As you know one of the reasons Willie and I started this blogsite was to highlight those drummers that haven't really gotten their due. There are various drummers whose talents exceeds many of the "known" drummers of today but for some reason they have been overlooked. In the East Coast Afro Caribbean drum community there has always existed a very strong African American presence, since the beginning. If it weren't for guys like Gene Golden, Pablo Landrum, Robert Crowder, Don Alias, Chief Bey, Babafemi, etc...where would we be?
This actually made me think of more recent players and singers such as Skip "Brinquito" Burney, Oludara Bernard, Brandon Rosser, Canute Bernard (ibae), Amma McKen, Fela Wiles, Victor Jaraslov, Emory Damon, and others whom are among the community of players that are not necessarily of Spanish descent or even of African American descent for that matter. But why should that make a difference? It didn't back then and it doesn't now. So that said...
Greg "Peache" Jarman
I've talked to Matthew Smith a couple of times about how he got started making congas and bata. One of the guys that helped Matthew in terms of checking and getting the measurements right for the bata he was trying to make was Peache. There has been a Philly drumming scene for quite some time, and various drummers have come out of the area. I found a little biographical information on him at the Folklore Project. Here it is for your reading pleasure.
Greg "Peache" Jarman first learned conga drumming from Robert Crowder and Garvin Masseaux in Philadelphia. He played with many local Latin bands here and went to California during the peak years of African Cuban drum culture, where he studied and played with Mongo Santamaria, Francisco Aquabella, and others. Aquabella was especially known for batá; Santamaria was a famous congero from Cuba who came to the United States in the 1950s, from Cuba, before the Cuban dance and culture craze hit.
Much of the music that became commercially successful was far from roots traditions. Yet many artists continued to school themselves in the more "undiluted" African Cuban sounds and rhythms and this was Mr. Jarman's approach. He returned from California with expertise on batá drums and the religious culture surrounding them and continued to develop the structure of batá drumming here. Mr. Jarman has been involved with African-based percussion for over 35 years and continues to study and play West African, Haitian, and Cuban styles. He performs widely with Latin bands and has played with many well-known artists including Santamaria, Cal Tjader and Willie Bobo.
Mr. Jarman has been a member of Kulu Mele African American Dance Ensemble since about 1969. He was an original member of Philadelphia's Traditional African American Drummers Society, a group dedicated to the preservation and continuation of African hand drumming in the city. Since about 1995, he has been part of the Spoken Hand Society, a group consisting of four percussion ensembles: Brazilian (led by Tom Lowery), West African (led by Daryl "Kwasi" Burgee), North Indian (led by Lenny Seidman), and Afro-Cuban (which Mr. Jarman himself leads). The Spoken Hand received a 1998 Rockefeller grant to pursue cross-tradition compositions, and they were featured at Atlanta's National Black Arts Festival in July 1998.Mr. Jarman is deeply involved in the spiritual dimensions of the drum. He is also a gifted teacher and has been giving lecture-demonstrations and classes at churches of various denominations, schools, youth programs, and penitentiaries for over 25 years. Sometimes, along with other drummers, he plays on street corners where all can hear. He has been teaching in the Folklore Project's artist in residence program, and has performed, with Kulu Mele, at "Philly Dance Africa." In June 2000, he was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts.
More info to come...