting with them.

Traditional supporting drum, bell, and rattle rhythms from the Adowa funeral music of the Ashanti people of Ghana are joined with a melody by David Bindman. First performed by the Talking Drums ensemble with lyrics by Maxwell Akomeah Amoh, our version is in a looser, more jazz oriented style.

During the guitar solo the three-stroke high hat pattern - based on an Adowa ntrowa rattle variation - creates another layer of time and allows the music to be heard from more than one beat perspective, adding a new feel to the drumset and ensemble.

SOLOS: David Bindman, tenor saxophone, and Kevin McNeal, guitar.

c 1995, the Ashanti people of Ghana, David Bindman.

Rhythmic arrangement, c 1991, royal hartigan.



I have adapted this solo flute melody of the Papago and Saguaro peoples of the Southwest in an ensemble setting to portray the harmony of Native American philosophy and lifeways with nature. The guitar, bass, flute, and percussion (drums, cymbals, and rattles) voices create lines together which parallel the weaving of baskets, construction of a house, or interacting with the solitude and peacefulness of the deep woodlands. It is set in a 23 pulse time cycle.

SOLOS: collective ensemble solo, David Bindman, flute; Kevin McNeal, guitar; Wes Brown, bass; royal hartigan drums, cymbals, and rattles.

c 1992 the Papago and Saguaro peoples of North America, royal hartigan.



This work is inspired by the music and dance of the Eve people of southeastern Ghana, and is dedicated to master dancer and drummer Freeman Kwadzo Donkor. It follows a West African musical practice, with changes throughout cued by the drum - here drumset rather than a master drummer - as opposed to a set chord progression, melody, or form. Its rhythms and melodic themes are derived from Eve dance drama repertoire.

The piece begins with drumset stating supporting rhythms from the Agbekor warrior music - kidi on snare drum with snares released, totodzi on floor tom, kloboto on bass drum, and a kaganu variation on high hat. A short call brings in the ensemble, whose A-B-A theme is a song melody from the Gadzo warrior music. Drumset explodes the Gadzo support rhythms, with the ganugbagba bell pattern on cymbal bell, and high-low donno drum tones on high and low toms. A donno variation accompanies the theme's 'B' section.

After the opening theme, drumset plays a set of Gadzo kaganu drum variations with the bell pattern on cymbal, as a call to the contrabass. Wes Brown's extended bass solo is accompanied by the Gadzo bell pattern on snare rim, donno on bass drum, and kaganu on high hat with stick. This is followed by a series of supporting kidi, totodzi, and kloboto drum rhythms from Agbekor, and gankogui double bell variations from Hatsiatsia music, which signal the saxophone solo.

David Bindman begins alone and is joined by the ensemble in the intense Gadzo twelve-eight groove. Following the saxophone solo drum dialogues and rhythms from the Togo Atsia, Kpegisu, and Adzohu musics cue Kevin McNeal's guitar solo, at first unaccompanied, and later with the ensemble.

A final series of drum dialogues from Agbadza music call the Gadzo melodic themes, accompanied by Gadzo drum rhythms, and followed by a Coda on drumset mirroring the introductory Agbekor rhythms.

My idea is to use the high hat in different time feels - as one would play the axatse gourd rattle in Eve music - in the opening theme, bass solo, saxophone solo, and guitar solo, to provide another layer of time, and allow the listener to hear the music from more than one beat perspective. This is an important element of Ghanaian drumming, the ability to hear more than one beat series in a rhythm or ensemble of rhythms, and it can be adapted to the drumset in the African American tradition.

SOLOS: royal hartigan, drum; Wes Brown, bass; David Bindman, tenor saxophone; Kevin McNeal, guitar.

c 1993, the Eve people of Ghana, royal hartigan.