Drum Assault’s Dan Graetz, flew to Guinea, West Africa in the early 2000’s to learn drumming from the country’s best teachers. The group has since built a pedigree of performances from the National Multicultural Festival to the SBS Fifa World Cup Launch. Watch them play and dance to the beat this coming International Day, 11 February.
Where did you get the name “Drum Assault?”
We just came up with it.
It sounds like a very fitting name based on the music you produce.
That’s it. (laughs)
How long have you done this sort of performance?
As Drum Assault, about ten years. The first time, for me, of really getting started was going to Guinea, West Africa in 2002. I got interested in the genre and the instrument here in Canberra and then I realised I had to go to West Africa to learn. That’s the best place to learn. That’s where it comes from. It’s been a part of the culture there for hundreds of years. It’s very intense there.
Going there in 2002 that really got my eyes open and got me started. And then performing as Drum Assault, that’s been about the last 10 years that we’ve been going. We’re in a really good spot now. Our percussion is really good as you can see.
How did you go about getting in touch with the community in Guinea?
It’s a very big community. It’s a worldwide community of people in West Africa particularly in Guinea. A lot countries from outside of Africa go there to study.
I’ve actually been six times to West Africa and so i’ve actually had a different teacher each time. I’ve had amazing experiences there and I’m very fortunate because I’ve studied with the best guys. I’ve had the most respected artists as teachers for a month. It’s like an intensive. You go there and you study your drumming for about 4-6 hours everyday. Not only that, but you get to see the ceremonies and the performances during the day and during the night.
What sort of instruments do you guys play?
Djembe and dundun are the drums. Dundun is like the bass drum and djembe is the accompanying and solo drum.
I noticed that you have dancers as well. How did you incorporate them into your performance?
That’s basically the tradition. The rhythms we play are specific to the culture there and they have different meanings in the culture. So if it’s one particular ceremony, say a wedding, we’ll play specific rhythms at that wedding.
Obviously we’re different rhythms in our half-an-hour performance. Each rhythm is specific in the drumming, specific in the song, specific in the dance. It’s all one thing. It’s not something we’re making up. We’re following the tradition of the music of the culture.
Based on your website, I noticed that you’ve built quite the pedigree of performances. Could you tell us some highlights?
Probably the highlight every year, as far as performance goes, is the Multicultural Festival because the video on the website is from that. So that’s really big in Canberra because we get a massive turnout to see us. We get a really good time slot on the African Village stage. You can see we put a lot of energy into it and the people really like us.
There’s another festival interstate called the “West African Festival” in Sydney and another one called “Africultures”. We’ve played West African three times and Africultures twice.
What can we expect from you on International Day?
So just a really energetic engaging performance from the audience here and the cultural significance to get to see the traditional West African percussion dancing, singing and costumes – very, very bright costumes.
I’m just really looking forward to it. That will probably be our first performance of the year so we’re looking forward to making good start to the year and giving everything to the performance.
For the full list of performances at the Old Bus Depot this International Day, see our Market Entertainment: February 2018.
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