By Priya Hutner – February 7, 2018
Samba and bossa nova from Brazil, calypso from the Caribbean, cumbia from Columbia, Nyabinghi rhythms of Jamaica and soukous from the Congo are just a few of the sounds you’ll hear from World Beatnix in Truckee on Feb. 13. Percussionist, educator and storyteller Michael DiMartino founded the band about a year and half ago. He plays 15 different percussion instruments from around the world.
WATCH: the video for “Egyptian Nile Walk”
“I’ve been playing for 35 years and have been taking people on ethnomusicology tours to Brazil, Egypt and other locations throughout the world. I’ve collected instruments from all over. I started the band as a musical journey,” says DiMartino, adding that ethnomusicology is a global network of individuals and institutions engaged in the study of music across all cultural contexts and historical periods.
“We tell people we offer a musical world journey — no passport needed — just bring your dancing shoes. We play traditional from around the world and give it a contemporary twist.” –Michael DiMartino “We tell people we offer a musical world journey — no passport needed — just bring your dancing shoes,” he says. “We play traditional from around the world and give it a contemporary twist.”
Some of the songs are sung in the language of the country they come from. Each show is unique and may include spoken word, dancers and multimedia. DiMartino is committed to creating community through the music. As an interfaith seminarian graduate, he’s studied religions of the world and parlayed that into his life and music. “Music is a universal language regardless of religion, race, gender or age. Music is my ministry and I try to inspire people through it,” says DiMartino, who toured with Michael Franti and Spearhead.
Guest musicians flow in and out of the shows. Spearhead drummer Manus Itene has played as a guest with World Beatnix. The band members include bassist Ajeet Campbell, who specializes in funk and is deeply immersed in sound healing and the effects of certain sounds on the psyche. Saxophonist Carlos McCoy teaches Latin Jazz at California State University, Sacramento and has played with Grammy-winning musicians. Percussionist Kit Bailey is also an educator and has played with orchestras, dance bands and wind ensembles. Rounding out the band is jazz and funk keyboardist Jim Wendt. The band members write their own original music.
“It starts with traditional rhythm. If we want to have a Congolese sound, we listen to the style of music and build it from the rhythm up,” says DiMartino.
Guitarist Michael Logue joined the group about nine months ago. He, too, has been playing music for 35 years. He started playing classical guitar and studied jazz in college. He studied with jazz musician David Butler, who played with John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie. Growing up in Chicago blues and rock ‘n’ roll also influenced Logue, who plays drums and bass and is a professional audio engineer. Logue is also a member of Quintessence, a funk band.
“I am inspired by excellent musicians that play from the heart. I love what I am doing. It’s interesting because we are always mixing it up. It’s eclectic and keeps us on our toes not playing one style. It’s interesting and engaging not playing the same thing over and over,” says Logue. According to Logue his band members are as eclectic as their music: “The fertility of the soil gives us a rich foundation to play and perform.”
World Beatnix just wrapped up playing at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City and the renowned Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center in Berkeley. The group is working on its next album, which will include kirtan from the eastern tradition with a Shiva chant.