Music Background

Kim’s Background in Brazilian Music

I developed a great love of Brazilian culture ever since meeting Jose Lorenzo and other Brazilian artists in 1979. I play many Brazilian percussion instruments, including pandiero, repinique and cuica. I was involved with Carnaval de San Francisco when it started in 1980 and I performed with the Bay Area’s premier Brazilian dance group, Escola Nova de Samba on many occasions. From 1989 to 1992, I was section leader, song leader, lead drummer and eventually Bateria director for the Escola Nova performing company. I performed at several Grand Carnaval Balls as a member of an all-star percussion orchestra and have played percussion for several Brazilian bands including San Francisco’s “Viva Brazil” and “The Brazilian Beat.” I have added Brazilian percussion to albums by Steve Kindler and Michell Sell, among others.

Kim Atkinson Drumming

In 1989 I traveled to Brazil and spent 5 weeks visiting temples and spiritual communities with Brazilian healer Antonio Costa e Silva. For 10 years, I was an Ogan (drum/song leader) for the Healing Buddha Foundation, a group under the direction of Lama Shakya Zangpo who has combined Tibetan Buddhism and Brazilian Umbanda.

In 1991 I was fortunate to study intensely with Jorge Alabe, Mestre dos Atabaques, e Mestre de Bateria. Jorge was percussion director of the world class Brazilian Musical “Oba Oba” and is considered one of the most knowledgeable members of the Candomble Community. With knowledge and inspiration from Jorge and Mestre King (renowned Afro Brazilian dance teacher from Salvador, Bahia), Anastasia Fischer and I formed our own Brazilian-inspired dance and drum group in 1993. We performed throughout the North Bay region in parades, festivals, theaters and parties. In 1995, our group, “Carnaval Spirit” was called upon to be the opening act for the world famous Drummers of Burundi.

My current projects include composing and recording original rhythms for the Brazilian Bateria, as well as adapting music from other cultures to it.


Kim’s Background in Djembe and Dun Dun

kim atkinson playing dun dunI began a serious study of Manding music (Music of the Ancient Mali Empire) in 1985 when I met Abdoulaye Diakite and Allasane Kane, formerly of the National Ballet of Senegal. Since that time I have played djembe, dun dun, shekere and talking drum for numerous dance classes with these and other master teachers. In 1994 I studied intensely with Guinean master drummer Mamady Keita and performed with him, Mabiba Bagne, Fred Simpson and other top drummers at the Matanga Festival in Santa Cruz, California. I have also attended more than forty days of drum and dance camps with such world class artists as Karamba Dambakate, Yousouff Koumbassa, Lansana Kouyate, Abdoul Doumbia among others. My background in Congolese, Ghanaian and Nigerian music has helped immensely in my understanding of Manding music. The African artists I have played with have been very complimentary and appreciative of my drumming. I play djembe and dun dun in Karamba Dambakate’s instructional video “Journey into Rhythm.


Kim’s Background in Cuban Music

I’ve played Cuban Music since 1976 and have developed fluency on Conga, Bongo, Timbales, Guiro, Clave, Maracas, Shekere, and Guagua. I play in jazz and folklore styles and dance Rumba, Salsa and sing coro. In 1985 I traveled to Cuba to attend the Varadero Music festival and met and studied with Pello el Afrokan, creator of Mozambique. My friends and I became guests of Pello who escorted us to shows, introduced us to his luminous musical associates and helped us to find the musical resources we were seeking. We returned with more than 24 hours of video of folklore, much of which has been seen throughout the US drum community.

I have performed with Cuban folklore groups at universities, grammar schools, festivals, parties, dance classes and in the grand parade of San Francisco’s Carnaval. I played Cuban band music in the San Francisco Bay Area with “Mira Sol”, “Kachimbo”, “Rhythm Harvest” and others and have recorded Cuban percussion on numerous albums. In 1996 I released my first instructional video MOZAMBIQUE! Volume 1. It has received excellent reviews including five stars, the highest possible rating, in April 1998 Modern Drummer Magazine. MOZAMBIQUE! Volume 2, which covers both Cuban and American forms of the rhythm was released in 1998 and has been generating similar comments.


Kim’s Background in Central African Music

In 1980 I began ten years of study of Congolese music and dance when I participated in a weekend workshop with Malonga Casquelourd, former lead dancer with the Congolese National Dance Company. Malonga’s exciting combination of dance, song and drumming inspired me to pursue further study. A year later Master Congolese artists Titos Sompa and Mbemba Pangou arrived in the Bay Area and I regularly played for and with them at classes in Oakland and San Francisco. Shortly thereafter a group of students from Northern California created the first full scale Congolese Dance and Drum camp and I was one the main promoters. From 1982 to 1990 I played for dance classes in the Bay Area and Santa Cruz and at the yearly 10-day Congolese camp. I also took many dance classes and assisted in teaching drum classes. In 1988 I was invited, along with other students, to perform with Titos and Biza Sompa and other African artists at the Spirit of Africa festival in Santa Cruz.

In 1987 and 1988 I was percussionist and section leader for renowned Congolese guitarist/singer/composer Samba Ngo’s band. We performed throughout Santa Cruz, the San Francisco Bay Area and the North Bay, including opening for world famous Nigerian Star King Sunny Ade.
I have produced a home multi-track recording of several Congolese rhythms which was well received by my teachers. My background studies in Ghanaian, Nigerian and Cuban drumming has helped me immensely in understanding Central African music.


Kim’s Background in African Music

African music is a huge category. I have primarily studied music of two geographical regions: West and Central Africa, including Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, Mali, Sengal, Gambia and Congo/Zaire.
Some of the major language groups whose music I have studied include: Eve, Akan, Ga, Yoruba, Ibo, Baga, Mandingo, Malinke, Bamina, and Kikongo as well as many related groups within these.

While I was in college I studied intensely from 1973 to 1976 with Yoruba drummer A.O. Vidal. Through him I was exposed to Eve, Akan, Ibo, Yoruba and other music. I continued my studies from 1975 to 1979 with Eve drummer C.K. Ladzekpo at U. C. Berkeley who exposed me to the principle of speaking drum language while clapping bell or clave parts. In 1977 and 1978 I was apprentice to Eve drummer Kwaku Ladzekpo who taught me a basic repertoire of 15 Ghanaian rhythms. As the teachers aide, it was my responsibility to remember all the parts and calls. This wealth of authentic material has formed the basis of my understanding of African Music.