Rhythm is an omnipresent force; you’ve just got to find it

Not everybody can play a musical instrument, but most of us have come into contact with some sort of percussion instrument – most probably long before we had even begun talking or walking. Percussion instruments are not just the more familiar ones usually associated with this extended musical family, but anything that is able to produce a rhythm, from our hands to unlikely objects. Percussion is the biggest of the musical families, which comprises countless forms used in all musical styles throughout the world. Should there be any doubt, a visit to the Petras Theater in Petroupolis, western Athens, for the 1st International Percussion Festival, today through July 18, will erase any ambiguity. The 10-day event’s wide-ranging agenda includes performances by acclaimed foreign groups such as Stomp and Les Tambours du Bronx, local acts, instrument exhibitions, book and CD sales, seminars, workshops, and a spillover of activity beyond the venue onto the streets of Petroupolis. «It’s the first time something of this sort, with so much variety, is being held,» the event’s artistic director, Nikos Touliatos, an acclaimed percussionist himself, told Kathimerini. «This is something held regularly abroad, on a large scale. Performances are not aimed at a specific type of crowd. The public shouldn’t think that it will be hearing drums only over the 10 days. We will present various musical traditions, Indian, Afrocuban, Brazilian, African, jazz, classical, and contemporary music, through a wide variety of percussion instruments, combined with concerts and theatrical performances, as well as concerts where percussion instruments will meet with other instruments,» he added. The entire program of the festival will amount to 25 groups and 170 musicians from around the world. The visiting acts include the group Les Tambours du Bronx, a 20-member group that plays using only barrel drums; acclaimed American drummer Paul Wertico; Turkish virtuoso Okay Temiz; Tam Tam d’Afrigua, a Senegalese group on traditional instruments fronted by band leader Cheikh M’Boup on sabar, Senegal’s best known percussion instrument; Batuga, a group of locals and foreigners; Tierra Brava, an act that divides its focus on latin rhythms and improvisation; Glen Velez, a master of frame drums, played with just the fingertips; and the world-renowned group Stomp. This acclaimed group’s work could be summed up as «making something out of nothing.» Innovative and multitalented, Stomp is a modern dance troupe whose work is based on converting everyday objects into percussion instruments. Formed in Brighton in 1991, Stomp is a blatant example of how banal components can be used to produce high-caliber artistic expression, as anyone who witnessed the show performed at the Herod Atticus Theater in Athens three years ago would agree. Stomp’s versatile cast features artists able to fuse their skills as dancers, actors and musicians. Their stage apparatus includes barrels, buckets, brooms, used car parts, kitchen sinks, spoons, newspapers, and matches, all of which create a thundering and exhilarating performance loaded with impressive motion and bright humor. Stomp will perform four shows at the festival, from July 15 to 18. «Experiments of this sort began happening abroad quite some time ago. Despite being directed to specialized audiences early on, they’ve now become relative entertainment for wider audiences of all ages,» noted Touliatos. «Les Tambours du Bronx, who perform using barrels only, are similar-minded to Stomp. There’s also one group which plays using pipes only. Anything that exists around us can produce rhythm.» The list of local performers comprises: Human Touch; Christos Rafaelidis; Jimmy Machlis; Vassilis Vassilatos; Greeks of the World; Lefteris Christofis; Ta Daktyla Tis Ekatis; Panagiotis Stefos and LyrAvlos; Vassilis Rakopoulos; Touliatos; Ichodrasi; Paralogi; Nikos Kapilidis; Costas Moschos; and Muzica Dudum. Some performances will feature the local vocalists Nena Venetsanou, Costas Thomaidis, and Calliope Vetta. Tickets can be purchased through Ticket Hellas, tel 210.618.9300. For further information, tel 210.501.2407. Performances begin at 6 p.m. daily.

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