Widely acknowledged among the greatest congueros of his generation, Giovanni Hidalgo was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1963, first taking up the drums five years later
The son of the noted percussionist Jose “Manengue” Hidalgo, he was educated in Latin rhythms from childhood onward, and as a teen regularly walked to local gigs with his congas strapped to his back. He soon caught the attention of the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, touring in his United Nations All-Star Orchestra for four years.
Hidalgo also became a noted session player, recording with Freddie Hubbard, Paul Simon and Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum project. In 1992, he recorded his debut solo LP, Villa Hidalgo; Worldwide followed a year later.
1997’s Hands of Rhythm collaboration with pianist Michel Camilo, earned Hidalgo a Grammy nomination in the Best Latin Jazz Album category.
His Greatest Hits collection followed the next year.
Berklee College of Music presented an honorary doctor of music degree to Giovanni Hidalgo in 2010. Hidalgo taught in Berklee’s percussion department from 1992-1996.
Planet Drum, the percussion album that became a world music sensation 25 years ago is available again, remastered and with new tracks. The 25th Anniversary Special Edition will be available on Friday, December 2nd, 2016 in various formats, including Vinyl LP for the first time.
On Planet Drum, American drummer Mickey Hart (The Grateful Dead) brought together percussion maestros from various parts of the world: Zakir Hussain and Vikku Vinayakram (India), Babatunde Olatunji and Sikiru Adepoju (Nigeria), Airto Moreira and Flora Purim (Brazil), and Giovanni Hidalgo (Puerto Rico).
The Remastered 25th Anniversary Edition includes 3 new tracks: Sea Of Showers, Throat Games, And The Spot. Sea Of Showers features Flora Purim And Babatunde Olatunji. Throat Games is a vocal percussion piece with Baba, Sikiru, Zakir, and Airto. The Spot starts with the sound of water drops, and then showcases Zakir and Airto.
Planet Drum: Song Descriptions by Mickey Hart
1. Udu Chant 3:40
Udu Chant represents the struggle of Life and Death, which throughout history has been portrayed in ritual using percussion. Airto plays Portuguese wooden shoes called tamanco. I play the “Beam” and a giant hoop drum from the Arctic Circle, which together form the resounding low end. Sikiru maintains a timeline bell pattern, while Zakir plays custom-made electronic triggers connected to digitally-sampled ¬Udu drums.
Island Groove is the soft side of percussion. It is a slow but simple 4/4 samba of ashiko rhythm, based on the sounds of the Yoruban consonants: go, pa, gun. When put together, they become drum talk. This song evolved as the rhymes one person played reminded another of something in their own background. We were able to collectively draw upon our various traditions, and contribute individually to the creation of this composition.
Airto started this song with a slow groove which had the power of the drum set, without the usual accompaniment of cymbals. He used a variety of unusual instruments in the composition. Among these were Mexican donkey jaws and a metal spring which resonates on the body of the instrument when hit with a stick.
Dance of the Hunter’s Fire demonstrates the basic African polyrhythm, four beats against six beats. It is an interesting comparison of two rhythmic traditions, the African and the South Indian. What you hear is Baba’s interpretation of the six-beat rhythm laid against four-beat carpet, while Vikku improvises on the Ghatam.
Sikiru Adepoju – Bell
Frank Colon – Shekere
Giovanni Hidalgo – Shekere and Congas
Airto Moreira – ¬jembe, shakers
Caryl Ohrbach – Shaker
Babatunde Olatunji – jembe
Flora Purim – Shaker
T.H. “Vikku” Vinayakram – Ghatam
5. Jewe “You Are The One” 4:06
Jewe is an example of the use of the human body as a percussion instrument. Five of us are playing in this song, slapping our chests and singing. This cupping of hands and slapping of the chest cavity created a hollow thud, and allowed us to control the vibration of our voices.
Mickey Hart –Vocals, body percussion
Bruce Langhorne – Vocals, body percussion
Babatunde Olatunji – Vocals, body percussion
Flora Purim – Vocals
Gordy Ryan – Vocals, body percussion
6. The Hunt
This song represents the primitive with a feeling of the relentless pursuit of the hunt. Sikiru’s talking drum speaks over the djembe, Jew’s harp, and drum set to form a unique rhythm.
At the dawn of religion, the Paleolithic trance dancers gathered in subterranean temple caves for ritual celebration. The natural sounds of the caves were an eerie backdrop to the dances. The echoes, the bats, the water dripping from the roof, the whacking of palm against stalagmite and the stalactite resounded thought the caves, creating unique percussive sounds. These sounds were the inspiration for Temple Caves.
The Dancing Sorcerer features Airto on berimbau, and Zakir on tabla and madal. The berimbau is one of the oldest instruments known to man. In fact, it may be the image of a musical bow in the caves at Les Trois Freres (15,000 BC) that provided the first documentation of percussion’s connection to the sacred. This picture resembles a man wearing the skin of an animal and playing some kind of instrument, possibly a sounding bow or concussion stick.
