Hamid Drake & Michael Zerang

Every year since 1991, the duo of Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang has rung in the new season–not the New Year–in a quietly spiritual and wholly ancient fashion. Drake and Zerang, both percussionists par excellence, play a wealth of instruments that come from the southern tip of Africa, the Middle East, and the subcontinent of India, among other places. But they focus on the highly expressive frame drums, along with such exotic instruments as the dumbak and tabla, in their annual Winter Solstice Percussion Concerts–each of which is an hour-long ritual performance harking back to pre-Christian celebrations of the march toward spring. The percussionists make an eminently complementary pair. Zerang, cofounder of the performance-art trio Liof Munimula and a prominent Chicago theater composer, has always brought an edgy, pleasantly neurotic energy to his drumming; it contrasts effectively with the flowing lope that characterizes the rhythm magic of Drake, a regular collaborator with world-beater saxists Fred Anderson, Peter Brštzmann, and Pharoah Sanders. Both drummers command the abstract expressionism of free jazz, yet both retain a simplicity of communication you’d expect with the world’s earliest instrument. For the first time in the history of this series, the duo will play on the exact date marking the solstice, and to honor the occasion, they’ve added a dawn performance to the usual pair of sunset events. All of this should only add to the popularity of the series, which has increased each year–to the point that advance reservations are now required, not suggested. Saturday, 4 PM, and Sunday, 6:30 AM and 4 PM, Link’s Hall Studio, 3435 N. Sheffield; 773-281-0824.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Hamid Drake photo by Marc Pokempner/ Michael Zerang photo by J.B. Spector.