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Ashtabula, Ohio, United States | SELF

Ashtabula, Ohio, United States | SELF
Band World Spoken Word


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"2004 REVIEWS"

Drumplay's new CD "Dayshine to Stars-end" is being critically-acclaimed. Here are some reviews:

Harvey Pekar, of "American Splendor", winner of the Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals, is also a jazz aficionado. He writes:

"Drumplay is a Cleveland percussion ensemble containing James Onysko, Warren Levert and Phil Kester. Here, they're recorded live at Belfort, France's music festival (F.I.M.U.), and joined by Cleveland poet, Daniel Thompson, and French mallet artist, Benoit Moerlen. Thompson is the lead voice on most selections here. He's one of Cleveland's finest poets, and has worked with Drumplay for several years.

The interplay is notable; the percussionists play with taste and restraint, allowing Thompson to be heard clearly. His forceful and humorous poetry will engage most listeners, as will his dramatic recitation. Over the years, he's become an increasingly smooth and arresting conveyor of his own work. Especially moving, though not sentimental, is Thompson's "Mother".

Benoit Moerlen (formerly of Gong and Mike Oldfield Band) appears on the first three selections where he plays the marimba, using four mallets; and is also featured on "Rhythms Ride the Rocket" on which his playing is spare, percussive and fits into the context of what the other band members are doing. Onysko performs on vibes on the final three tracks, including the spacey "Rhythmprovisation #9".

Cleveland Free Times
published April 07, 2004

Jason Bracelin, Music Editor of Scene, writes:

"Up until now, Drumplay's loose-limbed percussive thrush has been as organic as the conch shells the group likes to play. But on "Dayshine to Stars-end", the group begins to subtly experiment with electronics and tape manipulation, adding still more breadth to its panoramic sound. This is world music in Cinemascope.

"Dayshine" is eccentric and exploratory, with poet Daniel Thompson waxing eloquent about rogue eggplants over limber marimba by Gong great, Benoit Moerlen. Songs range from heated hand-drum freakouts ("Rhythms Ride the Rocket") to ominous soundscapes, punctuated with bursts of sax that approximate a wounded whale ("Mother").

Through it all, slight electronic touches lend a forbidding edge to an album that shines as brightly as its namesake".

Scene Alternative Newsweekly
pubished March 17, 2004


English Report - Translate by Sonja - Thanks a lot

One could have thought to be at church on a Sunday at 11 am, with just a handful of people, one of them being me! The Spirit is more than empty. Tonight this temple of music welcomes a band hardly known in Europe, and although it’s their third performance at the Spirit, percussion does not attract a large crowd. Nevertheless, the play-bill is grand! The three blokes of Drumplay have consorted themselves with Benoit Moerlen, a star from the GONG galaxy who also plays in GONGZILLA, for the first time playing on an amplified marimba on scene. A grand première for this king of the acoustic!

It was Benoit Moerlen who assured the first take-off of the ship The Spirit, taking his passengers along on hot marimba rhythms, which he tackled with 4 mallets, opening new sound perspectives, enriching their texture and multiplying their colour. Underneath his fingers the marimba became a real sonic kaleidoscope smelling of far-off coasts, offering us the unaccessible. Three intro pieces, of which the first never registered on CD, hymns celebrating his young son, his friends, the warmth and simplicity, evoked a multiform scenery with supernumeraries happily giving life to it all. The scene got even more lively with the arrival of DRUMPLAY. The only shadow on this colourful painting is the absence of Daniel Thompson, the committed poet, who was taken to other shores by leukemia... As a companion of James Onysko, Warren Levert and Phil Kester he turned the chaotic and sometimes luxuriant rhythms of these uncomparable percussionists into words... words clearly not taken from Bush and co. Undoubtedly completely Reaganised the words speak for themselves. Luckily the percussion, congas, shells and conches and other musical objects, made us soon forget the four walls of the Spirit and the world they belong to. Only the name ‘Spirit of 66’ above Phil Kester materialised the existence of this temple of music. And us faithful ones, we were touched by all these sounds reaching us from far away.

