Drum Cargo: Rhythms Of Earth
(Sequoia Records)


One of the top New Age record labels in the U.S., Sequoia continues releasing high quality albums including the 2014 CD release of Drum Cargo - Rhythms Of Earth. Although Sequoia founders David Gordon and Steve Gordon are best known as modern day New Age music composers, on this fourth Drum Cargo album, they put on their drumming hats. Combining ethnic drums and the magical sound of Native American flute, the album is filled with propelling drumming that stirs the soul while providing a captivating sonic backdrop. One can almost picture the scene at a native American powwow, the audience mesmerized as tribal drummers pound out the big beat. Music listeners who enjoy Native American drum and flute sounds fans will want to spin this fourth release in Sequoia’s Drum Cargo series. As is the case with all Sequoia releases, the sound is excellent and the CD packaging is eye-catching. Also released on CD in 2014 on Sequoia is KarmaCosmic, which is being described as an album of new instrumental music from Europe. The KarmaCosmic sound is filled with quite lush sounding synths and drifting waves of electronics. The music was inspired by the sounds of India and, as the CD liner notes point out, the album is filled with Indian melodies, New Age sounds, percussive rhythms, grooves and meditative soundscapes. Subtitled Music For Tantra & Meditation, the ten track CD is sure to be among the top New Age instrumental albums of 2014. www.SequoiaRecords.com

mwe3.com presents an interview with
David & Steve Gordon

mwe3: How many Drum Cargo titles have been recorded and released on Sequoia Records and can you tell the readers something about the basic concepts of the series and how would you say the recently released Rhythms Of Earth title is unique from the other Drum Cargo albums? Is there a musical thread running through the series?

David Gordon: So far we have released 4 albums in the series, one for each of the four elements:

Drum Cargo: Rhythms of Fire

Drum Cargo: Rhythms of Water

Drum Cargo: Rhythms of Wind

Drum Cargo: Rhythms of Earth

The idea behind this series was to explore creating music using only drums, percussion and a small amount of Native American flute. We wanted to give ourselves this creative limitation and see if we could create music that was as engaging, interesting and satisfying as music that had more melodic instruments.

What we discovered was that it is not only possible, but not that hard considering the richness found in the sound of ethnic drums and how much more you can hear that richness once you remove all the melodic instruments.

Steve Gordon: For each of the 4 albums, we created beats and songs that expressed the qualities for that element. So for the new one, Drum Cargo: Rhythms of Earth, we used lots of large deep sounding drums and created beats that were earthy and empowering.

mwe3: How many different types of drums are in play on the Drum Cargo series and who were the other musicians and artists involved in the production of the Rhythms Of Earth album? Do you always seek out some exotic new drums or sounds to use on a new Drum Cargo recording and for those who aren’t familiar with it, can you explain the concepts of Shamanic drumming? Is Shamanic drumming a form of primal therapy using drums?

David Gordon: There were over 50 different types of drums played on the Drum Cargo series. But that does not include the different varieties of each type of drum. For example we used Djembes, but there were many different types and sizes of Djembes played. The same applies to many of the other drum types that were used. So even though the number of types of drums was around 50 there were 3 or 4 times that many in our studio while we were recording!

Here is the list of instruments used on the Drum Cargo series: Taos Log Drums, Djembe, Ashiko, Congas, Tar, Dumbek, Gathering Drum, Tongue Drum, Turtle Rattle, Native American Flutes, Seed Pod Rattle, Palm Leaf Rattle, Rainstick, Kalimba, Souix Drum, Dun Duns, Djembe, Native Heart Drum, Taos Log Drums, Native American Flutes, Frame Drums, Taos Pueblo Rattles, Tongue Drum, Rainstick, Sangba, Talking Drums, Nigerian log drums, Krin, Shekere, Bongo Madera, Batajon, bass Cajon, Timbales, Conga, Bongo,Bells, Caxixi, Tamborim, Repinique, Surdos, Ganza, Seedpod rattle, Frame Drums, Dumbecs, Calabash, Gankogui, Adodo, Ghatam, Gongs, Bowls, Box Drum, Moroccan Bongos, Shakers, water bottle, metal percussion

Steve Gordon: The other people who played on this series were Kim Atkinson and Bobby Cochran. Kim is an authority on Afro-Cuban drumming, very knowledgeable, and has a large collection of drums and percusssion. When he brought just a small part of his collection to my studio, David and I each have our own studios, and we laid out all of his drums next to our also extensive collection plus Bobby’s drums, it was quite a scene. There were drums and percussion from around the world of all shapes and sizes spread out across the entire studio. It was hard to even walk from one end of my studio to the other, and my studio is over 750 square feet!

