World Peace Through World Music
Greetings and Happy New Year! As many of you know I have just recently returned from Iraq where I spent over two amazing weeks as a State Department Cultural Envoy. While there I collaborated with many Iraqi musicians, gave workshops and immersed myself in the rich cultural heritage and history of that region.
My first stop was Basra, which is in the Kurdish area in the north. While I was there I performed a two-day residency at the Institute for Fine Arts. I presented clinics, taught private lessons and collaborated with the students and percussion instructor, who was a master daff player. On the final day we gave a performance combining my solo percussion, student percussion ensemble, a duet with the percussion instructor and even collaboration with a Kurdish rock band! The event was attended by several faculty, many students and covered by at least four TV stations and news media to which I gave interviews.
After a travel day we arrived in Baghdad where I was stationed for several days. During my first full day there I gave a workshop and mini performance at the "Peace Through Arts Academy" for several students and faculty. There was great interest in my diverse collection of instruments and how I was combining Arabic music with American jazz and blues. I collaborated with faculty members on Kanoon (an Iraqi type hammered dulcimer) and percussion. Several TV and news media to which I gave interviews also covered this event. The following day we traveled to a TV station to tape a live interview on Al Fanoon (The Arts). I performed and answered questions about my interest in the music of various cultures and how the music of Iraq had made a huge impact on me. The next day provided an interesting opportunity for collaboration. A collaboration between me, Duraid Fadhil, (an amazing oud player) and some Iraqi poets. I performed solo and then with Duraid. It was a wonderful merging of Middle Eastern and western cultures as we performed a traditional Iraqi improvisation and then went into "Caravan" made famous by Duke Ellington. The poets read their works in both Arabic and English. Duraid performed during the Arabic renditions and I played as the poems were read in English. The following day there was also a showcase concert with Duraid, myself and with a quartet from the Iraqi Symphony Orchestra. Each of us performed a section by ourselves, Duraid and I reprised our Caravan from the previous day and then Duraid and I joined the quartet in a traditional Iraqi folk song. This was made even more interesting as I incorporated some digital looping (to allow me to create a virtual percussion ensemble). We had ancient instruments with traditional percussion and oud, traditional orchestral wind instruments and contemporary digital technology. The audience was comprised of Iraqi dignitaries including the mayor, Iraqi students and educators as well as Americans working at the embassy. The two standing ovations were testament to the enjoyment of the presentation.
After departing Baghdad and a day of travel we arrived in Talil. That was the most challenging stop as the conditions were pretty dire. However, there was a rewarding performance for about 50 young percussionists. They were really amazed to see some of my instruments and we jammed with their traditional instruments and my percussion.
The next and last stop was Basra. It was there that I collaborated with an African-Iraqi population that had a several thousand year old drumming tradition. It was really enlightening for both the Iraqis and myself to discover how much we had in common. The fun we had at the rehearsals is documented on video. The performance was well received with two standing ovations. The lead drummer and I exchanged instruments and I will always cherish the drum and the experience. I introduced the traditional drummers to some digital technology and during the performance the lead Iraqi drummer started to play on my electronic rig. It was a great way to introduce this population to some technology in a very organic way.
It was a delight to share my knowledge and experience with the Iraqi population. I am humbled that some of these master musicians shared their experience, techniques and traditions with me as well (in addition to giving me their own instruments!). From now on everywhere I tour I will carry my experience in Iraq and share what I have learned with American audiences and elsewhere. I would like to give special thanks to Russell Brooks and others at the State Department who arranged these programs, assisted with all details of logistical support and were extremely helpful in every way. If you are not my virtual friend on Facebook I urge you to join me. There you can see a chronicle of this amazing journey with pictures and video.
Please visit the following links to see video and pictures of this tour:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqrGP4pbMjU http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K4mwHH6gRo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkKRxVSiS7Y http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBc0zcGdE8M http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydGQCVCfDzo http://gallery.me.com/tomteasley#gallery
Word-Beat Celebrates Martin Luther King Holiday and African-American History Month
My friend and colleague, Charles Williams are busy celebrating MLK day and African-American History Month as our long standing duo, Word-Beat. Word-Beat just completed two performances sponsored by The Virginia Commission for the Arts. We performed a concert and workshop at Youth For Tomorrow in Manassas on January 13th. On January 15th we performed at the new and very beautiful Hylton Performing Arts Center at the George Mason University campus in Manassas. The performance was filmed for local television. Stay tuned for more information regarding broadcast time. On January 29th-30th Word-Beat performed several concerts in Elkins, WV. These were a combination of family concerts, school concerts as well as an evening performance. Tom also gave a drumming workshop on his unique combination of world drumming techniques combined with American jazz and electronics. February promises to be a busy month, as Word-Beat will be performing several concerts and educational programs. Young Audiences of Virginia will sponsor these programs, which will feature the words of Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King, James Weldon Johnson, President Obama and other great thinkers with Tom Teasley's original music accompaniment. Please check out the itinerary for a performance near you!
Residency/Performance at University of Maryland George Mason University
On February 15th I will be presenting a concert at The University of Maryland Clarice Center For The Performing Arts as part of their Take Five series. The concert will be at 5:30pm until 6:30pm with a thirty minute talk back about the program. The concert will feature ancient percussion as it travels along the Silk Road as well as combine electronic percussion and other digital technology including digital looping which allows me to create virtual ensembles in performance. I will also be discussing my travels to the Middle East as a Cultural Envoy for The State Department including my very recent tour of Iraq. Please visit this site for more information. Earlier that day I will be a guest lecturer in the ethno-musicology department.
On February 16th I will present the first of three residencies at George Mason University. The others will be held on March 9th and April 6th. John Kilkenny, the Percussion chair, will be hosting these events. In each of these residencies I will be exploring a different area of my eclectic approach to world percussion. Please email JKilk72176@aol.com for more information. I am very excited to share my experience at these fine institutions. Many thanks to REMO, Vic Firth, Sabian, Latin Percussion and Yamaha for sponsoring these events.
Free Download this Month's "Balafon" from Word-Beat, "The Soul Dances"
In honor of African-American History Month I am offering the free download "Balafon". This is my original composition that features this amazing instrument and also features Charles William narrating ancient African words of wisdom. I hope you are able to catch a performance near you soon. I also invite you to visit my site and iTunes to sample and purchase some of my other music.
"Fusions between American and Eastern schools are old news, yet seldom has any percussionist drawn so deeply from both wells and come up with a blend as bewitching and original as this." -- Drum! Magazine
"The evening's dazzler..." -- The Washington Post
"No Instrument has a limitation for him" -- Modern Drummer Magazine
... a highly imaginative conceptualist... a colorful, intellectual musician, employing his talents in the orchestration of sound... ingeniously deploys unusual uses of unusual percussion... unlimited talents. " -- Allaboutjazz.com
"Washington D.C.-based percussion wizard Tom Teasley deserves his own slot in the CD bins. Maybe his own store." -- Jazz Improv Magazine
I look forward to catching up with you after my return from Iraq. Please visit my Facebook page where I will be posting pictures, updates and video.
Until next time, Peace, Salam, Shalom,