Such a pity that we were so few to follow these multiple trips, taken by the percussion that evoked the exotic. The curiosity of discovering new worlds, new sounds and new groups seems to become very rare in our uniform, conformistic and even conservative society when we look at certain discussions taking place on the music scene. But what the heck, we celebrate a grand group, a small public, a private concert where I hardly dared move, frightened to break the musical magic. We celebrate a perfect communion between an attentive public and these musicians, priests of sound, clearly happy to bring their message and to take us with them to other musical landscapes. What more could we ask for?
Frédéric Loridant
juin 2004

Frédéric Loridant ©2004 - PHOTOROCK.COM


Drumplay discography on Signal Tree:

Drumplay - 1997
Live at Nelson Ledges - 1999
Pyramid People - 2000
beachland - 2001
Under the Map of the World Where I Sleep - 2002
Dayshine to Stars-end - 2004
Who's Listening? - 2007
Infinity - 2011




"While we honor the elder master drummers, we strive to create our own unique voice in the vast universe of percussive sounds," states founding member and vibraphonist, James Onysko. Indeed, Drumplay has achieved what few groups of its kind have been able to do. In 1996, for the Cleveland Bicentennial Festival, the trio performed with Arthur Hull and D`Cuckoo before an estimated audience of a half million people.

A published writer and veteran radio broadcaster in Cleveland , Ohio, over the past two decades, Mr. Onysko was host and producer (for NPR Distribution) of the annual Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance in conjunction with Finger Lakes Public Radio, WEOS, Geneva, New York.

His musical influences are numerous, including time spent interviewing SUN RA as well as digging the Canterbury sound of England's progressive jazz rockers, and the percussive elements of Pierre Moerlen's Gong with their use of marimba.

Mr. Onysko credits teacher Bessemer Taylor of Grupo Folklorico for inspiration, and for giving him first lessons in Afro-Cuban percussion

James has also contributed music for the world premiere of "Jungle Rot" at the Cleveland Play House, and to the documentary by filmmaker Susan Wehling called "Bingo: You Betcha!", which aired nationally on PBS.


Conga player, Warren Levert, studied extensively with Nigerian master drummer Babatunde Olatunji; and he is considered to be congero extraordinaire.

He is related to famous musical families - cousin to Eddie Levert of The O'Jays of Canton, Ohio, and to solo R&B artist, Gerald Levert - part of the Northeast Ohio music scene.

Mr. Levert was also a member of the OBI Dance Troupe, and has been a percussionist in Black Lion as well as part of many of Cleveland's top reggae groups over the past two decades.

Besides Olatunji, Warren's musical influences are varied - from Cuban drummer Armando Peraza to maestro sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar to funkmaster George Clinton.

"The music business and music, in its purest form, are at cross purposes", Warren says. "The purpose of art is to enlighten, and inspire both the artist and the audience.

The purpose of business is to make money. We do an incredibly poor job in this country (USA) at both presenting and preserving art. There should be greater opportunities for groups whose music and whose instrumentation are unconventional.


Phil Kester first joined Drumplay for the Psych-Out '99 sessions while studying at Kent State University, where he also worked with Poet Daniel Thompson.

This world-class percussionist has toured and recorded with Gongzilla (a Gong off-shoot band), and can be found on "East Village Sessions" with fellow bandmate Benoit Moerlen. He has also gigged with Mark Wagnon of Brand X.

Mr. Kester also works with RELM, a jazz group from NYC, and writes music for conch and trident shells. He is a graduate of Youngstown State University's music program, and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.


A public poet and political activist since the sixties, Daniel Thompson was the founder of Poetsbank, and organizer of such cultural events in the Cleveland area as Junkstock.

Poetsbank helped poets establish a presence in Cleveland by focusing on poetry as a performing art, and encouraging a greater participation in the life of the community. Mr. Thompson later captained the first slam poetry competition in the city - an artform evolving from the written (and spoken word).

His poetry keeps alive the tradition of (and adds to) works of that pantheon of great Cleveland poets: Hart Crane, Langston Hughes and d.a. levy.

Daniel chose the first team to represent Cleveland, Ohio, in the National Poetry Slam; and he ran the open competitions the next year - then walked away. His search was not just for audiences and venues, nor for the voices of poets, old or new; but for those whose r

Band Members