Fraser Bruce - Chairman Rhythm Centre Trust - Bio
Bio :: Fraser Bruce
Chairman, Rhythm Centre Trust, New Zealand

Early Years

    Born Dunedin 6.8.51. Both parents, two brothers and two sisters played musical instruments from a very young age. About 1966 the family was featured on the BCNZ TV programme Studio One, New Faces category, playing contemporary music of the day.

    Attained BA and Dip Teach qualifications with interest in alternative education. Taught in State School for 2 yrs.

    Youngest sister Shona was a kit drummer in an award winning band and in about 1977 started up the first all girls band ‘The Idyll Idols’. Adair, who was a year older than Shona became a ceramics artist and for one of her exhibitions made several ceramic drums. She was inspired by Shona’s talent and developed some unique shapes along quasi ethnic lines for Shona to play.

    For a couple of her exhibitions, Adair had Bruno Lawrence and Sam Manzanza from Zaire with dancer Sue Renner and myself perform on her drums and sculptures. This was later featured on the Morning TV arts programme ’10 am’ in 1989.

    At that time, Sam held a public class in African drumming which I attended and was grabbed by something special it carried. I found it difficult at first to do anything more than tap in time with a very simple beat. I couldn’t see how others could make it sound so easy.

   However with a small drum from Adair, I returned to Auckland and began to practice what Sam had shown us. Shortly afterwards in early 1990 Sam was brought to Auckland where he ran another beginners workshop attended by several people some of whom got together to form a drum group called Arakidan, focalised by Bud Hooper. Arakidan played for Friday night dance nights at the Knox Church Hall in Parnell for over a year and recorded a cassette of songs live.

The Birth of Drumming in NZ

   This introduced people to drumming and dancing and was very well attended. This electric energy stimulated others desires to learn. This provided me the opportunity to help others learn to play.

   Because there were so few drums available, I pioneered the reconstruction of a sturdy plastic bucket into a drum as a learners drum. These continue today to being a well used drum which can be beaten really hard by young ones without too much damage. From this original style of home made drum several others came to be developed using found materials such as pipes, tubes and barrels helped along by people like Laksar Eggleton.

   The first real drums we were able to access, were congas of all sizes and sounds. Then as other African teachers came to NZ we were introduced to the Djembe and djun djun drums from West Africa and the Gahu drums from Ghana. As this last decade traversed, all manner of drums have come to our attention and all manner of people have been drawn to playing the drums with others.

   The opportunities to play different styles have increased over this time, but because we are largely isolated from the rest of the world and because we have no inherent cultural drumming tradition, we have had to rely on ourselves for inspiration and musical development.

   Increasingly, the emerging drum facilitators found that drumming affects people in different ways. What these facilitators of drumming groups or communities have found is that it brings people together in one purpose, the result of which is a mostly happy and healing experience.

Arthur Hull and Village Drum Circles

   One technique developed in the United States by Arthur Hull, is called Village Drum Circles. This is a process where a whole orchestra of different drums and percussion instruments are arranged in a big circle for people to come in and play according to what is evolving in the moment. This enables the groups collective creativity to express itself and provides a space for individuals to experiment with what they are playing while supporting the main feel of the music.

   This form of playing has recently had researchers test participants blood for increases in cancer fighting cells while playing. After one 90 minute session, there were definite increases recorded, which has led to this modality being used in cancer therapy for patients and their families around the world.

   Drumming has such a universal appeal and application, it has inspired me further to enable this process to readily available for the rest of the community . The result of this was an application in Jan 2000 to the Auckland Regional Services Trust for funding to set up a Rhythm Centre where instruments could be made and repaired and where people could come and play or find out where rhythm was being made.

   The application was successful which then birthed the Rhythm Centre Trust Board which now helps administer the money and steer the Centre’s future direction.


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