By Ed Rooney
You have to see it.
I’ve heard the recording and it just doesn’t
catch it. It’s not a strictly auditory thing. You need to be there. You need your eyes.
You have to see it.
Dig. The big guy almost dances up to the drum, gleeful,
mallets waving loosely in his hands. The other one, lean, tight, hawk-like and intense, is already seated and glowering over
a huge kettle of wood and leather.
Their eyes meet for a moment over the surface of the
drum and the rhythm seems to start out of nowhere. They don’t so much play it as conjure it. Deep, driving, compact
thunder, reaching you from the soles of your feet as much as your ears This is a rhythm to dance the gods into your body.
Presiding over this barrel of sound, the hawk does not
waver. He leans into the drum, his head cocked at an inquisitive angle, every muscle in his face, in his whole frame, set.
Taut. Listening. You can almost see the energy vibrating under his skin. He.barely moves anything but his wrists. There is
no other motion from that side of the drum.
The big guy is another story. A face splitting grin,
laughing, head bobbing, shoulders rolling, the great belly shaking, his eyes as bright as a child’s. His whole body
caught up and playing with the rhythm. If you can dance in your seat and drum, that’s what he’s doing.
The power of the sound is carrying us all off, awed
and enraptured. Heartbeat and breath join the drumbeat automatically.
The lead of the rhythm passes between them, volleyed
back and forth across the drum like a tennis ball. It passes without a gesture, without a hitch, anticipated.
This is one kick ass riff, and it’s getting faster
Now both of them are sweating, droplets flying off the big guy’s face as his head sways wildly. I think if it got disengaged
from his heaving shoulders right now, he’d just keep drumming; the head rolling under a chair, still laughing.
The hawk still hasn’t twitched above the forearms,
but as the sweat runs down his face, an almost imperceptible smile cracks the fierce expression. His eyes glitter.
They’re playing so fast now the sound is almost
changing to light. You can’t even see the head of the mallets any more, just a blurred arc over the surface of the drum.
The world begins to disconnect. The pounding is causing the room to melt, to unhinge and roll with the deep pulse. They are
both lost, gone into the rhythm, and the rest of us are nearly gone with them. The drummers have almost merged to become a
part of the instrument, the rest of us, part of the sound.
It ends sharp and tight and right and there is a two
beat pause as we all return, rushing back from wherever we’ve been taken and the whoops and applause fill the space
left by the drummers, both of them now laughing, reaching over the drum and shaking hands in triumph.
This stuff just does not happen on tape.