Grammy Winner Chris Berry ‘Drums’ up some Passion in New Zealand


Chris Berry is a passionate advocate for African music and will be teaching Palmerston North drumming and dance students in a weekend of workshops.

Chris Berry is a passionate advocate for African music and will be teaching Palmerston North drumming and dance students in a weekend of workshops.

Grammy award winning singer songwriter Chris Berry who lives to the drum of his own beat after feeling “the pull” of African music, has dedicated his career to helping others feel what he feels.

Invited to Palmerston North (New Zealand) by musician and teacher Jennifer Moss, Berry will be holding a two day workshop, sharing his extensive skills in African music, gained through ten years living in Africa.

Berry travels extensively to perform and teach and Moss worked with him two years ago at a dance and drumming camp in Auckland.

“It was quite a life changing experience,” she said.

“He is so immersed in what he does and I was just blown away. I came back and was telling everyone about him and have been doing so for two years and so when I found out that this year was potentially his last visit to New Zealand I thought ‘right, I have to get him to Palmy’.”

Born and raised in California, USA, Berry started his musical journey at the age of 15 with an apprenticeship under master drummer Titos Sompa.

He was subsequently drawn to Africa, where he lived during the Mugabe regime in various villages and ghettos in Zimbabwe.

Moss said he studied the music of the Shona people.


“He felt the pull to check out the music and he became initiated by the village elders into their heritage and as well as the dance and drama he became a great advocator with the Mbira, a traditional thumb piano that was dying out.

“He’s this interesting blend, he now lives in Hawaii and spends time in New York, so he is a worldly man. He has this vast knowledge that he has acquired and accessed but he is able to put it into our speak.”

After learning to speak their language fluently, Berry was encouraged by his teachers to create his own compositions, which he did so with his fusion band Panjea.

“He had to leave Zimbabwe in the end because of the lyrical opposition to the government. So he was speaking out and then he decided to take his music out into the world.”

Berry picked up his Grammy Award for the album Winter Solstice that he co-wrote with Paul Winter.

He tours extensively and although he has visited New Zealand five times, this will be his first trip to Palmerston North.

“I joke that it is sort of world domination through drumming and dance one country at a time and he has almost done the whole of New Zealand before he moves on to another country,” Moss said.

Moss has built up her own community of djembe drummers in Palmerston North and now has about 50 students and a drumming team called Manawataki. She said hosting Berry was a great chance for her students to experience a different teacher.

Supported by Creative Communities and the Palmerston North City Council, Chris Berry’s workshops will be held on April 24-26 at Terrace End School.


Source: Carly Thomas|Stuff.co.nz

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