"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!
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
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 first joined Drumplay for the Psych-Out '99 sessions while
studying at Kent State University, where he also worked with Poet Daniel
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.
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
His poetry keeps alive the tradition of (and adds to) works of that
pantheon of great Cleveland poets: Hart Crane, Langston Hughes and
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
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.
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
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