Hamid Drake

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Hamid Drake
Hamid Drake at Moers Festival 2006, Germany
Hamid Drake at Moers Festival 2006, Germany
Background information
Born (1955-08-03) August 3, 1955 (age 68)
Monroe, Louisiana, U.S.
Instrument(s)Drums, tabla, conga
Years active1970–present
Hamid Drake, Vision XIII Festival

Hamid Drake (born August 3, 1955) is an American jazz drummer and percussionist.

By the close of the 1990s, Hamid Drake was widely regarded as one of the best percussionists in jazz and improvised music. Incorporating Afro-Cuban, Indian, and African percussion instruments and influence, in addition to using the standard trap set, Drake has collaborated extensively with top free jazz improvisers. Drake also has performed world music; by the late 1970s, he was a member of Foday Musa Suso's Mandingo Griot Society[1] and has played reggae throughout his career.[2]

Drake has worked with trumpeter Don Cherry, pianist Herbie Hancock, saxophonists Pharoah Sanders, Fred Anderson, Archie Shepp and David Murray and bassists Reggie Workman and William Parker (in many lineups)

He studied drums extensively, including eastern and Caribbean styles. He frequently plays without sticks, using his hands to develop subtle commanding undertones. His tabla playing is notable for his subtlety and flair. Drake's questing nature and his interest in Caribbean percussion led to a deep involvement with reggae.

Early life[edit]

Hamid Drake (birth name Henry Lawrence Drake) was born in 1955 in Monroe, Louisiana, and his family moved to Evanston, Illinois, when he was a child. There he started playing with local rock and R&B bands, which eventually brought him to the attention of Fred Anderson, an older saxophonist who had also moved to Evanston from Monroe as a child decades before. Drake worked with Anderson from 1974 to 2010 including on Anderson's 1979 The Missing Link.[3] At Fred Anderson's workshops, a young Hamid met Douglas Ewart, George E. Lewis and other members of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Another of the most significant percussion influences on Drake, Ed Blackwell, dates from this period. Hamid's flowing rhythmic expressions and interest in the roots of the music drew like-minded musicians together into a performance and educational collective named the Mandingo Griot Society, which combined traditional African music and narrative with distinctly American influences.


Don Cherry, who Drake first met in 1978, was another continuing collaborator. After meeting Don Cherry, Hamid and fellow percussionist Adam Rudolph travelled with Don to Europe, where they explored the interior landscape of percussion and shared deeply in Mr. Cherry's grasp of music's spiritually infinite transformational possibilities. Drake worked extensively with him from 1978 until Cherry's death in 1995.

Drake was one of the founders, along with Foday Musa Suso and Adam Rudolph, of The Mandingo Griot Society. His other frequent collaborators include New York bassist William Parker, saxophonist David Murray, composer and percussionist Adam Rudolph, German free jazz saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and drummer Michael Zerang.

Drake performing with Iva Bittová in Moscow in January 2014

Hamid Drake has played and/or recorded with: Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders, Fred Anderson, Herbie Hancock, Archie Shepp, bassist William Parker (in many lineups), Reggie Workman, Yusef Lateef, Wayne Shorter, Bill Laswell, David Murray, Joe Morris, Evan Parker, Paolo Angeli, Peter Brötzmann, Jim Pepper, Roy Campbell, Matthew Shipp, Sabir Mateen, Rob Brown, Mat Walerian, Marilyn Crispell, Johnny Dyani, Dewey Redman, Joe McPhee, Adam Rudolph, Hassan Hakmoun, Joseph Jarman, George E. Lewis, John Tchicai, Iva Bittová, Ken Vandermark, and almost all of the members of the AACM. These diverse artists all play in a broad range of musical settings which allows Drake to comfortably adapt to north and west African and Indian impulses as well as reggae and Latin. Although engaged as sideman, he has also devoted his energies and creativity as a band leader; focusing on his own groups and projects such as Bindu[4] and Indigo Trio.[5]

Drake has frequently appeared with jazz legend Archie Shepp in various configurations. The most common is the group Phat Jam along with human beat boxer and rapper Napoleon Maddox. Drake also works with Maddox in the jazz hip hop group ISWHAT?!.[6] Drake performs with European jazz groups, recording with Hungarian musicians such as Viktor Tóth and Mihály Dresch. In addition to the drum set, Drake performs on the frame drum, the tabla, and other hand drums.

