By Hillary Brody,
“Life itself and the universe is based upon rhythm. Period.”
Bill Summers, internationally renowned percussionist and folklorist—and native Detroiter—brings this ideology to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History’s Call of the Drum: International Drum Summit this Saturday and Sunday, July 25 and 26.
The drum summit, a recipient of a Knight Arts Challenge grant, which takes place on the grounds of The Wright Museum, seeks to unite the many different cultures who call Metro Detroit home through the universal language of percussion music.
Piper Carter, event co-coordinator, says that, “the vision is to have a multicultural drum summit, where we acknowledge the various cultures from around the world that incorporate drumming.” This includes over 15 different groups and musical styles, including Afro Latino, Caribbean, Japanese, Indian, Native American, African and Arabic. One such group is the Ogichidaa Kwe Singers, formerly known as the Detroit Area Women’s Hand Drum Group, a group of women representing several Native American Nations.
The free event, which runs from 11 am to 9 pm each day, will include simultaneous drum performances around the museum, so that attendees can hear the different drum interpretations throughout the day. At 7 pm each night, these styles will fuse together for big band performances. On Saturday, the headliners Detroit-based Latin jazz percussionist Afro Horn MX with Francisco Mora Catlett merge jazz, African rhythms, Cuban folklore, spoken word and Mexican Magic Surrealism. On Sunday evening, Bill Summers, featuring several local musicians, will take the stage to close out the summit. He describes his planned performance as “an anthology” that will “go across the planet, and then wind up with contemporary music that [he] wrote with Herbie Hancock.”
The Wright’s message of the universality of the drum, one of the world’s oldest known instruments, was an exciting proposition for the participating artists. Piper cites how many of the musicians are excited that “Detroit is doing something multicultural,” that unites multiple cultures together instead of focusing on one or two.
Additionally, the event seeks to embrace and educate music lovers of all ages, with an instrument making workshop for children hosted by Arts and Scraps from 1 to 5 pm each day, stilt walkers, various drum circles, and of course, food trucks.
Summers looks at the weekend as “a great honor. Coming back to the place you’re born, and participating in a major festival. It’s like going to the Olympics and winning a gold medal. When your city honors you and values your contributions, and represents drumming in an international setting, that’s a great honor.”
For museum president and CEO Juanita Moore, she is both excited and thankful to see her grand idea come to fruition.
"We are so grateful for the Knight Arts Challenge funded by the Knight Foundation for making a 250-word idea a reality," said Moore. "Since the beginning, drumming has created rhythms that convey messages, evoke feelings, and speak a language that everyone understands. Call of the Drum celebrates this universal language."
Summers expands: “Everything on the planet, including your body, if it wasn’t for rhythm, you wouldn’t exist.”
His love for rhythm and the drum extends beyond the stage. “I consider the basketball a floating drum. It’s a rhythm thing. It’s hitting the floor constantly. A good player will probably make a very good drummer, or vice versa.”
Hear these many different rhythms and beats this weekend at what is hopefully just the first drum summit to unite Detroit’s sounds.
For the full weekend schedule, click here.