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Different Drums started in 1991 as a deliberate exercise in community relations. Roy was asked to do something in the community using arts as a vehicle and came up with the concept of ‘different drums,’ which was borrowed from Henry Thoreau. It is the notion of people marching to the beat of different drums; at the same time he was reading a book by M Scott Peck called ‘Different Drums’ which was about the essential human need to be in community with other living things.

It was clear that that there was a good philosophical underpinning for a project that addressed both the rights and respect of the individual and the rights and respect you have as part of your community.

The most unique aspect of Different Drums is the use of the potent symbols of the drums of the two main communities here in Northern Ireland – the lambeg drum and the bodhran which are perceived as representing the Nationalist and Unionist cultures

The Lambeg drum is a big bass drum which is most likely descended from the European military snare drum, it has a presence in Ireland from around the mid/late 17th Century. At over three feet in diameter and clocking in at 125dB it’s reckoned to be the loudest drum in the world. The way it’s constructed and played is unique to Ulster and it would be representative of the Protestant and Unionist people.

The wee drum, the bodhran, gets the name from the Irish for deaf ‘bodhr’ and means ‘the deafener’, it is also usually made from goats’ skin. Frame drums like this are found all over the world. It’s seen as a symbol of Nationalism and the Catholic people although its popularity is now global.

In the early 1990s, acouple of us got a chance to spend a week with the Kodo drummers from Japan and that gave us the idea to try something new. It was about exploring the sound of the drums and trying to create some sense of a new repertoire of out the two traditions. There is irony now in the fact that through IMG we share the same management as Kodo.

In addition to the lambeg and bodhran, we use the African Djembe drum to provide the rhythmic engine of the band and you will also hear the High tension snare and various other percussion from around the world.

The melodic aspects of the band are voices and a range of traditional Irish instruments with particular emphasis on the Uilleann pipes and the whistle, the link between rhythm and melody is made through Roy’s guitar.

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