How It Began:
In early 2021, Reya Hart, Mickey Hart's daughter and Tour Production Manager, approached Playing For Change co-founder, Mark Johnson, about the possibility of PFC collaborating with Mickey and Planet Drum on a Song Around The World. Conversations ensued and everyone agreed this was an AMAZING opportunity for all! Mickey has been working on a new Planet Drum project with Zakhir Hussain, Giovanni Hidalgo, and Sikiru Adepoju so the timing for a Song Around The World made sense. Literally and proverbially: THE STARS ALIGNED!
This extra-special Song Around The World features Mickey along with legendary percussionists Sikiru Adepoju, Zakir Hussain, Giovanni Hidalgo and a posthumous appearance by Godfather of African drumming in the West, Babatunde Olatunji. Supporting the aforementioned is a cast of 50 traditional drummers in India, lead by Zakhir, 50 talking drummers in Ghana, lead by Sikiru, and PFC percussionist Mohammed Alidu, along with a 5000 person drummer circle lead by Mickey Hart!!!
The track and video, entitled "King Klave," is set to the most referenced and universally used rhythm called "clave." Clave is a Spanish word meaning "code," "key," as in key to a mystery or puzzle, or "keystone." It is a five-beat rhythm, broken up into 2/3 or 3/2 over two measures. In a 2/3 pattern, the first measure contains two beats of the clave rhythm and the second measure contains three beats of the clave rhythm. 3/2 is the opposite of 2/3. The clave is the basis, serving as a skeletal rhythmic figure, around which the different drums and percussions are played in most African, Caribbean, South American, and New Orleans music, amongst others.
As Mickey Hart explains about Planet Drum, and percussion playing in general:
“...melodies, harmonies, and styles of music differ all around the planet but the rhythms are the same. Rhythm is the universal language that we all understand and feel and live by. Life is about rhythm. We vibrate, our hearts are pumping blood, we are a rhythm machine, that's what we are.”
The fundamental concept of PFC, as articulated best by Mark Johnson, is:
“Playing For Change is a movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music. The idea for this project arose from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people.”
One can easily understand the natural synergy and shared spirit between Mickey Hart and the Planet Drum crew and Playing For Change. Indeed, the world is a bit more beautiful because of it!!
Planet Drum is a world music project and album, produced, conceived, and arranged by Mickey Hart, a musician and musicologist who was a member of the Grateful Dead and who still tours today with top-grossing concert act Dead & Co. Hart is, and has been for over 50 years, a driven drummer, scholar, author, composer, recording artist, entertainer, archivist, activist, and perennial student of rhythm and its effect upon the world.
Hart's concept for Planet Drum was to play drum and percussion based music with percussionists from around the world, and incorporate their different musical styles and traditions into a new global sound. The musicians on the Planet Drum album were from the United States (Hart), India (Zakir Hussain and T.H. "Vikku" Vinayakram), Nigeria (Sikiru Adepoju and Babatunde Olatunji), Brazil (Airto Moreira and his wife, vocalist Flora Purim), and Puerto Rico (Giovanni Hidalgo and Frank Colón).
Pictured, left to right: Flora Purim, T.H. “Vikku” Vinayakram, Sikiru Adepoju, Zakir Hussain, Mickey Hart, Babatunde Olatunji, Airto Moreira.
Sometime in 1990, the aforementioned players all went into Studio X in Sonoma County, California, and began to improvise. There were no rehearsals and no compositions to rely upon. Players took turns starting grooves and everyone else listened and joined in as part of a collective search for spontaneous, rhythmic music—as beautiful as they could make it. These masters of percussion and global beats emerged from the week-long session with a set of 13 spacious, multi rhythmic jams covering a vast sonic range, and the first album to win a Grammy Award in the then-brand new category called “World Music.” There are polyrhythms, vocal hooks, gongs and bells, vocal collages, electronic sounds, and grooves suggesting Caribbean, Brazilian, African and Indian settings, while never quite settling into any culturally specific set of conventions. It’s a remarkable recording capturing some of the most innovative grooves by some of the greatest percussionists the modern era has known.
Planet Drum sat at the number-one position on the Billboard World Music Chart for 26 weeks and won the first-ever Grammy Award for Best World Music Album in 1991. Fittingly, Hart won another Grammy in 2009 for Best Contemporary World Music Album award for Global Drum Project with Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju, Giovanni Hidalgo, and computer sound wizard Jonah Sharp.
Check out the below videos from the Planet Drum project and stay tuned for our Musician Spotlight series highlighting a few of Planet Drum's featured musicians.
Global Drum Project - Baba
Mickey Hart and Global Drum Project - NatGeoMusic.net | National Geographic
Mickey Hart - Island Groove (Live At Flynn Theater, Burlington, VT/November 26, 1991)