Magazine article International Musician

Mears Fuses Dance and Drumming

Magazine article International Musician

Mears Fuses Dance and Drumming

Article excerpt

A new musical venture with live dance and Middle Eastern-influenced music has brought percussionist Tom Mears of Local 369 (Las Vegas, NV) into another dimension as a performer and composer. Mears' project, Divine Belly Dance Drums, combines solo percussion pieces with live belly dancers. Now in its fourth year, the project is gaining notice around Las Vegas and throughout the Western US as Mears continues to compose, practice, and shape the project into a full concert act.

Mears was inspired by his wife's interest in belly dancing, and the music she played around the house led him to adapt Middle Eastern-style drumming-usually played with the hands-to a drum set's sticks and foot pedals. As he immersed himself in the music, he also thought of percussionist Terry Bozzio's arrangement of symphonic music for percussion, as well as his work with a ballet troupe.

"Those thoughts kept popping into my head and I thought, wouldn't it be cool if I could do something like that with belly dancing?" he says.

His first two solo compositions, "Dance of the Divine Serpentine" and "Tribal Rapture," capture the sound of the doumbek, a hand-played, goblet-shaped drum, and add layers of splashing cymbals. Mears describes the pieces as a kind of Western-Eastern fusion.

He uses an expanded drum set for the pieces, adding electronic drum pads, bongos, cowbells, and a set of orchestral bells, in addition to the standard bass drums, tom-toms, and snare. This complex setup requires the use of both hands and feet to play four different instruments at once. Mears has thrown himself headlong into the composition's musical demands. "I can't wait to get in the studio to practice," he says.

Mears' custom drum set features a tribal-influenced image on the front designed by dancer Jada Fire. To capture the snaps, pops, and finger rolls of doumbek playing, Mears drew on electronic percussion played with both sticks and hands. …

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