On Friday evening, New Music Circle brought the improvisational jazz of Hamid Drake and Iva Bittová to Joe’s Café and Gallery, a small but unique venue tucked away from the bustle of Delmar Boulevard. The mission of New Music Circle is to enrich the St. Louis region with experimental and avant-garde performances. These unique events are made possible by audience donations and support from the board of directors. Iva and Hamid was the first presentation of 2017 for the 58 year old non-profit organization. While the duo has performed together around the world, this was their first performance together in the United States.
Hamid Drake is a world-renowned percussionist from Chicago, his music brings him all over the world as well as frequently to St. Louis. His legacy formed its roots in the late 1970’s, when he was a founding member of the fusion collective called Mandingo Griot Society. He uses traditional percussion methods, but also explores the unconventional. Over the last 30 years he has become one of the great improvisational jazz musicians of our time and has performed with jazz legends across the world.
Iva Bittová was the gem of the evening whose Czech roots play culturally throughout her work. She is a master of both the violin and the human body. Her guttural vocalizations are experimental and contemporary with a truly old world vibe. She has not only had a wildly successful music career alongside many great musicians, but is also an award-winning actress.
Joe’s Café is a unique space filled with mismatched table cloths, paper lanterns, antique covered walls, and retro signs. Picnic baskets of wine and cheese platters seemed to be a theme of the night. As they began their set Iva asked Hamid to introduce their purpose. He gave a short, yet passionate, speech touching on unity and healing. “We create this energy together,” he said. “There is no ‘us and you’ or ‘you and us’…we are one spirit, projecting compassion”. Part of what is so unique about this duo is that you can feel a tangible energy from them, and they’re sharing this energy through the creation of their music. The stage doesn’t act as a barrier between artist and listener, instead they encourage an organic and spontaneous collaborative project with the audience.
Iva’s style is truly unique and expressive. She uses whispers, laughter, breath, trills, and volume to craft one-of-a-kind improvisational pieces that are reminiscent of tribal music. She accompanies herself on violin in a contemporary style using it to create bird and flute like sounds. Playing barefoot, Hamid aided her with perfect rhythm. He used brushes, metal, wooden sticks and sometimes even his own hands to create unique noises on his drums. Together both artists told a story of emotional expression with their sounds and physical movements. They flowed together with moments of quiet anticipation that built slowly into fully cathartic offerings of their passion. Iva walked through the crowded venue as she performed, even stopping to touch or smile at audience members. Both musicians encouraged people to add their own collaborations to the music— be it clapping, organic noises, or echoing Iva’s words.
This music didn’t need words. It was a true expression of self that doesn’t need a language—just collaborative energy. Seeing these two work together almost felt like intruding on an intimate moment as they exchanged genuine smiles and laughter together throughout the entire performance. There is no doubt that they were brought together to perform for a reason and it was magnificent to witness. Their performance was pure musical therapy that evoked the human experience and was sure to touch the soul of every member in the audience.
Hamid Drake: www.last.fm/HamidDrake
Iva Bittova: www.Bittova.com
New Music Circle: NewMusicCircle.Org
Check out below for more photos from the event: