Austrian drummer and percussionist Manu Delago (Björk, Anoushka Shankar) is known for his accomplished work on handpan (or hang), a metal steelpan-like instrument played with bare hands. But he’s also a composer and a drummer with a developed touch and technical facility on a traditional drumset.
Together with vocalist Isa Kurz, Delago has released this highly entertaining and impressive video for “Rudi,” which tells a familiar story of playing drums in your bedroom while also dealing with disapproving neighbors. “I composed this piece quite a few years back,” Delago tells Modern Drummer, “and Isa and I performed it live many times, usually as an encore. And it’s such a visual piece that we decided to make a video of it. The story is influenced by me growing up—or any drummer growing up, in a way. And we wanted to make it in a kid’s messy room.”
Opening on Delago seated at a bare-bones kick/snare/hats/cymbal kit with his back to Kurz, who’s on a bed behind him, the piece is a marvel of unison rhythms, with the two breathing as one together. “Isa is an amazing musician,” Delago offers. “She’s not a drummer, but she has amazing rhythm, so she was the perfect person to perform this with. It took some time to memorize it, but once you have it, it doesn’t go away.”
Delago can’t see Kurz at all, so their tight execution is all the more striking. Kurz talk-raps into a microphone with lyrics about paradiddles, double paradiddles, paradiddle-diddles, and drags while Delago plays those strokes on his snare. She then mentions those pesky neighbors, but the track quickly moves into the iconic drum pattern used for Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”
“The phrase [Kurz sings], ‘Rudi is a boy, makes a big noise’ is from Queen,” says Delago. “I was playing around with words used in drum language. Obviously, Rudi-mental, and paradiddles, and drags. I collected those words and tried to put them into this rhythmic, musical piece.”
And what rhythms they pull off. The duo slips into a section where they lock into variations on “kick, snare, hat,” repeated in several cool ways and with gaps and rests that make one realize that this took a bit of work to master. This continues into a brief part where Kurz and Delago lock in on the word “kick” in a wonderfully disjointed manner. Then yet more kicks, rim clicks, and cymbal hits, all crafted and played with confidence. And just when you’ve almost had your fill of Rudi and all those kicks, the piece moves into a climax of sorts, with Delago opening up with some lightning-quick hi-hat work, blast beats, and stick cross-overs from the hats to the ride.
One must wonder, if those annoyed neighbors heard something through the wall so unique on this level, maybe they would have knocked on the door to see it done so beautifully for themselves.
Manu Delago endorses Hardcase Technologies cases,
Bosphorus cymbals, AKG mics, Roland electronics, and Xylosynth by Wernick.