Today we have Sandy & Ryan with us to talk about the CD “World Dance Workout”. They’ll give you a peek into the “behind the scenes” work that went into it, as well as let you know what you can use the CD for if you are a dance or fitness instructor…
1. How did the idea for the World Dance Workout CD come about?
Sandy: World dance workout cd was created for a fitness class based on dance moves from around the world. The needs of the original and innovative class inspired the customized music.
Ryan: Once Sandy started sharing with me her needs for her class, I jumped at the opportunity. The concept of real drummers who love dance and have real experience playing for dancers getting into a studio and recording an album is something I have always wanted to do. The tracks on the album are original in essence, but they are based on a number of African Diasporic dance music styles that I love (as do countless people the world over). I arranged these rhythms and grooves to Sandy’s tempo and song length requirements, and we went into the studio. It is worthy of note that this album was tracked and mixed at Solid Sound in Ann Arbor, MI – a true recording studio with an incredible live room. This is remarkable because studios of this quality are fewer and fewer – due to the popularity of heavily produced (and often synthesized and or electronic) music. A lot of contemporary music can be recorded in a simple home studio… but the kind of music we were after – real, raw, and made with acoustic instruments – needed a real live room built to handle that kind of acoustical presence. The popular “Behind Barres” albums are all tracked there as well.
2. Who are the musicians involved and what do they play?
Ryan: There are four musicians on this album; Ryan Edwards, Chinelo Elegua Amen-Ra, Abass Camara and Matthew Bell. All of us share a love of dance and have more or less been raised (either literally, or since we started playing) in the dance tradition. Matthew and Chinelo live in the greater Detroit area of Michigan, Abass lives in Fort Wayne, IN and I now live in Boston, though I am from Michigan originally. The list of instruments we played on the record is a pretty long one, but I will try to summarize: we played congas, bells, shekeres, balafon, drumset, djembes, dununs, surdos, snare drum, ago-go bells, cylinder shakers, pandiero, triangle, goat toe-nails (actually on a few tracks!), cajon, calabash, bass djembe, and I am sure a few more…. you can see a pretty cool video on our website, www.worlddanceworkout.net of us making the record in the studio. It is just a few excerpts from the session, which we did in one day.
3. Can you describe what the music is like?
Sandy: Each song is an original piece inspired by traditional rhythms which have evolved from the African diaspora. It is inviting, upbeat and really makes you want to tap your toes. Your whole body will want to shimmy and shake.
Ryan: Yeah, take it from the dancer! that is what we were after…. I could add to that, though. The music has the “tribal” thing people talk about, but that usually just means it has a lot of drums in it. I think I would add that these pieces are refined, even sophisticated – not because they are complex sounding, but because they are carefully voiced. By that I mean that the sounds are well spread across the audible spectrum and compliment each other nicely. The individual rhythms of the different instruments with their unique timbre all (hopefully!) cooperate and develop little conversations of rhythm within the music. I think this quality – that of internal rhythmical melodies creating tension and release, is what makes music funky, and therefore highly danceable.
Also, the music is set up with a solid, foundational groove, and that is topped with a quality solo instrument “speaking” as a soloist does for dancers. I think anyone looking for that live accompanist feel will be pleased with this record – we really tapped our experience playing live and brought that to the session. I know from my own limited dance experience that hearing a great groove is one thing, but hearing a soloist in a dialogue with that groove is really inspiring. The solos are all recorded over the foundational groove, and develop throughout each piece. Solos are played by congas, djembe, and balafon on the record.
4. What type of dance class is this music appropriate for?
Sandy: This music is appropriate for all dance classes, especially ones which emphasize the understanding of dancing in time or dancing to a beat.
Ryan: I will add that this music is also appropriate for modern classes, and musical theater, improv and also choreographers seeking inspiration. The music would serve as a great warm up and repertoire accompaniment for many styles of classes. I feel like I can say this with some authority, since I have accompanied probably thousands of classes by now, and have used many of these styles of grooves. What is cool about this album, to me anyway, is that ALL the parts I would want to be there are there! We are lucky in dance classes if there are two accompanists (does that ever happen?). This album provides that full spectrum of sound – I think that helps dancers. Sometimes people really connect with a certain frequency range and groove off of that heavily.
5. What is unique about this CD?
Sandy: EVERYTHING is unique about this cd. It was created to accompany a dance fitness cardio class which was designed to burn fat with original movement combinations to a unique format. It has a steady tempo throughout for endurance building purposes with lots of added zest to keep the dancer moving.
Ryan: Well, yeah… I think that from what I have heard in the market of recorded music for dance, is that not many records really have the, how should I put this… Weight behind it? I know there are lots of great recordings out there, but often they are highly overdubbed, and often by one artist – loosing some of the magic generated by a group playing togther. Also, this album has a clear dance focus, presented on professional level instruments. The textures and tuning of the drums (and the balafon) are very important – that is what I think effects a listener deeply – the textures. With real instruments – I cant say that enough… so much music these days is created with samples and synthesized sounds it’s amazing. I love that stuff too, and sometimes I use those textures as well, but when accessing a hearty, rootsy vibe for serious-get-out-there-and-do-it dancing, it has to be real, if you ask me. And I guess you did… so there! and thanks for asking. We really hope you take a minute to check out our website, preview the tracks, watch the “making-of” video, purchase the album and enjoy it!
Sandy Pierani is an enthusiastic and dedicated fitness instructor. She has been teaching group fitness for over 15 years. Her passion is in W. African dance and other dance moves from around the world. She created her own class with a unique style and flare that stems from years of studying dance moves and music from other cultures. She also has extensive education and training in other more conventional fitness classes such as step aerobics, hi/lo impact, strength training, cardio kick-boxing, turbo kick, zumba and much, much more.
Sandy is also an occupational therapist and former dance performer for such troops as Like Water Drum and Dance, Sunkwa and Tree of Life Drum and Dance Society. She is currently teaching both Zumba and World Dance Workout for the Ann Arbor Rec and Ed fitness program.
Ryan Edwards is a drummer for dancers, a percussionist and drum-kit player, a seeker of growth, challenge and understanding. Ryan has spent the last 15 years in an intensive study and professional career in West African percussion. This study has led him to Berklee College of Music, elsewhere in the US, and to Guinea, West Africa many times.
Ryan is a passionate performer and teacher, an exceptional leader and public speaker, and a crazy seeker of rhythm – on a quest to make people dance.