Demonshaker is six drummers and one conductor en cercle – a geometric formation of energetic wisdom on the cue of certain traditions of theater and ritual.
Conceived by conductor Nathan Fuhr, Demonshaker is the fruit of his extended research > demystification > cultural recontextualization of traditional trance healing music practices around the non-West: Commenced in Morocco in 2002 with the Master Musicians of Jajouka and the Gnawa Brotherhood of Marrakech, after 3 immersive journeys there, proceeding on to Egypt to engage the aforementioned Sufi Zikr and the Sudanese Zar ceremonies, and then “home” to the dimension of rhythm science and dance divinity which is Senegal. And concurrently in Europe, in ceremonies of Balinese "shaking" shaman Ratu Bagus during his annual visits. Ultimately— demystifying and distilling nearly 4 continents worth of diverse traditional & secular musics of healing, trance, & joie de vivre... whether in the village, the nightclub, the street, or the symphony hall. This work draws its knowledge from direct experience and from a scientific focus on what these musics and ritual practices have in common— for example in terms of physicality of sound, circularity of rhythm, and engagement of breath.
Occidentally speaking, the project is also rooted by Nathan’s background as a precocious conductor of classical symphony orchestras in the USA. One may also perceive his subsequent decade of experience directing and developing John Zorn’s legendary game-piece Cobra, as well as the influence of electronic and immersive composers such as Phill Niblock, Francisco Lopez, early Robert Ashley, and Pauline Oliveros. In simplest terms, Nathan is a DJ, alchemizing with live drummers rather than prerecorded audio.
The experience has been described as a provocation of purification available to audience and performers alike, a multitude of me's surrendered to one we, and a monolithic experience in the physicality of sound– as bath, as weapon, as massage, as catharsis. This is an offering, in which the public is welcome to move freely throughout the performance, and the center of the circle is undefined open space, which has revealed itself in performances to be a nest for immersive listening, dance, trance.
Demonshaker is not a drum battle, rather a celebration of life, a temporary utopia… sensitive to the unique collective of audience gathered in the space in the present moment, and as well engaging as a musical response to architecture, to the acoustic and energetic properties of a specific space.
Demonshaker generally performs fully improvised, using a "7-way street” conducting language developed by Nathan. This way, the musical material is always organic to the present audience and culture, never an exoticism. The conducting language is a system of gestures developed specifically for the instrument, for real-time composing and sculpting of flow and relations, by the conductor or the drummers themselves in communication to the ensemble.
The dialogue with dance is vital, and ever-manifesting in distinct and fascinating ways whether with European, Mexican, or African publics and dance artists.
The project’s name is of nothing occult– simply tapped from a casual American expression often used by one of Nathan’s collaborating jazz musicians, to “shake out the demons” via the creative performative act. And the name is sincere... so let's keep it simple.
" Demonshaker, Berlin’s most furious drumming collective, take their place in what’s going to be a completely massive night— as the grand finale of the wonderful Mica Moca art/performance space. "
— Blitzgigs Berlin
" A dance and drumsets performance in which a radical recontextualization of values took place. [...]
For the opening set, in collaboration with David Bloom's Dances@a Gathering, the drummers of Demonshaker didn't play on drumsets, instead they were working with minimal breath/body percussion with the direction and participation of Nathan Fuhr. The drumsets create a spiritual circle and yet they don't serve music itself. Let's put it this way: It is the unhinging of instruments, gestures, places and bodies from the context in which they are consumed. It is indeed a cleansing from "cynical spirits", as was stated in their invitation, and a releasing of values into free floating space. "
— Night Out @ Berlin
( translated from German )
• Studio 10 — with Goddess Science
• Platoon Kunsthalle — Dia de los Muertos
• Urban Spree — New Year's Party
• Platoon Kunsthalle — ARTE Creative
• Mica Moca — Closeout Party
• Mica Moca — with David Bloom / Dances@a Gathering
• Tanznacht Festival — Grand Finale
• 103 Club — Closeout Party
• Tesla — Closeout Party
• DNA Center for Contemporary Dance and Performance — Opening Ceremony
• UNESCO World Dance Day / Teatro Sao Luiz —
in collaboration with Vera Mantero / O Rumo Do Fumo
• Ze dos Bois — Workshop & Performance
• PRISMA Forum — Workshop & Performance
• Annually, as Deggi Daaj International Festival of Drumsets and Dance
photos: Екатерина Баронян, Marc Seestaedt, Jorge Colin, Ida Momennejad