Keeping time in Haifa

The activities, largely aimed at up-and-coming drummers and percussionists, will take place daily at, and near, the Beat Club, with master classes scheduled at the nearby Rappaport Auditorium.

Raphael Chaim Moshe plays the drums (photo credit: COURTESY OF SHALVA NATIONAL CENTER)
Raphael Chaim Moshe plays the drums
Eons ago – seemingly – drummers were considered little more than timekeepers for their fellow band or ensemble members. They were predominantly there just to provide a rhythmic anchor for the rest of the guys to do their melodic thing, at least in the Western music sphere. Thankfully their lot has improved over the years, as Western entertainment tastes have broadened to accommodate input from other cultures, including sounds from Africa, India and elsewhere.
There should be a commensurate range of rhythmic and even sonorous developments on offer in Haifa August 20-22 with the advent of the country’s first three-day drumming camp. The event, which goes by the temporally challenging moniker of Non-Stop Drumming, is the brainchild of seasoned skin pounder Noam Landsman, who has recruited a stellar cast of fellow professionals to present workshops, master classes and performances at the camp.
The activities, largely aimed at up-and-coming drummers and percussionists, will take place daily at, and near, the Beat Club, with master classes scheduled at the nearby Rappaport Auditorium. The educational agenda kicks off at 10 a.m., through to 3:45 p.m., with instruction provided by Yoni Meder, Yogev Gabai and Landsman himself. That will be followed by one-on-one sessions with any of the professionals, who also take in internationally acclaimed artists such as Hamburg, Germany-based drum-set artist Oded Kafri, veteran Brazilian-born Latin music percussionist Joca Perpignan and renowned frame-drum specialist Zohar Fresco. Lastly, the general public market reach kicks in at 5:30 p.m., with the aforementioned triad presenting open master classes, aimed at aspiring drummers and percussionists as well as fans of a wide range of musical styles and disciplines.
The musical dynamics will be extended beyond the pure percussive element, with the addition of bass guitarist Ori Lubianiker, with darbouka player Wissam Khoury adding some rich Middle Eastern spice to the proceedings.
Landsman’s principle objective, in initiating the camp, is to try to broaden our musical horizons beyond the sounds that are readily available at the click of a computer mouse, or even a radio switch. “The idea of a music gathering, or camp, is not new,” says the drummer and educator. “But you generally find such events in other fields, like string instruments, and mostly in the classical sphere.” Landsman wants to spread his, and our, musical net as far and wide as possible. “I looked for artists from as many disciplines and genres, and with as many approaches, as possible,” he notes. “I wanted to create an interface between as many people as possible, with as many things as possible. That was one of the main thoughts behind the camp from the outset, to introduce people to musical elements they may not ordinarily encounter.”
Considering the almost unparalleled breadth of musical offerings in this compact Middle Eastern country, one might have thought that at least part of Landsman’s work would be done for him on a regular basis, via the various radio stations, not to mention the seemingly infinite resources that are instantly accessible via virtual platforms such as YouTube. But, it seems, there is more work to be done. “Most of the drum-set players in Israel – let’s leave the percussionist to one side for now – are in the mainstream. Overall, their knowledge of less mainstream music is partial.”
I got the impression that Landsman was being a mite PC-sensitive, and anxious not to estrange any drummer who might, at some stage or other, be open to the idea of straying beyond commercial confines. “I don’t say they don’t know about these other areas of music, but they don’t have such wide knowledge of what’s out there. In general, people hear what they hear. They don’t look too far, to the right or left.” Nicely put.
Landsman is hopeful, firstly, that mainstream musicians, and fans of more popular music alike, will come to the camp, and that what they encounter there will prompt them to test, for them, uncharted waters. “The whole idea is to bring them into contact with artists who come from other places. I’d like them to have a different kind of [musical] experience. I don’t want them just to enjoy the entertainment value of a cool artist, but also learn a few things from other artists.”
There was never a need to provide the camp organizer with a gentle push in the desired multifarious direction. “Even as a kid I was interested in all kinds of music that other children didn’t go for,” says Landsman. The drummer took his early musical education in the music department of the then WIZO High School in Haifa, and ran with it. Today, he is in the nice position of rubbing shoulders, and engaging in shared artistic endeavor, with some of his early sources of inspiration. “A lot of the artists that today I perform with are people I admired so much when I was a kid. Zohar Fresco is one of those who really wowed me, and helped to draw me to the ethnic musical direction. I have engaged in that field for many years now.”  And now Landsman has Fresco on his drumming camp staff.
Landsman’s daytime job enables him to travel the world, naturally picking up bits of information and enhancing his professional outlook as he makes his way from gig to gig. Even so, he says he always finds himself coming home to roost, physically and artistically. “Arab music has always interested me,” he notes. “I always come back to that, after tours in Cuba and Brazil and India, and all sorts of other places.  Ultimately, I always return to the Middle East.”
All those worlds of musical endeavor, and more, have been catered for in the camp program. “If people come to Oded Kafri’s workshop, for example, they’ll be able to hear and see how he plays the drum-set hooked up to a computer, and what it is possible to do with all that,” explains Landsman. “Then with Joca [Perpignan] they’ll get all the Brazilian things. And he’ll ask people onto the stage, to get in on the act themselves.” Fresco, says Landsman, offers a broad swathe of avenues of rhythmic exploration. “With Zohar people will be exposed to the vast world of frame drums. Frame drums originate from here. If you go back 3,000 years you have the tambourine, with Miriam.” In Hebrew, the tambourine is called tof Miriam – Miriam’s drum – as noted in the Book of Exodus after the Children of Israel cross the Red Sea: “Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.”
“The tambourine is also played in all strains of Arab music, and Zohar took it and integrated it into different disciplines, including Indian music,” Landsman adds. “That is something new, and very interesting. And Zohar also sings.” At the end of the day, says Landsman, it’s just about getting back to basics. “You don’t really need more than your voice and a drum.”
Landsman has done his best to cover all stylistic bases at the camp. “We want to bring musical extremities together. On the one hand we have funk, fusion, jazz, India, Brazil and different places in Africa. It’s a mishmash of things that are all interconnected and, of course, they each take off in their unique directions.”
Landsman says he is not looking to corner the market, and would happily welcome new initiatives in the drumming field. “As far as I am concerned anyone can take on the idea and run with it, and get other artists, and other people, on board. No one has a monopoly over music.”
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