On the heels of the G-20, another, less contentious, summit visits Pittsburgh Oct. 15-18.
Drum Talk 09 evokes through music and dance a spirit of multiculturalism the G-20 lacked, says event organizer and performer Elie Kihonia.
"During the G-20 summit, there wasn't really a lot of things that the city could benefit from," says Kihonia, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. "We had all those dignitaries from other nations, but no real feeling of a global community."
Now in its fourth year in Pittsburgh, Drum Talk brings together drummers and dancers from around the globe, representing a number of cultures.
Each of the four days centers on a different part of the world, and each offers drumming workshops from master drummers in that style, as well as a nightly performance. The event, at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, is co-presented by the Wilson Center and Afrika Yetu, the group Kihonia founded here to promote African culture.
Drum Talk opens Thu., Oct. 15, with "Drum Fiesta," featuring Latin jazz music and dance. Artists include conga drumming icon Giovanni Hidalgo and Grammy Award-winner Glen Velez, along with area salsa and meringue dancers.
The rhythms of the Middle East take the stage Oct. 16, featuring Velez, Raquy and the Cavemen, and members of Pittsburgh's world-touring contemporary belly-dance troupe Zafira. The evening will be capped by a special performance by taiko master Takumi Kato and his group of musicians and dancers from Japan.
On Oct. 17, the African Congo meets Brazil's Carnival as WACONGO Dance Company joins Bloco Afro Brazil for a performance of music and dance.
Closing out Drum Talk on Oct. 18, former Rusted Root member Jim Donovan and jazz great Roger Humphries present "Drum Ecstatic," an audience-interactive performance with a uniquely Pittsburgh flavor.
For the nearly 50 participating artists, Drum Talk represents more than just an annual performance opportunity. Many drummers see it and their drumming as an expression of life itself.
"Drumming has the energy of being human," says Donovan. "It allows you to express music from the deepest part of you, not just from your head."
"I grew up drumming," says Senegalese drummer Assane M'Baye. "It is in my blood and its energy feeds us all."
Kihonia feels Drum Talk can be equally transformative for audiences.
"This is a healing thing," says Kihonia. "Where politicians cannot bring together people in conflict, drumming and dance can. We all have a little drum playing in our daily life we call our heart. It reminds us we are alive and to be grateful for the opportunity to live in our world."
Drum Talk 09 Performances: 8 p.m. daily Thu., Oct. 15-Sat., Oct. 17, and 4 p.m. Sun., Oct. 18. August Wilson Center, 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $12-28; workshops are $35 each. 412-456-6666 or www.augustwilsoncenter.org