Bucket Bonham

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A DC bucket drummer in Dupont Circle. Source: ceciliaflyer hide caption

itoggle caption Source: ceciliaflyer

It's been mild the last couple days here in DC. Unexpected thaws like this always make my step lighter, and as I alight the escalator to the street here in Chinatown, my ears strain for one of my favorite sounds: bucket drumming. I'll probably have to wait till spring's truly here to hear the drummers again, and then I'll know the warm weather's here to stay. In this part of DC, buskers ring the perimeter of our sports arena, pounding empty five-gallon buckets with drumsticks, creating entire kits out of scavenged grocery carts, traffic cones, hubcaps, and whatever else they can find. I'm sure some people consider their art noise, but while the sounds are neither melodious nor pretty, there's something about that pounding rhythm filling the air (and DC's pretty quiet, so the sound carries for blocks) that lifts my spirits. Paste magazine's got a short feature on bucket drumming this month (sorry, no link), and I have to say, I was suprised to see the article start — and finish — in Toronto (with short detours to NYC and Chicago). Toronto? I'm no bucket drumming expert, but to ignore DC completely just doesn't sit right with me. While I couldn't claim DC founded bucket drumming (that credit goes to Larry Wright in NYC), the go-go music scene incorporated bucket drumming when the Junk Yard Band formed. As kids, they couldn't afford a traditional set, so they used the buckets, cones, and cans we see the street performers using. Maybe you've heard their hit, "Sardines," but even if you haven't, around here, that go-go rhythm is the one you hear on the streets too. They're so inextricable I can't imagine the kinds of drumming Paste details — Wright cites Tito Puente and Max Roach as influences, and Toronto's Gus Weinkauf has a punk rock background. They're undeniably talented, but for me, without that go-go beat bucket drumming just doesn't do it for me. So here's to all the DC street drummers, without whom warm weather just isn't the same.

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