There are more than 60 different types of drums that originated from around the world. From the Nigerian-born batá to India’s tabla, and more, drums are often key in cultures musical and spiritual traditions.

“When you play, the rhythm enables you to get out of your mind,” says Robert Wallace, who is the founder of Alameda’s music school, Total Rhythm, which offers drumming classes in numerous styles. Getting out of your mind, Wallace suggests, makes it “easier to get into a more meditative, spiritual state.”

On Saturday, September 27, Wallace is producing the third Oakland World Percussion Festival where different drums and the musical styles that accompany them will be featured from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., for the whopping cost of free.

The Oakland World Percussion Festival touts itself as “Northern California’s largest one-day percussion event.” The lineup includes five-time Grammy nominated and Oakland’s own John Santos, as well as West African drummer Ben Isaacs, and Afro-Cuban and Salsa teacher Edgardo Cambon, as well as many more. There will be music from Guinea, Mali, Haiti, Brazil, the Congo, Latin America, and more.

Wallace, who grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has been an active member of the Oakland drum and dance community for 15 years. He came to the world of percussion from… tennis. Wallace recalls that he would play tennis against a wall for hours without stopping. In doing so he found there was a hypnotic rhythm and satisfaction in the sound of a tennis ball against a wall.

Wallace moved to California in 1988, where he then discovered Afro-Cuban dance and drumming, including styles of percussion music such as Brazilian, West African, and Cuban. He has since studied Ghanian percussion in Ghana, Afro-Brazilian percussion in Brazil, Afro-Cuban percussion in Cuba, and performed steel pans in Trinidad.

In the future, Wallace plans to expand the Total Rhythm school into a percussion and dance school in Oakland. As he notes, “there is nowhere in the country that is a dedicated study point that offers percussion.”

In that same vein of sharing the traditions of percussion, the Oakland World Percussion Festival not only includes performances, but also encourages those who want to take a more hands-on approach to sign up for workshops, where they can learn from the performers’ styles such as Afro-Cuban BEMBE, or Middle Eastern rhythms.

The performances are all free. Workshops cost $20 in advance ($25 day of), and a pass to all workshops costs $50. Attendees can borrow drums provided at the event or bring their own drums and check them into the “drum stable” when not in use.

Along with performances and workshops, there will be a Rhythm Kid Zone, international cuisine from local food vendors, a marketplace for sustainable world music and art, and a community drum circle for all skill levels.

World Percussion Fest, 2013, 2

Oakland World Percussion Festival
September 27, 2014, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
East Bay Church, 4130 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland

About The Author

Katie is the Music Editor at OL. She's a music geek, culture junkie, massive A's fan, and Oakland native. When she was six, she stood for five minutes with a felt pennant stuck under Chris Mullin’s armpit. Check out her Oakland music listings at, follow on twitter/instagram as @craziesthawk, or contact at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.