Montréal, le 18 mars 1999
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FingerWorks Have
the Situation in Hand


Alain Brunet

Playing percussion is essentially beating drum skins with or without sticks. On second thought, percussionists rarely use their hands to play with, let alone their nails! There are, however, musical traditions that use the full potential of the hands. Tomorrow and Saturday at Théâtre La Chapelle, four specialists in digital techniques (in the literal sense of the term) will present an extraordinary aural and visual spectacle.

FingerWorks, under the leadership of Ganesh Anandan, originally from South India, brings together Irish (Patrick Graham) and Québecois (François Taillefer) influences, not to mention the skills of American master frame drummer Glen Velez. Velez, who is perhaps best known for his work with composer Steve Reich, will be teaching two frame drum workshops at Théâtre La Chapelle, beginners on Saturday and advanced players on Sunday.

Originally from Bagalore in the South Indian province of Karnataka, Ganesh Anandan has spent most of his life honing his digital techniques. He returns to India regularly for further studies with his master T.N. Shashikumar. A resident of Quebec since the beginning of the 80s, Anandan doesn’t limit his playing to traditional Indian music. His music is a hybrid of various styles and influences.

“Indian percussion,” explains Anandan, “uses the whole hand. We have different techniques for the palm, the fingers and the nails. Other traditions of percussion use a similar range of techniques. Frame drums come from all over: the Rik in Egypt, the Daff in Azerbaijan, the Tar in North Africa, the Bodhran in Ireland, and of course the Indian Kanjera.”

Anandan explains that he has applied Indian rhythmic solfège to instruments outside of the Indian tradition. ‘Each syllable of the rhythms can be sung, and corresponds to a position on the Kanjera’.

Ganesh Anandan has composed numerous pieces for FingerWorks, but improvisation also plays an important role for the group, as their CD reveals. Their debut album will be on sale at the Théâtre La Chapelle concerts.

And the next step? “We’d like to see what we can do with a bass player,” says the composer and percussionist. “That’s how we cross musical frontiers.”