By Kathy Foster-Patton
In 1991, Planet Drum's debut release hit #1 on the Billboard World Music Chart, remained there for 26 weeks, and went on to receive a Grammy Award for Best World Music Album. In the fifteen years since, Jerry Garcia and George Harrison have died, the U.S. is engaged in its second war with Iraq, Bill Clinton, Friends, and the Millennium came and went, and music evolved from CD to MP3. Mickey Hart, drummer, composer, social activist and band founder, visited with JamBase to talk about Planet Drum's new tour and record and their motivations for embarking on the road again.
Hussain, Hart, Hidalgo & Adepoju
Photo ©2006 John Werner
Best known for his nearly thirty-year membership in the Grateful Dead, Hart is a Grammy award-winner for the original Planet Drum recording and counts various social activism projects as part of his resume. He explained that he was inspired to tour again partly due to the advances in technology that the years have brought about. Hart elaborated, "First thing, the machines got smarter. The idea that we will be able to get deep space processing from these percussion instruments was too irresistible. Everybody kind of wanted to play again. I've been waiting until the technology was available to be able to do what we do in the studio live. We're kind of dancing with the archaic world and the digital domain. That's what this is all about. Hopefully we're having a lot of fun, and we can go into the zone. That's where we're headed."
Hart is joined in Planet Drum by his drumming comrades, Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju, and Giovanni Hidalgo for a West Coast tour. Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world music movement, Hussain's contributions to world music have been unique, with many historic collaborations. Adepoju first came to the focus of the American music scene through his involvement with the original Planet Drum project. His technical mastery of the talking drum and various indigenous percussion instruments has gained acceptance and respect among music listeners of all tastes. Widely acknowledged among the greatest congueros of his generation, Hidalgo was born in Puerto Rico and was educated in Latin rhythms from childhood onward, and as a teen regularly walked to local gigs with his congas strapped to his back. Hart described his band mates. "I met Zakir first through his father, who was my teacher. We've been friends for almost 35 years. We've done a lot of percussion over the years, a lot of projects, so it's a great reunion for us. Of course, he is all over the world. He is now the maestro of maestros. He's globetrotting... as they say. He's playing around the world. It's great to get back with him." Hart continued, "Giovanni is the greatest Latin percussionist in the world. Of course... Sikiru is the Mozart of his instrument. These guys are the premier rhythmists. If you want to go to rhythm camp, these are the guys you want to take with you."
Planet Drum will not be simply rehashing their award-winning original release. Hart described the new material that they plan to perform. "Zakir and I have composed a CD which is not released yet. We'll be playing songs off that. It's not traditional songs or entertainment in that kind of sense. We try to spin some kind of a web, some kind of spell, us included, and the audience of course. And it's kind of a deep drumming thing, as opposed to a virtuoso showcase of soloists, and so forth. That's why I'm with these folks. They're all great soloists, but they want to groove, you know, get into the sync of the moment. So it seems like the appropriate thing to do."