"While we honor the elder master drummers, we strive to create our own unique voice in the vast universe of percussive sounds," states founding member James Onysko. Indeed, Drumplay has achieved what few groups of its kind have been able to do. In 1996, for the Cleveland Bicentennial Festival, the trio performed with Arthur Hull and D`Cuckoo before an estimated audience of a half million people. Now that`s a gig!

JAMES ONYSKO

A published writer and veteran radio broadcaster in Cleveland , Ohio, over the past two decades, Mr. Onysko is host and producer (for NPR Distribution) of the annual Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance in conjunction with Finger Lakes Public Radio, WEOS, Geneva, New York.

His musical influences are numerous, including time spent with SUN RA as well as digging the Canterbury sound of England's progressive jazz rockers and the percussive elements of Pierre Moerlen's Gong with their use of marimba. Onysko credits teacher Bessemer Taylor of Grupo Folklorico for inspiration and for giving him first lessons in Afro-Cuban percussion

James has also contributed music for the world premiere of "Jungle Rot" at the Cleveland Play House, and to the documentary by filmmaker Susan Wehling called "Bingo: You Betcha!" which aired nationally on PBS.

WARREN LEVERT

 

Studying extensively with Nigerian master drummer Babatunde Olatunji, Warren is considered to be a congero extraordinaire. Warren is related to the famous musical families The O'Jays and Levert of Cleveland, Ohio and was once a member of the OBI Dance Troupe .Warren has been a percussionist in Black Lion as well as many of Cleveland's top reggae groups over the past two decades.

Besides Olatunji, Warren's musical influences are varied - from Cuban drummer Armando Peraza to maestro sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar to funkmaster George Clinton.

"The music business and music, in its purest form, are at cross purposes",Warren says. "The purpose of art is to enlighten and inspire both the artist and the audience. The purpose of business is to make money. We do an incredibly poor job in this country (USA) at both presenting and preserving art. There should be greater opportunities for groups whose music and whose instrumentation are unconventional. Drumplay is not your typical band. Hopefully, we'll continue to widen our audience."

PHIL KESTER

Phil Kester first joined Drumplay for the Psych-Out '99 sessions while studying at Kent State University, where he also worked with Poet Daniel Thompson. 

This world-class percussionist has toured and recorded with Gongzilla (a Gong off-shoot band), and can be found on "East Village Sessions" with fellow bandmate Benoit Moerlen.  He has also gigged with Mark Wagnon of Brand X.

Mr. Kester also works with RELM, a jazz group from NYC, and writes music for conch and trident shells.    He is a graduate of Youngstown State University's music program, and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.


DANIEL THOMPSON

A public poet and political activist since the sixties, Daniel Thompson was the founder of Poetsbank, and organizer of such cultural events in the Cleveland area as Junkstock.

Poetsbank helped poets establish a presence in Cleveland by focusing on poetry as a performing art, and encouraging a greater participation in the life of the community.  Mr. Thompson later captained the first slam poetry competition in the city - an artform evolving from the written (and spoken word).

His poetry keeps alive the tradition of (and adds to) works of that pantheon of great Cleveland poets:  Hart Crane, Langston Hughes and d.a. levy.

Daniel chose the first team to represent Cleveland, Ohio, in the National Poetry Slam; and he ran the open competitions the next year - then walked away.  His search was not just for audiences and venues, nor for the voices of poets, old or new;  but for those whose responsibilities begin in dreams.

He has been the dreamer responsible for poetry at the annual Hessler Street Fair, and special events at the Barking Spider in University Circle (on the Case Western Reserve campus), as well as creator of monthly series of poetry readings at numerous clubs and cafes in his hometown.

During the anti-war struggle in the seventies, Daniel went back to his alma mater, Kent State University, to do graduate work in May Fourth Studies at its Ravenna campus, a.k.a. Portage County Jail.  Daniel's poetry speaks to the human condition; and his personal experiences of jail, workhouse, and prison had led him to bring live poetry and music (as well as a wealth of books) to various inmate and homeless populations.  On occasion, he even acted as an advocate in the courts for poets in trouble.

Daniel's first book, "Famous in the Neighborhood", is dedicated to his dog, Truffaut, who suffered an absurd death at the hands of an incompetent vet.  The book's title also served as the name of his radio show on WCSB at Cleveland State University where he met James Onysko.

Daniel's second book of poems includes a compact disc with saxophonist Ernie Krivda, and guitarist, Bill deArango, which is entitled "Even the Broken Letters of the Heart Spell Earth", published by Bottom Dog Press in 1998.

Locally, his work has found a home in places such as The Homeless Grapevine, (an empowerment project of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless); and in diverse literary publications, including the two Artcrimes he edited:  Artbark + Crimes in the Dark (the latter in a popcorn box); as well as in the West Side Market Park - on Carl Floyd's outdoor sculpture, Tempus Pons.

On April Fool's Day, 1992, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners proclaimed him Poet Laureate of Cuyahoga County, Ohio - the title to which he still holds.  Mr. Thompson passed away on May 6, 2004, due to leukemia.  But his words live on in Drumplay's recorded works and performances.


BENOIT MOERLEN

Benoît Moerlen studied classical percussion with Jean Batigne, co-founder of ?Les Percussions de Strasbourg?, focusing on mallet instruments.  He began to play professionally with classical orchestras, and for French composers such as Guy Reibel, Yves Prin or Georges Aperghis.

His first live appearance as a vibes and marimba player in the rock field was with Gong at the Redding, England festival in 1976.  He became a core member of the legendary band that included players such as Allan Holdsworth, Mino Cinelu, his brother Pierre Moerlen, Didier Malherbe, Hansford Rowe, Didier Lockwood and Bon Lozaga.  Benoît spent four years touring and recording with Gong before joining Mike Oldfield.

In the early 90s, Benoît met guitarist, Jon Catler, who was working with Hansford Rowe in a band using an unusual musical language (Just Intonation).  He began using a mallet Kat with totally retuned synthesizers. 

Benoît has also been busy playing solo marimba concerts in France, Belgium and Germany, and in a duo (marimba-vibes) called ?Akimbo? with the German vibes player Stefan Traub.  He is also performing the music of Darius Milhaud, Eric Satie, Ney Rosauro, J.S. Bach and others with his father, Maurice Moerlen, (organist at the Cathedral of Strasbourg), keeping in touch with classical music.

Several of Benoît's solo marimba compositions are published by François Dhalmann.