Sri Lankan born RAY PEREIRA has long been recognised as one of Australia’s leading percussionists, performing and recording with many local and international jazz and contemporary artists. Ray has studied traditional drumming and percussion techniques in Cuba, New York and West Africa. He is currently working on many collaborations and co-ordinates a 40 member community drumming group called DRUMBALAYA. He is also a dedicated and generous teacher.
“I first met Tettey on a visit to Ghana in 1994. He had just returned from a tour of Benin and I studied with him and his group learning the traditional rhythms of the Ga people. After the lessons we used to hang out together chatting about music, rhythms, and the world. We realised that we both had more than just a common interest in drumming, we were also interested in researching the origins of traditional music, its history, the culture and social context which gave birth to this music.
We then began to source out the origins of some of the music and rhythms we were playing and also how these rhythms had changed over time.
We met people like Otto Lincoln who is credited as being the inventor of the Kpanlogo dance and we travelled to the country villages to talk to some of the old master drummers. During our research we realised that a lot of traditional music forms were being forgotten and were being replaced by outside influences, which were also eroding tradition cultural practices.
So we talked about setting up a centre through which we could popularise traditional music forms and revitalise traditional music among the Ghanaian population – as well as expose interested outsiders to the beauty of this music.
While I was studying with Tettey he was also developing an understanding of how to explain some of the more complex aspects of the rhythms to someone from outside his culture. This knowledge was something that he and other traditional drummers in Africa have taken for granted because they grow up with music – they had no need to analyse the rhythms, how they were played, the point of entry of the different support drums etc.
My questions and inquiries in this regard led to Tettey and I developing a teaching style that enabled us to be able to explain to drumming students from outside the culture how the complex poly rhythms and multiple parts of a rhythm are pieced together.”