The Planet Drum 2006 Tour reunites Mickey Hart, Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju, and Giovanni Hidalgo for a September series of West Coast shows in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the ground-breaking album of that name. Planet Drum was released in 1991 on the Rykodisc label and went on to earn the first-ever Grammy in the World Music category. The tour is the groups first in almost a decade. It also marks the resumption of an artistic relationship – between Mickey Hart and Zakir Hussain – that goes back to the late 1960s.
For Hart, this reunion is an opportunity to take Planet Drum into new places. “This is a deep drumming groove. We’re taking the archaic rhythm worlds into outer space. Planet Drum explores rhythm and noise…it’s a sound yoga of processed acoustic percussion headed straight for the trance zone that becomes a dance of ancient and modern worlds. Deep drumming is a skeleton key into these realms.”
In 1968, Mickey Hart was the percussionist for a band called the Grateful Dead. Ever-curious, he met Hussain’s father, Allah Rakha (Ravi Shankar’s tabla player), and became his part-time student, bringing Indian percussion ideas to rock and roll. It was a seminal encounter. In the 1970s, Allah Rakha gave Hart what he called his greatest gift – his son, Zakir Hussain, who went on to succeed his father (Allah Rakha passed on in 2000) as the world’s preeminent tabla player.
Hart and Hussain’s musical relationship first emerged into the public eye in 1976 with the Diga Rhythm Band, a collaboration of percussionists (most of whom were students at the Ali Akbar Khan School of Music) that was, Hart said, an American version of a gamelan. After opening for a Jefferson Starship concert at San Francisco’s famed Winterland, they recorded Diga, which included the tune “Happiness is Drumming,” which evolved into the Hart tune “Fire on the Mountain,” a staple for the Dead, Other Ones, and Planet Drum.
Later in the 1970s Hart organized the “Rhythm Devils,” a percussion group that included his fellow Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann and Michael Hinton, among others, to record the percussion sound track to Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Soon after, in the early ‘80s, Hart collaborated with Airto Moreira and Flora Purim on Dafos.
By then, he’d begun an in-depth investigation into the sociocultural history of percussion, which resulted in two books – a memoir, Drumming At the Edge of Magic, and then a pictorial history, Planet Drum. Alongside the book came the CD, and perhaps the greatest summit meeting of percussionists the world has ever known. All of them were legendary.
The elder was the late Babatunde Olatunji (“Drums of Passion”) from Nigeria, the man who introduced African drumming into popular American sensibilities, along with his protégé and aesthetic heir, Sikiru Adepoju (whose specialty is the talking drum), also of Nigeria. From Brazil came Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew fame. One of the great Latin percussionists of all time, Giovanni Hidalgo, brought in the flavor of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Finally, Zakir Hussain (and his associate T.H. “Vikku” Vinayakram) blended in the magical sounds of classical India.
The CD was a critical and popular smash, as were the book and the tour. And now, 15 years later, with each of the four – Hart, Hussain, Adepoju, and Hidalgo – at the height of their creative powers, it’s time to invoke the percussion gods again.
9/20 – Lobrero Theatr, Santa Barbara, CA
9/21 – The Avalon, Los Angeles
9/22 – Rio Theatre, Santa Cruz
9/23 – Masonic Auditorium, San Francisco (SF Jazz Festival)
9/24 – Van Duzer Auditorium, Arcata
9/26 – Crystal Bay Casino, Crystal Bay, NV (tentative)
9/28 – Ginger Rogers Theatre, Medford, OR
9/29 – Alladin Theatre, Portland