Race in drumming

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
I once heard a comment dismissing white drummers, obviously from a black guy. I know it's just some moron talking but for a little while after I started to take note of whether race had any bearing on a drummers playing. That wasn't the only time the comparison has been made in my life. And I can say that there is a difference and there are trends that I can see that perhaps show a cultural divide or genetics at play (lol?).

I don't really understand the dynamics of race in America because I'm not there so this thread could just come off ignorant, apologies for that. It just so happened that none of my favorite drummers (except for Dennis) were black. And when I saw two famous black drummers in clinic last year, they went through a long list of influences and the only white person mentioned was buddy rich.

I have seen many white drummers adopt jazz, soul, rnb, the gospel linear style and probably not so many black drummers adopting grunge, metal, country and other music we might consider white. And the music college in my area has a pretty strong focus on funk, soul and perhaps imitating what I imagine is the culture of the American colleges.

I have always thought there was more diversity in what I see white drummers playing, and by that I mean alot of black drummers seem to sound a bit more alike, more often into linear stuff etc as though their goals in drumming are more defined and they really know who their heroes are. I might not be seeing things fairly but maybe it's a bias presented in YouTube.

So I wonder if there is some sort of an unspoken persuasion here or if anyone had any interesting comments. I have been watching alot of Dennis Chambers, Chris Coleman and John Blackwell lately and these thoughts surfaced. I'm not exactly white myself btw.
 
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MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
As a white American, I can say without a doubt that we (whites) don't have a culture. We are a melting pot of immigrants that have brought our own cultures with us, and they have gotten lost in the shuffle over time. On St. Patrick's day, everyone is Irish. Why? So we can go out and get drunk. We celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the Mexicans, again so we can get drunk. We have no idea what we are celebrating, either. For all interested, Cinco de Mayo IS NOT Mexican independence day. That is in September. Our historical national holidays are few and far between, and again most don't know the historical background of them. Our culture consists of drinking, making money, and trying to be the man. We don't even really have a defining term for ourselves. We call ourselves Americans, but America is a continent. Canadians, Mexicans, Brazilians, Colombians, etc. are all Americans too.

Now blacks in the US do know why they are here. They understand their history. They maintain old traditions and culture that has been handed down from generation to generation, as do other immigrants to this country that aren't white. I believe that this has a lot to do with the racial differences in music.

Black music is rooted in rhythm, and goes all the way back to slaves in the field singing work songs about how much they want to be free and disdain for their masters. They wanted equality and the opportunity to achieve the American dream. This still goes on today, as there is a huge population of poor black folks just trying to get ahead. Listen to the lyrics of the different styles of music made by the different races. Rap and hip-hop is loaded with lyrics about wealth and how they came up from nothing. Blues has a ton of songs about being poor and down. And what do white people sing about? Partying, drinking, women, politics, hatred, war, killing, and all other things that we do.

So why do white people seem to adapt more styles than blacks? Perhaps it is because we have no culture, no unifying identity, other than the color of our skin.
 

porter

Platinum Member
As a white American, I can say without a doubt that we (whites) don't have a culture. We are a melting pot of immigrants that have brought our own cultures with us, and they have gotten lost in the shuffle over time. On St. Patrick's day, everyone is Irish. Why? So we can go out and get drunk. We celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the Mexicans, again so we can get drunk. We have no idea what we are celebrating, either. For all interested, Cinco de Mayo IS NOT Mexican independence day. That is in September. Our historical national holidays are few and far between, and again most don't know the historical background of them. Our culture consists of drinking, making money, and trying to be the man. We don't even really have a defining term for ourselves. We call ourselves Americans, but America is a continent. Canadians, Mexicans, Brazilians, Colombians, etc. are all Americans too.

Now blacks in the US do know why they are here. They understand their history. They maintain old traditions and culture that has been handed down from generation to generation, as do other immigrants to this country that aren't white. I believe that this has a lot to do with the racial differences in music.

