FOUR TRADITIONS, ONE VOICE
A high-energy celebration of polyphonic rhythms, Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra unifies four percussion batteries into one distinct voice: North Indian tabla, Afro Cuban bata, Brazilian samba and West African djembe. They link the past and the present, the sacred and the secular with a symphonically textured fusion of traditional and contemporary drumming and choral compositions. Spoken Hand is a two-time winner of Philadelphia City Paper’s “Best World Music/Roots Performance” and is nationally recognized for its collaboration with tabla master Zakir Hussain and hip-hop dance guru Rennie Harris in the “Flammable Contents” project.
“Any of these three acts can pack the house…Put them all on the same bill at the arts center and it’ll be one of those get-out-the-crowbar-to-fit-everyone-in evenings.”
– Philadelphia City Paper
“WOW! The performance left everyone pleasantly overpowered by the collective mastering of such soul-stirring, complex compositions. It was as if I was standing simultaneously on different parts of the world, but everyone was moving to the singular rhythm of the earth.”
– Lynn Johnson, Founding Director of Amerimasala Festival
"I believe I speak for everyone in the Department of Music and Dance when I say how outstanding was the Spoken Hand concert here...which elicited the riotously appreciative response from the large audience."
- Kim Arrow, Swarthmore College Assistant Professor, Dept. of Music and Dance
"You are musical missionaries. You carry a vital message to audiences of all ages."
- Naomi Amos, Randolph-Macon Woman's College
"The performance that Spoken Hand gave at Wellin Hall was nothing short of amazing! I have never seen the audience get and dance like they did for you that night."
- Michelle Reiser-Memmer, Performing Arts Director, Hamilton College
Spoken Hand began fortuitously in 1996, when local drumming leader Daryl Kwasi Burgee invited tabla player Lenny Seidman to join in the final ceremony of the 1996 AfricAmericas Festival at Philadelphia’s African American Museum. Seidman brought with him a percussion quartet, and the concept of Spoken Hand was born. The synergy of the ensemble, whose forty drummers concentrated the richness and variety of the city's traditional drumming community on a single stage, resulted in a powerful, joyous ceremony, celebrated by artists and audiences alike. Burgee and Seidman set out to explore the potential of this phenomenon, fuelled by a desire to see this collaboration extend past this one-time engagement.
They immediately found a willing collaborator in the form of the Painted Bride Art Center, who commissioned them to create new work and develop educational programs. Spoken Hand was birthed, with the mission of combining world percussion traditions, celebrating difference while creating a new living whole.
The ensemble made their national debut in 1998, playing to a sold-out house at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta. Since then, Spoken Hand has established itself as one of the most unique and vibrant groups performing in the genre of world music, showing a willingness to extend themselves creatively in ventures like 2002's "Flammable Contents: SH/RH/ZH," a collaboration with tabla legend Zakir Hussain and Rennie Harris' hip-hop dance troupe, as well as the recent collaboration with Malian kora master, Yacouba Sissoko.
Two time winners of Philadelphia City Paper’s award for “Best World/Roots Music,” Spoken Hand has appeared at nearly every Philadelphia area venue of note, including the Painted Bride Art Center, Mann Center for the Arts, Welcome America Festival, Haverford College, Bryn Mawr College, International House at U. of P, and Swarthmore College, and has earned its national reputation through concerts and residencies at festivals, theaters, art centers, and universities around the country: Ohio Arts Presenters Network '06 IMPACT tour, Western Alliance Conference, San Jose, CA, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, Lynchburg Community Concert Association, Lynchburg, VA, Amerimasala Festival, Erie, PA, Kutztown University, Kutztown, PA, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY, Montgomery County Community College, Blue Bell, PA, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, Rose Lehrman Theater @ Harrisburg Area Community College, Harrisburg, PA, and Hoyt Institute of Fine Arts, New Castle, PA.
The work of Spoken Hand has been continually supported by the generosity of funders. Spoken Hand is a two time Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund grant recipient and has been funded by NEA, Meet the Composer Commissioning Music USA and Creative Connections, American Composers Forum (Philadelphia Chapter), Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Philadelphia Cultural Alliance 5-County Arts Fund, Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, Philadelphia Cultural Fund, Samuel S. Fels Fund and William J. Cooper Foundation. Spoken Hand are selected PennPAT roster artists, chosen for their demonstrated artistic excellence and professionalism. Significant subsidies are available to presenters in the Mid-Atlantic region.