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ASU percussion ensembles will come together for one loud evening

The African Drum Ensemble poses for a photo.  

The African Drum Ensemble poses for a photo.  

The rhythm section is more than just high-hats and drum sets, and many of ASU’s percussion ensembles will illustrate this Thursday during an evening of world music called Rhythmic Variation.

This night of music will feature performances from the Contemporary Percussion Ensemble, African Drum Ensemble, Pan Devils Steel Band and guest artists Diana Herold and Grisha Alexiev.

Alexandros Fragiskatos, director of the Pan Devils Steel Band, said he is excited to share the variety of sounds and genres that percussion has to offer its listeners.

“(Rhythmic Variation’s) theme is percussion, and it is a showcase of all the different ensembles within ASU's percussion studio,” Fragiskatos said. “Percussion is such a vast and inclusive family of instruments that many unique ensembles exist. The audience is able to get a taste of each of the ones we have to offer. At the end, we perform a combined piece in which all the ensemble play together.”

The Pan Devils Steel Band play a genre of percussion that is growing more and more popular in the U.S. Steel bands originated in Trinidad, and they usually play local genres like calypso and soca. The ASU iteration is also known to perform pop, jazz, reggae and classical tunes. The ensemble rehearses twice a week and is open to any ASU student who can read music.

Music performance freshman Arian Robinson said he is excited for the audience interaction during the concert. It is encouraged that concertgoers clap their hands and participate with the lively music.

“(The steel band) will attract concertgoers because of how much fun the music is and how it makes you want to move and dance,” Robinson said. “It’s very energetic and happy music.”

Playing alongside the steel band is African Drum Ensemble, directed by Danielle Moreau, who is studying for her doctorate in percussion performance.

“The ensemble was founded by the late Dr.Mark Sunkett, who traveled to Africa most summers to study and bring back their drumming traditions to share with his students,” Moreau said. “We learn everything by ear, practicing as a group to put together each of the rhythms we perform. Rehearsals consist of learning new material, practicing that material slowly, soloing and performing.”

The Contemporary Percussion Ensemble is also performing during the evening, which will include a variety of modern music by major composers strictly for percussion. The ensemble mostly includes music majors, but non-majors are also welcomed to join. J.B. Smith, the coordinator of percussion studies, will be conducting the ensemble's leg of the concert.

All three ensembles will come together with guest artists for a mass piece at the end of the evening. 

The concert will challenge the typical notions of percussion and drumming and will serve as an introduction to world music. Rhythmic Variation is free to the public and will take place at ASU’s Evelyn Smith Theater located in the music building at 50 E. Gammage Parkway, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. 

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