Black music is rooted in rhythm, and goes all the way back to slaves in the field singing work songs about how much they want to be free and disdain for their masters. They wanted equality and the opportunity to achieve the American dream. This still goes on today, as there is a huge population of poor black folks just trying to get ahead. Listen to the lyrics of the different styles of music made by the different races. Rap and hip-hop is loaded with lyrics about wealth and how they came up from nothing. Blues has a ton of songs about being poor and down. And what do white people sing about? Partying, drinking, women, politics, hatred, war, killing, and all other things that we do.

So why do white people seem to adapt more styles than blacks? Perhaps it is because we have no culture, no unifying identity, other than the color of our skin.
Very insightful & accurate. I, uh... can't really think of anything to add, you pretty much blew it out of the water.

Obviously, it's the raising culture that very often comes with the physical race that determines what sort of interests & influences a drummer will have. You'd probably see more of a melting pot aspect from a wealthy, highly-educated, black drummer who is engaged in a primarily white community than a poor, less-fortunate white drummer living in a primarily black community (of course, those characteristics are simply the state of America's unfortunate race status and not ingrained qualities).
 

shemp

Silver Member
As a white American, I can say without a doubt that we (whites) don't have a culture. We are a melting pot of immigrants that have brought our own cultures with us, and they have gotten lost in the shuffle over time. On St. Patrick's day, everyone is Irish. Why? So we can go out and get drunk. We celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the Mexicans, again so we can get drunk. We have no idea what we are celebrating, either. For all interested, Cinco de Mayo IS NOT Mexican independence day. That is in September. Our historical national holidays are few and far between, and again most don't know the historical background of them. Our culture consists of drinking, making money, and trying to be the man. We don't even really have a defining term for ourselves. We call ourselves Americans, but America is a continent. Canadians, Mexicans, Brazilians, Colombians, etc. are all Americans too.

Now blacks in the US do know why they are here. They understand their history. They maintain old traditions and culture that has been handed down from generation to generation, as do other immigrants to this country that aren't white. I believe that this has a lot to do with the racial differences in music.

Black music is rooted in rhythm, and goes all the way back to slaves in the field singing work songs about how much they want to be free and disdain for their masters. They wanted equality and the opportunity to achieve the American dream. This still goes on today, as there is a huge population of poor black folks just trying to get ahead. Listen to the lyrics of the different styles of music made by the different races. Rap and hip-hop is loaded with lyrics about wealth and how they came up from nothing. Blues has a ton of songs about being poor and down. And what do white people sing about? Partying, drinking, women, politics, hatred, war, killing, and all other things that we do.

So why do white people seem to adapt more styles than blacks? Perhaps it is because we have no culture, no unifying identity, other than the color of our skin.
By and large this is quite correct and well stated....but as a second generation Italian, I can tell you that my family was very culturally oriented and our heritage was embraced and lived. In fact, Cleveland is a very ethnic place with a huge Italian community having all that goes along with that....

In this day and age, I don't think race factors in to how a musician finds his voice....it's likely more how the individual is socialized and how pop culture influences them.

Btw, no way in hell this dago celebrates st Patrick's or cinco de mayo....not because there is something wrong with it, but because my family never paid any attention to those things...and rightly so. Since my wife is from Guatemala, there are some things I celebrate now...cause the boss tells me I have to ;-)
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
If you define ethnic to be a predominately single culture rather than genetic history, then you might make a case for ethnic or cultural influences. I've read that one of my favorite drummers Toss Panos was heavily influenced by growing up in a Greek community and the music and rhythms played in that ethnocentric group.

People who were not born into an ethnocentric group can either go for the melting pot type of music, or delve into some more narrow culturally derived music that may or may not be related to their genetic history. White soul players, black rockers, asian metal players.

