Talking to Raquy Danziger and Liron Peled, it is easy to understand what took the two virtuoso percussionists to at one point, marriage, and more permanently, a vibrant musical collaboration that straddles the borders of rock and ethnic percussion.
Both born into the families of classical musicians, Danziger and Peled had been each exploring radically different musical paths when they met in New York City. Danziger recognized Peled in a New York subway, from having seen him perform at a rock concert. At that point, Peled was living in New York City and was transitioning out of a ten-year history with a metal rock band into an exploration the more soulful traditions of Middle Eastern music.
Danzer, a classically trained pianist, had already discovered hand drumming during her travels to India. A self-described math genius, she became fascinated with the heady approach to music taken by Indian masters, and the intersection of the mathematical and the musical in the numbers and cycles and relationships of rhythm. I was curious to understand how Math and percussion intersected, and Danziger clarified, “Well, wat is drumming? Just sound applied to rhythmic cycles in different meters, 9…10…12. I play time signatures, divide the beat, divide the measure and I approach everything mathematically, like Indian drummers. I never ever just play really fast, I always know exactly how I´m dividing the beat.”
From jamming in the period of living together, Peled and Danziger developed a fully rocked-out percussive collaboration which gave fruit to Raquy and the Cavemen. This ensemble, whose name is derived from a nightclub called “the Cave” which they played at in the early days, has expanded and contracted in members over the years, and to date recorded six albums.
The duo´s continuous musical exploration has led to playing a number of instruments and even inventing some. Danziger plays the kemenche, an exotic bowed instrument, but her primary instrument is the dumbek (goblet-shaped hand drum) and her acclaimed drumming style features Turkish split-hand techniques learned in Istanbul, where she lives half of each year. Compared to Arabic drumming, Daniziger says, where drumming is simple, clear and pristine, Turkish percussionists split the hand´s strike into two and use each finger in a different way in the beats, which allows much, much faster playing.
For his part, Peled combined his hard-rock background with Middle Eastern percussion by inventing the Dum Set. “I wanted to have a sound that one one hand was ethnic and exotic”, he says, “with a sound that I could really rock out with: massive, groovy and big sounding.” To accomplish this, Peled combined a massive kick drum “to really shake the house”, he adds, with a big copper dumbek, a bass dumbek played with one foot, a Riq (tambourine) with snares, played with the other foot and also, cymbals played with his hands. And to top off the rich tapestry of sound they create, Peled has added recently throat-singing!
It´s all a part of sharing the music´s power to transform, they maintain. On the one hand, Danziger is emphatic about wanting to inspire women to the world of percussion, exclaiming, “Women can drum just as good as men! All my students who really want to take it to a professional level are guys, I don´t get it! I just want to shake the girls and say, you can do it!”
On the other hand, Danziger adds that their music can transport people to a different space and place created by its power to create emotion. And percussion, believes Peled, being at its essence dancing music designed for partying and celebration, allows their particular brand of artistry to amplify and transmit feelings of joy, passion, life and enthusiasm. He concludes by affirming with great conviction, “It´s a crucial time in history, and there´s really a lot of need out there for positive vibrations.”