Planet Drum

REVIEW: Planet Drum “In the Groove”


Rhythm and percussion ensemble, Planet Drum returns with In the Groove, a brand new collection of the world’s rhythmic pulse on Friday August 5th.

A collective of premier percussionists from around the world, Planet Drum’s origins date back to Mickey Hart’s collaborations with Indian tabla player, Alla Rakha, who also introduced Hart to his son, Zakir Hussain, a man that would become Hart’s lifelong friend and collaborator.

During the 1970’s, Hart and Hussain continued with the Diga Rhythm Band, an ensemble comprised primarily of Hussain’s students from the Ali Akbar Khan School of Music. This group went on to record the album Diga, which was originally released in 1976 on the Grateful Dead’s Round Records (re-released on Rykodisc in 1988).

Throughout the ’80’s Hart was touring heavily with the Dead, but continued his primal percussive passions, culminating with his release of two books, the memoir and philosophical manifesto of sorts, Drumming at the Edge of Magic (A Journey Into the Spirit of Percussion), followed by a history and study of percussion, Planet Drum. The latter, providing a proper name for the ensemble as well as the accompanying debut recording, featuring some of the world’s premier drummers, Babatunde Olatunji, Airto Moreira, Sikiru Adepoju, T.H. “Vikku” Vinayakram and vocalist Flora Purim. This album would go on to win the very first World Music Grammy in 1991, and was followed by a pair of successful tours.

There would be additional projects and Hart solo albums over the years, but not another official Planet Drum release. The closest being, 2007’s Global Drum Project. So here we are, some 30 years later, not quite right on the heels of the ensemble’s official eponymous debut, Planet Drum have reconvened for their sophomore follow-up, In the Groove, a six track album, described by Hart as a “dance album; jazz with a backbeat.” Hussain concurs, calling it a “groove album.”

In the Groove continues Planet Drum’s deep dive into exploring how drumming unites people, cultures and the world as a whole. The new album features Hart, Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju and Giovanni Hildalgo on drums and various percussion, as well as West African drummers/singers Melissa and Ophelia Hie on vocals, and also features a recorded blessing and benediction from the “father’ of Planet Drum, the late Babatunde Olatunji. The album’s first single, “King Clave” saw the ensemble partner hundreds of drummers for a video in the viral and popular Playing For Change series, Song Around the World.

So what brought Planet Drum back together? In short, Covid. Like so many artists have experienced, the pandemic has created turmoil with venues, and whole tours canceling out of an abundance of caution, band mates stricken and more. But for many, the time off allowed bursts of creativity to be realized, and for passions to be pursued. Undoubtedly, Planet Drum is the result of Hart’s passions. Thankfully for fans of the ensemble, Hart and his bandmates saw an opportunity arise from the pandemics ensuing chaos, and made their move. As Hart explains, “I also thought there was a great need for this. Our world is out of rhythm, our culture has lost its groove.” The ensemble initially worked virtually, a pursuit of “a supreme effort at tuned percussion” utilizing editing and spatial processing. Perhaps a daunting task, though Sikiru adds, “Music speaks one language.” In the end, the ensemble and album came together just like it should have, capturing and expanding upon the original energy of Planet Drum.

In the Groove is a fitting companion to 1991’s Planet Drum. The album continues Planet Drum’s hypnotic trance-like exploration of music at its most primal. The Planet Drum ensemble have created an atmospheric sonic experience that is both uniquely organic and electronic. Like its predecessor, In the Groove taps into the planet’s heartbeat sharing a rhythm that radiates with a warmth and familiarity that comforts and heals the soul.

…and the beat goes on.

Show Review: Dead and Company, Two in Texas


Leave a Reply!