Since we had decided that each Drum Cargo album would be for a different one of the four elements, we made lists of which drums would be used on each album based on if the drum either sounded like a particular element or sometimes we even used one of the elements such as when we used a bowl of water as a drum for Drum Cargo: Rhythms of Water. Kim also had an ocean drum which had sand inside it.

We’ve been into Shamanic Drumming since the 1990’s. Through all-night drum circles in the mountains we experienced first hand the power that drumming can have as an entry into the trance state of consciousness. It is in this state that it is possible to heal your spirit, your mind and even your body since the body is effected by the quality of your thoughts.

This is the Shamanic state. Ancient people used drumming as a portal for the Shaman to enter into what they called the spirit world, or the lower world, in search of healing and vision for themselves and their people. We explored these themes deeply in our albums such as Sacred Spirit Drums, Shaman’s Vision Journey and others. Now we are using the pure accompanied sound of the drums themselves to access the Shamanic world with the Drum Cargo series.

mwe3: When did it inspire you to first start creating an album of only drumming? I hear a lot of African kind of rhythms in the Drum Cargo Rhythms Of Earth tracks. I also hear some of Ginger Baker’s drumming style. Are some core concepts of drumming related to African rhythms and tribal rituals?

David Gordon: The inspiration for this goes back to when we recorded our earlier world fusion albums, Sacred Earth Drums, Drum Medicine and others. Those albums grew our of our experiences with the drum circles in the forest. They were sort of cinematic, a journey through layers of sound - Native flutes, acoustic and electronic instruments, guitars, piano and some vocals and chanting.

The drums were always the foundation and heartbeat. When we mixed the drum tracks for those albums, we were amazed to find that even with the focus so completely on the drums, we could still hear and feel the essence of the melody and musical composition coming through the beats themselves. So way back then, we started planning some albums that bring forth the essences of the drums, in a way we hoped would allow people to really connect with them directly.

Steve Gordon: When we were at those all night drum circles in the mountains and experienced how expressive world drums and percussion can be and how the musical conversations you can have with them are every bit as engaging as melodic instruments.

The way that different beats interlock together can create different states of consciousness. Tribal cultures from around the world have used drums and rhythms like this to journey into other realities as a source of healing and strength for their people.

When you play these rhythms you feel connected not only to each other but to your ancestors and to the universe. The mind becomes entrained by the beats and it becomes a form of meditation. You can experience this by playing in the drum circle or by just listening, if you focus on it.

mwe3: How many different styles of drumming do you feature on the various Drum Cargo albums? Also, are certain instruments needed or required for certain drumming styles?

David Gordon: Our intention with the Drum Cargo series was to represent many cultures and styles, to find the connections... You’ll hear everything from African, Afro-Cuban, Native American, Celtic, Middle Eastern and Brazilian.

Steve Gordon: In our combined collection of drums we have everything we needed for all of these styles. We have a great selection of drums from all the cultures needed. It really would not have been possible to create this series of recordings without having this selection of drums. The drums were all authentic and it was a wonderful experience to be surrounded by all of these instruments during the recording sessions. It really gave us a sense of energies within each of the cultures that seemed both different and similar at the same time.

mwe3: What was the writing / recording process like for the Drum Cargo Rhythms Of Earth album? Was there a lot of preproduction and also a lot of improvisation to match the compositional ideas?

David Gordon: For each song we started with a rhythm from one of the cultures and played them on the drums from that heritage. Then we combined those rhythms with others from other cultures that would sync well with the core beat for each track. At the same time, we thought of which element we were evoking and selected instruments that would have that result.

Steve Gordon: Once we have those beats and instruments chosen for each track, we played them together allowing the magic of the moment to guide the interplay of our parts. There is something particularly magical that happens when you improvise using only rhythm instruments. You interlock parts with the other musicians in a way that goes beyond what happens when there are also melodic instruments. Also most of us had played together many times so there was really good chemistry between us which we were able to draw upon.

mwe3: What cultures did you discover are best known for using tribal drumming in their cultural or religious activities and was drumming probably the first music made? Even back to the cave man days. Did it go from the drum to the flute and from there to the infinite?

