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.
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.
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?
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.
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.