Candy Eaton: A Magick World Percussionist and Why You Should Know Her

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A couple of years ago, I went out to the Remo Recreational Music Center in North Hollywood, California, to attend a memorial for Layne Redmond. She is best known for her work in bringing the legacy of women drummers and frame drumming back into the 20th/21st century world.

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Layne authored When The Drummers Were Women (Three Rivers Press, 1997), and in doing so, opened a door to the past that flooded the future with beautiful rhythmic truth.

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Several performers honored that truth and Layne’s efforts to keep it alive, and Candy Eaton was one of them. She performed with her Rhythm Sisters, a troup of women percussionists who as I recall played primarily frame drums. I’d never really listened to the instrument that much, but the sounds they created were haunting. I was also struck by the ceremony of the performance, the deep honouring and respect.

I spoke with Candy briefly afterwards, and she was the real deal. Her percussion interest stemmed from a lesson with George Medlock about eleven years before, on a hand drum, and she took to it like a proverbial fish to water. But how does a heavy metal rock fan who knows every song Black Sabbath ever recorded translate her passion into hand drumming?

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With serious slap!.

I’ve watched Candy’s drumming videos on YouTube, and she hits a darbuka like John Bonham. She pretty much inverted my preconceptions of what a woman drummer could do, I have to admit. The slam and the tone were intense, even at low volumes. Candy’s presence is what caught my ear.

Candy’s knowledge of Middle Eastern and African drumming is equally impressive. Ask her about a rhythm and you’ll get its authentic name, sound, and history. I love this in a drummer (which I lack a lot of it, quite honestly), so it’s very cool to speak with someone who really knows their deep history and technique. She also plays congas, tabla, and a wide assortment of percussion instruments that reflect a broad approach to her passion for world drumming.

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But getting back to the Layne Redmond Remo memorial… it was reverent to watch a group of women in a slow procession, singing a simple song of memory and honoring. It’s something that for drum set players is a rare sort of thing, because we only have about 100 years of background, and short of Daniel Glass’s great efforts, not too many of us play in period events to preserve the history and education.

Candy Eaton’s Rhythm Sisters did exactly that, and watching such a powerful presence lead the group was edifying. It made me appreciate the other energy of drumming, the connection with the past. What I saw in Candy’s playing was a sincere devotion and dedication to the authentic, the preserving of tradition. Like I said, the real deal.

Candy plays and teaches in the Southern California area, mostly around Los Angeles, and she performs annually at events such as the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. She also leads drum circles for private groups, playing various percussion instruments such as dumbek, darbuka, djembe, and of course, her frame drums. By the way, the sound Candy gets out of her 22” Remo frame drum with the Renaissance head sounds awesome!

So why should you know who Candy is if you are primarily a drum set player? Well, I think one answer is in watching how someone with a heavy metal drumming sensibility brings it to other hand drums, particularly the darbuka. When you consider that Danny Carry’s knowledge of tabla carries over to the very musical interpretation on much of his drumming with Tool, you get the idea…

It’s about opening our ears to other worlds and hearing what we might be able to take away as a lesson to expand our perspective, both musically and culturally. I’ve had some very interesting conversations with Candy about this since meeting her at Remo, and it’s inspired some pretty cool ideas for a project that I’ll share more about shortly.

In the mean time, check out Candy’s website (www.candyeaton.com) for her videos, and find her on YouTube, WordPress, Twitter or Facebook and say hello. She’s a powerful player with a powerful message for women, which I also like as well: Hit the drum, ladies, because it’s your birthright.

That’s what Layne Redmond taught, and as one of her students continuing the legacy (which is some pretty respectful credential), that’s what Candy lives to do. And when she really wants to, she does so very loud and proud.

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6 thoughts on “Candy Eaton: A Magick World Percussionist and Why You Should Know Her

  1. Steve March 20, 2015 / 9:52 am

    Really not impressed…her “rhythm in 7” is elementary, lacks feel/groove, and lapses into “8” at one point. I have heard/met/played with MUCH better women percussionists and “world” percussionists.

    What she’s doing seems exploitative.

    • larry March 27, 2015 / 6:55 pm

      Steve does the video state “Here is an extremely hard rhythm in 7” ? When people discuss odd meter they mostly stereotype it. People typically associate odd meter as a difficult thing, when it doesn’t have to be. Rush is perfect example of a band that takes odd meter and makes it easy to follow. Does that make Rush elementary ? Or does it make Rush user friendly? Isn’t all music explorative at some point? Didn’t all of it have to start somewhere, then evolve? Without exploration many types of music would not exist. What if this so called “elementary” rhythm in 7 motivates someone to learn it?

    • Sharonearth March 27, 2015 / 8:40 pm

      Seems sad to have to demean someone’s work when they’ve done nothing wrong or hurtful to someone else. If you indeed have met other more worldly women, if they were truly worldly, I doubt they would condone your behavior. You miss the entire point of lifting up more women percussionists. The writer felt moved enough to write about her, just because you don’t happen to see it doesn’t mean there isn’t something worthwhile in what she does. Whether you feel impressed or not is irrelevant. Go troll reddit instead.

  2. Andrey March 27, 2015 / 12:03 pm

    Wow, nice article. I really like your posts!

  3. Lynn Strand March 27, 2015 / 3:23 pm

    Candy has been my mentor for many years and is an outstanding drummer with a true passion and willingness to share it that I’ve only seen in a rare few these days! With an emphasis on women’s drumming and the spirit of ALL drummers, she plays from her soul and teaches from her heart I am proud and grateful to know her!

  4. Marguerite Garner March 27, 2015 / 8:50 pm

    I play with an Arabic orchestra that is 90% Arabic background musicians. I study with Candy Eaton and I’ve studied with other very experienced and talented women drummers- several in fact. They have also been called “exploitive”. Candy is gaining momentum, is kind, supportive, a joy to spend time with. A wild woman who runs with the wolves. Watch her grow. Shaming someone by calling them “exploitive”? – not constructive. And it stops no one from continuing to improve or from doing what they love to do.

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