David Gordon: All of the cultures included on these albums have rich histories of using tribal drumming in their societies. We found it wherever we looked! Music and dance is universal - at the core of all cultures from the very beginning. Drums were not the first music though, first came singing, then flutes and drums. The power of the drum for entrainment became essential to the shamanistic and meditative aspects of the culture’s spiritual life.

With these recordings, we wanted to dig deep into the rhythmic heritage of the Western side of the globe, ranging from African and the Middle East to the Caribbean, and the Americas – North & South. We didn’t include many beats from the Far East because the underlying meter systems are so different. We’re intrigued by the long cycles of Indian Raga, the interlocking beats of Indonesian Gamelan, and so much more. We’d like to explore those directions in future albums.

mwe3: What is the oldest drum or other instrument you’ve every played and what’s the newest? It must be big market to make drums and other percussion gear including all types of drums and drumming gear.

David Gordon: The oldest ones we had available to play in our studio for these albums were the African slit drums. African slit drums are among the very first drums ever made. They consist of a round log with some slits hollowed out in the side that give the log some resonance and it’s pitch - fairly high pitched for a drum. They have a sort of clicking wooden sound that you can hear on these albums. They are played with thin carved wooden sticks.

Steve Gordon: One of the newest ones we played was a waterphone drum that Kim brought which is a series of metal containers with different amounts of water in them to create different pitches.

We also used unusual sounds from objects found around the house to create the different elements such as metal pots and pot lids!

mwe3: With all the computerized file sounds on drums I think it’s great you’re going back to recording vintage and even ancient drums. Do you think drumming was more popular in the age before computers took over?

David Gordon: Acoustic kit drums like in rock bands aren’t as central to pop music as they were back then. I remember going to concerts and the drummer would always take a long solo. The beat is still there now, but it’s morphed into sounds made by all sorts of devices and methods.

Steve Gordon: The essence of drumming is still just as popular or more so though. Pop music songs are built upon the same legacy beats. Now they’re often composed on computers using software like Ableton Live or Logic Pro, but the rhythms are still mostly from hip hop, rock, blues and jazz, that evolved from African, Afro-Cuban or even Caribbean rhythms.

mwe3: Tell us about the 2014 Karma Cosmic CD release on Sequoia. The band is from Germany and Music For Tantra & Meditation is not their first album right? How would you describe their music, how did you meet up with them and how did the CD release on Sequoia proceed?

David Gordon: Karmacosmic is an ambient music supergroup featuring three of Europe's most popular electronic music artists; Rüdiger Gleisberg, Matthias Grassow and Carsten Agthe. We became aware of them a few years ago from our European record label associates when we featured some of their tracks on a couple of the Sequoia Records electronic music compilations we created: Yoga Salon, Chakra Healing Zone, and Yoga Salon.

Steve Gordon: It’s been a pleasure working with them on this release and we are really pleased at how the album has been received. People who were not aware of them instantly loved it and their fans are thrilled. Music for Tantra and Meditation entered our distributor’s top 10 album charts within the first month of it’s release.

The album is instantly popular among people into yoga because it creates a very serene yet exotically textured mood that works so well both for yoga and for the yoga lifestyle. It’s the kind of music you can either put on headphones and disappear into or just play it in the background at a mellow party.

mwe3: What kind of album or albums are you considering making next with the drums as the focus? Are there other directions you and Sequoia Records could go in while keeping the focus on the drums?

David Gordon: We have a unique idea for a new kind of music that features world drumming at the core, with new sounds unlike anything we have heard before.

But we’d rather share the sound than explain it in words. We’re considering sending downloads of rough mixes of in-progress tracks to our fans through our e-mail list in mid 2015. We’ve never done that before and we’re looking forward to sharing these with our fans.

Steve Gordon: When we plan new releases we always search for a new concept we have not encountered before. This is more interesting to us and we hope to our listeners as well! We feel more satisfaction making our contributions to the stream of musical creativity that is flowing.

Thanks to David Gordon and Steve Gordon @ www.SequoiaRecords.com


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