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about blood drum spirit


blood drum spirit reaches deeply into the history of African American traditions, while incorporating elements from world music traditions into original compositions, arrangements, and improvisations. Influenced by royal’s experiences in the Peace Corps in the Philippines, and subsequent experiences in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Europe, he and the ensemble members work to give to others through performance, teaching, and sharing music and dance of the world’s peoples, with a focus on jazz, expressive forms that can eliminate barriers of circumstance and geography. royal has made a life study of the sounds and meaning from world cultures, bringing layers of rhythm, tonalities, and asymmetrical time cycles into his drumset playing. The ensemble members integrate complex rhythmic, timbral, melodic, and harmonic structures into new soundscapes, arrangements of classic compositions, and works based on songs and rhythms from India, West Africa, China and around the globe.

about the band members


royal hartigan learned to tap dance at age 3 and play piano and drums at 7. Exposed to music through his mother and uncle, who were dancers, royal has developed a unique approach to the drums, playing multiple layers of sound simultaneously, and incorporating a disciplined study and force from West African rhythms, South Indian time cycles, and other global traditions. He has performed with Clifford Jarvis, Bill Barron, Kenny Barron, Avery Sharpe, and Clyde Criner, and toured and recorded with Baomi Butts, Talking Drums, Fred Ho’s Afro-Asian ensembles, David Bindman, Hitomi Tono’ka, Paul Austerlitz, Hafez Modirzadeh, and Rudresh Mahanthappa, among others. 

His double CDs as a leader include blood drum spirit (1997), ancestors (2008); blood drum spirit live in china (2008); and time changes (2019).

royal’s publications include Blood Drum Spirit, Drum Languages of West Africa, African America, Native America, Central Java, and South India, West African Rhythms for Drumset, Dancing on the Time, West African Eve Rhythms for Drumset, and an upcoming work on West African philosophy, tonal drum expression, and jazz drumset, all with CD/DVD. royal has played on over fifty recordings and is the recipient of numerous international awards, including Asian Cultural Council (2009) and Fulbright awards for study in the Philippines and Ghana (2006, 2014-15). He is currently a Fulbright Senior Scholar.


Wes Brown is a bassist, flutist, pianist, composer, drummer, and dancer who has played with artists from three different centuries. He has toured the world with many groups, including the legendary pianist Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines, Anthony Davis, Bill Barron, Ed Blackwell, Talking Drums, Anthony Braxton, and the Black Rebels reggae ensemble. His musical experience includes Jazz, Afro-pop, highlife, reggae, blues, and gospel styles. Wes has appeared on dozens of recordings with various artists, and for years taught bass and directed the Gospel Choir at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. 


Art Hirahara is a pianist active in New York and around the world. Coming out of the fertile Asian American creative music community in San Francisco, he tours frequently in Japan with Akira Tana, and internationally with others, including his 1996 work as a U.S. Information Agency Jazz Ambassador in Qatar, Yemen, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Art’s ensembles have released four recordings, Edge of This Earth (2000), Noble Path (2011), Central Line (2016), and Sunward Bound (2018). He has worked with Rufus Reid, Wadada Leo Smith, Hafez Modirzadeh, Anthony Brown and the Asian American Orchestra, E.W. Wainwright, San Jose Taiko, among many others.


David Bindman is a saxophonist, composer, and bandleader living in Brooklyn, NY. He creates works that draw from across the jazz and new music spectrums and incorporate elements from West Africa, India and around the world. David co-led the Brooklyn Sax Quartet with Fred Ho for a decade. He has collaborated on multi-media works with Tyrone Henderson, Quimetta Perle and Malin Abrahamsson, and performed and recorded with Juba, Talking Drums, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton, Kevin Norton, Ehran Elisha, and Adam Lane, among others. David has released two critically acclaimed CDs by his sextet, Sunset Park Polyphony and Ten Billion Versions of Reality.

© royal hartigan 2019 | design: Sara Pettinella/little comb productions