Winter solstice concerts by Drake & Zerang Duo[edit]

Since 1991 Drake has collaborated with fellow percussionist Michael Zerang to present annual winter solstice concerts. Both musicians have been committed to return to Chicago, from wherever they may be performing, to stage the solstice event which commemorates the northern hemisphere's shortest day.[7][8][9] (In most years, about a week later Drake performs again in Chicago with the DKV Trio.) About the winter event Drake has said,

"The solstice is an important time for all people of any religion or race, because it's about the cycling of the earth itself, and nobody can really claim that. It's a time of the year when a lot of people are home and visiting, and we wanted to create something that people would enjoy at that particular time, regardless of whatever they might be following. I think it just kind of naturally turned into this continuing event. I don't think that we planned it at the beginning."

Occasionally, including in 2020, the Hamid Drake & Michael Zerang Duo have also performed a summer solstice concert in Chicago.[10] The duo has released two albums – Ask the Sun (1996) and For Ed Blackwell (2015, recorded in 1995).[11][12]

Partial discography[edit]


As leader/coleader[edit]

with Bindu
with DKV Trio
with Indigo Trio
  • The Ethiopian Princess Meets the Tantric Priest (RogueArt, 2011)
  • Anaya (RogueArt, 2009)
  • Live in Montreal (Greenleaf, 2007)
with Mandingo Griot Society
  • Mandingo Griot Society
  • Mighty Rhythm
  • Watto Sitta
with Adam Rudolph
  • Contemplations
  • 12 Arrows
  • Dream Garden
with Pharoah Sanders and Adam Rudolph
with Irène Schweizer
with Spaceways Inc.
with The Turbine! (Harrison Bankhead, Benjamin Duboc, Drake, Ramon Lopez)
Various duos

As sideman[edit]

with Joshua Abrams
With Fred Anderson
with Beans
  • Only (with William Parker) (2006)
with Albert Beger and William Parker
  • Evolving Silence Vol. 1 (Earsay's Jazz, 2005)
  • Evolving Silence Vol. 2 (Earsay's Jazz, 2006)
With Black Top (Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas)
  • Some Good News (Otoroku, 2021)
with Peter Brötzmann
with Rob Brown
with Roy Campbell
with Chicago Trio (Ernest Dawkins, Harrison Bankhead, Drake)
with Marilyn Crispell and Peter Brötzmann
with Scott Fields
  • Five Frozen Eggs (Music and Arts/Clean Feed, 1997/2011)
  • Dénouement (Geode/Clean Feed, 1999/2011)
with Chico Freeman / George Freeman
  • All in the Family (Southport, (2015)
with Herbie Hancock
with IsWhat?!
  • You Figure It Out (Hyena, 2004)
  • The Life We Chose (Hyena, 2006)
with David Murray
with Natural Information Society
with Painkiller
with William Parker
with Hugh Ragin
with Pharoah Sanders
with Irene Schweizer and Fred Anderson
with Mako Sica
  • Ronda (Feeding Tube co-released with Astral Spirits/Instant Classic, (2018)
  • Balancing Tear (Feeding Tube co-released with Astral Spirits, 2020)
  • Ourania featuring Tatsu Aoki & Thymme Jones (Feeding Tube/Instant Classic, 2021)
with Steve Swell
with Malachi Thompson
with David S. Ware
with Yakuza


  1. ^ allmusic.com
  2. ^ drummerworld.com
  3. ^ allmusic.com
  4. ^ bindu at allaboutjazz.com
  5. ^ indigo trio at allaboutjazz.com
  6. ^ iswhat?! at allaboutjazz.com
  7. ^ Meyer, Bill (December 17, 2015). "Bringing back the sun for 25 years". chicagoreader.com. The Chicago Reader. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  8. ^ Yellen, Izzy (December 21, 2016). "Drum Duo Launches First of 3 Predawn Concerts: Live, Hamid Drake, Michael Zerang". DownBeat. Retrieved 2020-12-21.
  9. ^ "30th Annual Winter Solstice Sunrise Concert". Links Hall. 2020. Retrieved 2020-12-01.
  10. ^ "Hamid Drake & Michael Zerang Duo: Summer Solstice Concert". Elastic Arts Foundation. 2020. Retrieved 2020-12-01.
  11. ^ a b "Ask the Sun: Hamid Drake & Michael Zerang". Pink Palace Recordings (Michael Zerang). Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  12. ^ a b "For Ed Blackwell". Pink Palace Recordings (Michael Zerang). Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  13. ^ "Hamid Drake". Discogs. Retrieved 2020-12-04.

External links[edit]