Zakir Hussain – madal, tabla
Airto Moreira – berimbau
9. Bones 4:10
This song is based on a rhythm I played on the balafon, with bones as mallets. The rest of the ensemble added their own sounds. The use of bones, especially human bones, exhibits a relationship between percussion and ritual. Hitting one bone against the other, or using bones on drums instead of sticks has an influence on the sound produced, and on the person who produces it.
Mickey Hart- Bones, balafon
Giovanni Hidalgo – batá
Zakir Hussain – Dundun, shaker and bell
Babatunde Olatunji – Vocals
Flora Purim – Vocals
10. Lost River 2:58
Lost River is a high-spirited song that demonstrates an interplay between the human voice and percussion instruments. To Zakir, this song brought to mind the singing of children in the mountains of India. The drums provide the strong rhythm which lays a foundation for Flora’s flowing melody.
Evening Samba is a mixture of Brazilian and Angolan rhythms, a perfect frame for out extended bell improvisation.
Sikiru Adepoju – Bell
Mickey Hart – Bell
Zakir Hussain – Bell
Airto Moreira – Bass drum, snare drum, tom toms, tambourine, whistles, wood blocks, metal percussion, cymbals, bells
Babatunde Olatunji – Shaker, bell
T.H. “Vikku” Vinayakram – Ghatam
12. Iyanu “Surprises” 2:02
Iyanu was recorded in 1986, after the Olatunji sessions which resulted in the recordings of the “Invocation to the Orishas” and “The Beat.” The gourds were grown in my garden, and arranged into a new instrument, a gourdophone. Airto played metal brushes against split bamboo.
Mysterious Island began with recording I made of ocean waves late one night in Kona, Hawaii. I brought back the recording and played it for the ensemble. It was the inspiration for Flora’s seagulls and for her dialogue with a circle of wind chimes which she assembled and walked among during the recording of the song. Mysterious Island mixes the natural elements of water, rain, blowing wind, and birds with the sound of metal bells and the human voice.
Mickey Hart – Grand dumbek, body percussion
Airto Moreira – Bird whistles, nose flute body percussion, tambourine
Flora Purim – Wind chimes, seagulls, vocals
Jeff Sterling – Udu Drum
The Bonus Tracks
This special, remastered 25th anniversary release includes three new tracks produced by Mickey and Zakir, with Zakir’s arrangements of material from the original 1991 recording sessions.
14. Sea Of Showers 4:52
Sea of Showers features Flora Purim and Babatunde Olatunji singing over an elegant rhythm base that includes sounds from Airto’s Aboriginal Australian bullroarer to Flora’s chimes.
15. Throat Games 2:27
Throat Games presents a pan-global scat-a-thon by Babatunde Olatunji, Sikiru Adepoju, Zakir Hussain, and Airto Moreira, using styles of vocalizations from their various musical traditions.
16. The Spot 4:34
The Spot begins with the sound of water drops, and then Zakir Hussain and Airto Moreira dance with the rhythms of the tiny waves in an homage to the water gods.
Mickey Hart, Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju and Giovanni Hidalgo – Global Drum Project (Shout Factory, 2007)
Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart and Indian tabla virtuoso, Zakir Hussain co-produced Global Drum Project and its 8 tracks of blood-racing, heart-thumping, soul-sweeping goodness. Add to this spectacular collaborative duo Latin percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo, talking drum artist Sikiru Adepoju, the vocals of the late Babatunde Olatunji, percussionist Taufiq Qureshi, Niladari Kumar on sitar and Dilshand Khan on sarangi and you’ve hit nirvana.
Opening track “Baba” is a spicy collage of interlocking rhythms, incorporating the meaty vocals by Babatunde Olantunji. In places the vocals mirror the tabla lines and in other places they mimic rough sound of Tuvan throat singing, making this track literally swim in coolness.
“Kaluli Groove” transports the listener into a rhythmic jungle with faint bird calls and sampled voices from “Voices of the Rainforest” amid a chunky beat and twangy guitar sound.
One of my favorites is the dreamy, hypnotic “Funky Zena” that travels along in a electronic-hazy groove. “Dances with Wood” is spare compared to some of the other tracks with an acoustic take on drumming rhythms, but it’s this track where the listener gets full force the consummate talent of these artists and slams into a wall of richly textured percussion. It’s tight, neatly packed percussion is astounding. “Heartspace” moves with the slowness of a river with sitar, sarangi, vocals and Indian rhythms; making it exotic and lovely.
The 1991 release of Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum resulted in a Grammy win for Best World Music Album and an astounding 26 weeks on the Billboard chart, so it be no surprise if Global Drum Project went on to achieve the same accolades. Fans will have the opportunity to experience the masterful grooves themselves when the group tours the US this fall to promote Global Drum Project.