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Grenada‘s drummers spice up the fire of Africa with Asian discipline
“When we play, the audience gets something to watch,” says Livingston Nelson confidently. He and his Tivoli Drummers have taken Grenada’s traditional drumming and developed something completely new out of it: a meticulously composed spectacle combining hot rhythms and fascinating choreography.
Livingston Nelson:
Livingston Nelson: "When we play,...
...the audience get something to watch.
...the audience get something to watch."

Nelson’s hometown of Tivoli in the north-east of the island is the most important centre of Grenada’s drum culture. “Up here we still honour the old African Shango cult, in which the drum plays an important role,” says the artist. “And there are also a lot of people of East Indian descent in the village with a drum culture of their own.”

The powerful Bongo and the Calinda stick fight dance are part of the traditional drum music of the Spice Island. But Nelson was also intrigued by the drumming styles of the Japanese and other Asian peoples: “Their technique is sheer ritual; every movement is strictly regulated and disciplined,” he explains. “Our African-influenced drumming is something else entirely: wild and full of life.”

Ten years ago, the musician decided to unite these elements and founded the group “Tivoli Drummers”. “Choreographed drumming” is the troupe’s speciality, an explosive display for both the ears and the eyes. Nelson: “The drummers’ movements are perfectly rehearsed and coordinated; the audience gets something to see as well as something to listen to.”

Each year, the Tivoli Drummers give a major performance at the annual Grenada Drum Festival, an international event featuring groups from the Caribbean, Canada, the USA and China.
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