Sometimes you choose the music, sometimes the music chooses you. If you grow up with some dominant culture, then that will probably be your first musical direction. Unless you are naturally rebellious and reject it deliberately. Even if your journey takes you though other musical genres, you will probably remain influenced by your early exposures.
 

jornthedrummer

Silver Member
I don't know much about US, but on the music side I think that the 'black' musicians often have a church background and their musical roots are shaped there. Often there is a difference between the groove of a white drummer and a black. Black singers also have their own thing.
I'm white and wish I could nail some of those grooves -)
 

picodon

Silver Member
I think the music chooses you, as you wrote. Music is one of the things that holds a community together. Whatever you call community is a group of people that share many of such things as language, habits, religion, and of course the play they live. Culture and music are not as universal, spread out and mixed up acorss the planet as we would tend to believe - luckily and I hope it never happens because the diversity is so interesting.

"White people have no culture, no unifying identity, other than the color of our skin.".. are you kidding?

Skin color is really a byproduct of a group of people that live in the same place. Skin color is simply related to climate, over many generations the skin has adapted to the amount of sun it sees. That's why the Brits when they move to Australia tend to get skin cancer - like yours truly when he moved to southern France.

There is no such thing as races. Races are for dogs. Humans are all bastards (pardon my French!). When you travel to India you will meet people that are black, caucasian and asian at the same time and when you see a real Caucasian he looks very different than the average WASP. Travel to Africa and you will see that West Africans and East Africans look very different. It's endlessly interesting but has nothing to do with music per se.

I'm afraid I have gone off topic more than enough now :)
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
"White people have no culture, no unifying identity, other than the color of our skin.".. are you kidding?
I was referring to the white people in the US, as the OP questioned the differences between white and black and culture in the US.

Obviously outside the US white people have culture and identity. We just don't have any here. If you look at our society, it is based on trends and popularity, and that changes every 15 minutes.
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
I understand what mrinsane means by that. It's the same in Australia - white culture is a bit plain (football, cricket, getting drunk, thongs and Vegemite). Artistically there is a void.
 

picodon

Silver Member
@Polack
Well your point of view from inside the US is obviouly different than mine, but seen from France I think you're vastly underestimating the power of US culture. Things like "Hollywood", "Route 66" or Halloween are concepts that make Europeans dream and are widely copied here. Just because your culture is relatively new does not mean it is worthless. Every other day you read articles in the French news about the French culture being overthrown by the American one. Every night we watch CSI, doctor House... (Ok I know House is a Brit but anyway :)
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
@Polack
Well your point of view from inside the US is obviouly different than mine, but seen from France I think you're vastly underestimating the power of US culture. Things like "Hollywood", "Route 66" or Halloween are concepts that make Europeans dream and are widely copied here. Just because your culture is relatively new does not mean it is worthless. Every other day you read articles in the French news about the French culture being overthrown by the American one. Every night we watch CSI, doctor House... (Ok I know House is a Brit but anyway :)
I can see that. I suppose that since things change here so much it is hard to really define what our culture is. It started out as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then morphed into apple pie and baseball, and is now Ambercrombie and iPhones. At least drums have been relevant throughout.

Brit or not, House rules!
 

mikel

Platinum Member
I dont think race makes any difference, the influences you are exposed to both before you get into music and , more importantly, when music becomes a passion are what forms your style.

If you take someone like Stewart Copeland, a white American, but his family lived in a lot of diverse cultures and his drumming sound and style reflects this with Middle Eastern and West Indian influences easy to spot.

Race in a drummer just equals different styles, not better or worse. Long may it continue.
 

bigiainw

Gold Member
I think musical environment and exposure to different genres, while it might be partially down to ethnic grouping is by far the more important factor.

Going by race/culture I should only ever listen to and play pipe band and folk music. Of course, I don't, I like a wide range of styles and types of music, based on what I have been exposed to during my life, and what has caught my ear and imagination.

I think you can make the race of a person the defining factor if you choose, but it often depends on the questions that you ask in coming to that assumption and what outcome you actually seek.
 

