Best known for his decades spent with the Grateful Dead, Mickey Hart has continued to branch out creatively in a number of ways.
Central Music Festival Society presents the Mickey Hart Band Feb. 21 at the Memorial Centre. The concert is part of the band’s first visit to western Canada.
The band is an eight-piece ensemble that features original tunes by Hart and lyricist Robert Hunter along with covers of the Grateful Dead and other classics.
“There will be Grateful Dead music in it, and there will also be all these new songs. It’s really exciting,” he said. “It’s a fierce rock and roll band.”
Over the years, Hart has also pursued his passion for rhythm to new heights. Last year, he released Mysterium Tremendum, his first studio album in five years, and the follow up to his 2007 Grammy-winning Global Drum Project.
“I have always thought of life, the world at large, as music,” he explains. “This work is a representation of that notion. I have combined sonic images of the formation of our universe with sounds drawn from musical instruments. It’s all about the vibrations that make up the infinite universe.
“The combination of music from the whole earth and the sounds of the planets, the stars, the events that formed our universe is intoxicating and points toward an awareness of what music is, could be, and where it comes from.”
From his earliest years, Hart had a passion for music – and was particularly to drawn to all things rhythmic.
“I think I was coded for it – it’s in my genes as both my mom and dad were drummers,” he explains. “It’s part of my rhythmic DNA. Rhythm always attracted me when I was a kid – the movement of things.
“I was also exposed to a lot of indigenous music off the streets of New York City back in the 1950s. It was everywhere. When all these people came to New York City, they also brought their music with them. In our apartment, you could find 40 different musical languages for example. My world was a world of sound when I was a kid. I was really attracted to it.
“And it made me somebody. Musicians were frowned upon, but when I had a drum in my hand people danced. It brought power and joy, and it was fun. I thought maybe I should do this for the rest of my life – it makes me feel so good.”
Hart is known for his nearly 30 years with the Grateful Dead. As half of the percussion team known as the Rhythm Devils, Hart and Bill Kreutzmann transcended the conventions of rock drumming.
“You get in sync with it, and totally drawn into it,” he explains of the magic of rhythm that continues to bring such enrichment to his life. “It becomes like a medicine.”
His study of the world’s music led Hart to many great teachers and collaborators, including his partners in Planet Drum. Planet Drum’s self-titled CD hit number one on the Billboard World Music Chart, it also received the Grammy for Best World Music Album in 1991– the first Grammy ever awarded in this category.
In 2002, Hart also established The Endangered Music Fund to return royalty payments from many of these recordings to the indigenous people that produced them, and to further the preservation of music from around the globe.
Hart has also written four books documenting his fascination with the history and mythology of music. These include Drumming at the Edge of Magic, Planet Drum, Spirit into Sound: The Magic of Music and Songcatchers: In Search of the World’s Music.
He has also appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging, speaking on the healing value of drumming and rhythm on afflictions associated with aging.
“The universe is rhythm-based – we are part of the rhythmic universe,” says Hart, adding that rhythms relate to a person’s sense of well-being, and can be used as a healing agent in certain conditions as well. “We drum to be in rhythm and to be in sync with the universe.
“That is the big frontier of music.”
These days, he’s keeping busy on multiple fronts – he is about to release a song called Jersey Shore, the proceeds of which will benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Tickets are available at Black Knight Inn Ticket Centre. Charge by phone at 403-755-6626 or 1-800-661-8793 or go online at www.bkticketcentre.ca.