By Rich O’ Donnell
Last night, I had my first “tambo” gig…
Michael Castro, Missouri’s first Poet Laureate had his 70th birthday party at the Regional Arts building in St. Louis. It was big and full of people-all cultures represented. My wife, Anna, was one of many poets who read a poem and I accompanied her with soft riffs on my Harlan tambo. Just rim and thumb roll stuff, nothing fancy. But, as the cake was served a djembe player started, I joined him, then a Jazz alto sax player joined-all very strong players. The room erupted in dance. For nearly an hour we played furiously, that kind of dance music was only in my past, but my polyrhythm experience keeps me very strong with tempo, but with a tendency to interject very syncopated changes to the ongoing repeating rhythm. It was great fun, recalling my Be-Bop days and called on my imagination to find now ways to play my Harlan tambo!

What I really want to say is how powerful and colorful that instrument is. It was my first chance to play it in any ensemble. Like I said, they were really good players playing loud instruments, I had no problem being heard. It really has balls. I used Orchestral, Brazilian, Rock techniques and some I made up at the moment. The dance was pretty wild, including Anna.
When we finished, the tambo asked: “OK, what’s next?”