Walking into the arena of International Community at Muscat Festival that was held on the February 7 until the 10 there was the sounds of drums. The music naturally attracts one to the stage and that is where Tom Teasley was, with a whole set of drums from all across the globe.
Music lovers would not know whether to listen to his percussion or wonder about where each drum was from? Awestruck was the whole group of audiences, watching him with great interest. His audience consisted of people from all age groups.
The American percussionist was in Oman as the guest of the US Embassy in Oman as part of the participation at Muscat Festival 2018. In Oman too he was prepared with yet another drum Doumbek - Goblet drum.
So how does he define his music?
“I define my music as African, Middle Eastern, Indian and lots of other influences all through the eyes and ears of an American musician,” replied Tom.
He says that in his CD, “Eastern Journey”, the attempt is to combine drum set vocabulary with a variety of striking implements using a rhythmic and melodic concept. His performances are not just about rhythm but a way of bringing in melody like when he uses the Melodica.
He is a busy person in the world percussion scene yet he has the patience and eagerness to share his music even with the youngest member in the audience. The young shy child smiles gently in disbelief that it is his fingers guided by the musician is channelling out the musical notes from the Melodica, which everyone is listening to at that very moment. The smile remains there even as Tom moves away to get back to the stage.
Yet another day he has his audience members (different nationalities) up and dancing accompanying him by clapping with great cheer while right amidst them Tom continues with the playing of the Riqq, a handheld drum like a tambourine that is traditionally used in folk and traditional Arabic music. This is when one realizes how rhythm can move emotions and cross barriers while sending out bursts of positive energy in all directions.
This is what Tom Teasley is about – modern percussion with ancient traditions. So in many ways, he is celebrating traditions of nations at the same preserving traditions and introducing them to other cultures. On stage, he is surrounded by different types of musical instruments that depict in their own way the percussions exposure to cultures of the world. It is as if he speaks different languages – just like each drum speaks in a different sound although he might use the same beats.
“In all my travels I have had the opportunity to pick up some instruments as well as techniques as I have learnt to play a variety of instruments. So I buy the instrument from one part of the world and use a playing technique from a different part of the world,” explained Tom.
Tom has performed in cultural programs held in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, New Zealand, Jerusalem, Korea, and other countries. For someone who is multi-instrumental, it is only imaginable how his fascination for music continues each time he visits a new place. He has performed on over 15 different instruments. He is referred to as a multi-instrumental genius.
Tom is a 2010, 2011 and 2017 Helen Hayes Award recipient for outstanding sound design and received nominations in 2012, 2014, 2015. He received his third Helen Hayes Award for Journey to the West for which he worked with Constellation Theatre production. The multi-instrumental musician was awarded the Drummie Award by Drum! Magazine for 2016 world Percussionist of the year.
His DVD/Book set titled, An American Approach to World Percussion was nominated for Drum! Magazine Drummie Award for best drum book of 2016. His soundtrack, Dreams of India, got him the 2015 World Music Recording of the year.
He just does not perform as a soloist but he is equally comfortable introducing world music with pop tunes and he has worked with Sting, Al Green and others meanwhile he is working with Peter Fields, the classical guitarist, with the project that includes Brazilian, Cuban and Argentinian songs.
So how was it to perform in Oman?
“It has been such a pleasant time. I want to thank the US Embassy in Oman for inviting me and I am looking forward to coming back. Muscat Festival has become one of my favourite festivals. The Omani people have been so kind and in the opening of their hearts. I just want to say a big thank you!”
Tome Teasley’s drum beats can unite cultures of the world. World Music fans and drummers can follow him on tom_teasley on the Instagram and @TomTeasleyMusic on Facebook.