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smf 2009 | continued from page 20

Billy Jonas: Babatunde Olatunji inspired me musically, with his mastery of complex African polyrhythms and songs – but more than that, he inspired me with his energy and spirit. I remember once being in a room of about 100 people, all playing a two-part rhythm he taught us moments before, and it was chaos, and he said “STOP! YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE DOING!” We were all embarrassed, until he continued: “You have no idea what is the effect of all of you drumming together, where this energy is going and how it is serving the world. Your efforts here may be moving healing energy in a far-away place, and you may never know..” It was a profound moment for me, and everyone there, and put all our efforts in a whole new context much bigger than the present moment. Glen Velez revealed to me the exquisite subtlety possible with middle eastern hand drumming – especially the richness of playing softly. He models such patience and quiet perseverance. He was also amazing to record with, and I learned much observing his quick creativity and fearless exploration, all the while focused and professional. Has the Stomp phenomenon had an effect, positive or negative, on your career? Do people ever say, “Oh, you got that idea from Stomp?” Billy Jonas: I love Stomp. We began at the same time, independently, in the mid 1980’s. I think what they have done has helped open people’s minds and ears to all manner of percussive possibility and sonic surprise, and I appreciate it!

stuff. On a recent “River Arts District Studio Stroll” I discovered an incredible local painter, Barbara Fisher, who donated some of her pieces for my “Happy Accidents” cd (you can see it at and find her at I love being amidst and a part of all the creativity in

Asheville. cs Savannah Music Festival: Billy Jonas and “What Kind of Cat Are You?” When: 7 p.m. Tue. March 31 Where: Trustees Theatre Cost: $10 adults, $5 under 12 Info:


Americana Series

Dan and Rayna Gellert

March 19 & 20, 12:30 PM Charles H. Morris Center

Long Time Travelin’ featuring Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver

March 20, 7:30 PM Lucas Theatre for the Arts

Synergy Brass Quintet

March 23, 12:30 PM Charles H. Morris Center

Gershwin Songbook: Marcus Roberts & Sebastian Knauer March 28 3:00 PM Lucas Theatre for the Arts

Savion Glover and the Otherz April 3 8:30 PM Lucas Theatre for the Arts

Is it even possible to sit behind a traditional drum kit after you’ve been doing what you’ve been doing? Billy Jonas: I’ve tried a couple of times. I prefer homemade and foundobject percussion. More exciting, more magic, for me. Is Asheville still a haven for progressive, vaguely countercultural artists? What’s that scene like these days? Billy Jonas: Absolutely – come check it out! There’s always folks here push-

Presented by Charles & Rosalie Morris and


Describe the influence of Glen Velez and the late, great Babatunde Olatunji on your percussive style and musical and cultural outlook.

ing the creative envelope and looking for the cutting edge.. Recently this has manifested in the recording studios that have chosen to make their homes in Asheville. It’s not limited to music, though. There are vibrant ceramics, sculpture, fiber arts and painting communities here always making amazing


international press, towards finding grassroots solutions.

Profile for Connect Savannah

Connect Savannah, March 25, 2009  

Connect Savannah, March 25, 2009