EarthRocker

Senior Member
I think it's pretty accurate that it's a cultural thing. There are plenty of African American drummers who come into local music stores, and I always stop and listen. It's not that I think they're mad skilled drummers, but they always play something that feels good. and that's what attracts me to drums. It may seem odd but I think more white people are attracted to the crazy speed, the insane fills, and just more aggressive drumming, where the influences of most black drummers are more subtle. Anyone who can play a good groove that makes me stop and listen is someone I admire. But when I walk into a music store, and some long haired Lamb of God fan is blazing 32nd notes and beating the snot out of a China - I'd really rather plug my ears.
 

shemp

Silver Member
I think it's pretty accurate that it's a cultural thing. There are plenty of African American drummers who come into local music stores, and I always stop and listen. It's not that I think they're mad skilled drummers, but they always play something that feels good. and that's what attracts me to drums. It may seem odd but I think more white people are attracted to the crazy speed, the insane fills, and just more aggressive drumming, where the influences of most black drummers are more subtle. Anyone who can play a good groove that makes me stop and listen is someone I admire. But when I walk into a music store, and some long haired Lamb of God fan is blazing 32nd notes and beating the snot out of a China - I'd really rather plug my ears.
Good points....Why IS it that these people feel the need to do the "look at me" thing in the music stores?

I'm not sure why it is that *anyone* is attracted to wanting to spend so much time investing in playing fast...what is fast? So what. You can play fast; wow!

The irony is that the gift and the thing that will *really* make people take notice of your artistry is doing something that has a personal fingerprint and sounds unique.

I will take Bernard Purdie 100 times over the top 100 fastest drummers in the world...now Bernard is FUN and it makes you feel GOOD...just by himself.
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
if you grow up somewhere like NYC things like this do not exist

you either sound good or you don't

where I grew up we were so integrated and mixed up with each other in such close quarters that none of this mattered.....we were all in the same tax bracket and listened to the same music on the same crappy stereos and all sort of sounded like each other to a certain extent .... borrowing from each other and inspiring one another in all sorts of ways

once while on tour in the midwest US I was told by a white sound man that I sound like a black drummer.......being in the midwest I wasn't sure if it was a compliment or not so I just said thank you......still not really sure what he meant

lots of the black guys come out of churches and have a certain sound.......thats the only thing I can think of that he could have meant
 

brady

Platinum Member
once while on tour in the midwest US I was told by a white sound man that I sound like a black drummer.......being in the midwest I wasn't sure if it was a compliment or not so I just said thank you......still not really sure what he meant

lots of the black guys come out of churches and have a certain sound.......thats the only thing I can think of that he could have meant
I'm originally from the midwest, so I'm going to assume it was meant as a compliment. A lot of midwest guys seem obsessed with classic rock...and that's about it.

Hearing a white dude with actually groove in his playing would certainly be an anomoly, and more than likely appreciated. So, hopefully it was a compliment.

Then again, it depends on what midwestern state it was.... ;-)
 

shemp

Silver Member
if you grow up somewhere like NYC things like this do not exist

you either sound good or you don't

where I grew up we were so integrated and mixed up with each other in such close quarters that none of this mattered.....we were all in the same tax bracket and listened to the same music on the same crappy stereos and all sort of sounded like each other to a certain extent .... borrowing from each other and inspiring one another in all sorts of ways

once while on tour in the midwest US I was told by a white sound man that I sound like a black drummer.......being in the midwest I wasn't sure if it was a compliment or not so I just said thank you......still not really sure what he meant

lots of the black guys come out of churches and have a certain sound.......thats the only thing I can think of that he could have meant
Definitely a compliment...going along the lines that black folks have better rhythm than white folks...which could be true...I dunno.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Skin color has nothing to do with musical ability. I can think of at least a few black guys that, for lack of a better term, play white, and a few white guys that, for the lack of a better term, play black. It's what's in the soul that matters.
 
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