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Documenting percussionist Susie Ibarra’s mesmerizing rhythms
An overview of one of the greatest drummers you’ve (likely) never heard.
Let’s talk about Susie Ibarra, perhaps the greatest percussionist you’ve never heard. Across three-plus decades, the New York-based jazz and experimental musician has worked with an awe-inspiring roster of players including Pauline Oliveros, Milford Graves, John Zorn, Matthew Shipp, Thurston Moore, Prefuse 73, Sylvie Courvoisier and dozens more.
An artist who seems equally content playing drums, gongs, buckets of water, chimes, a sampler, or shakers, Ibarra is a wonder to behold, equally thrilling when she’s gently tapping or aggressively attacking her drums.
For example, here’s Ibarra teaming with Roberto J. Rodriguez in 2013 on an excerpt from Hidden Truth, a curious collaborative performance with the Cuban-American experimental electronic musician Roberto J. Rodriguez and visual artist Mokoto Fujimura:
Last year Ibarra teamed with Yuka Honda (Cibo Matto, Plastic Ono Band) to film Fragility Etudes, a 40-minute series of etudes. Below, Honda opens a mesmerizing piece that features Ibarra and her hand-picked musicians.
A thoughtful artist eager to share her insights and education, Ibarra appears regularly in academic settings to discuss and demonstrate her approach. As explained in the notes to the below solo performance:
“She is interested in the intersection of traditional and avant-garde styles and how this informs and inspires interdisciplinary art, education, and public service. Most recently, Ibarra’s composition and improvisation work has blended traditions, rhythms, and tunings from musical cultures across the globe.
In 2009, Ibarra cofounded Song of the Bird King to create multimedia projects that feature both contemporary and traditional music, and that contribute to preservation and innovation in indigenous communities.
Her recent works include the world premiere of Binalig Blues by Arun Ghosh’s pan-Asian Arkestra Makara, and Hidden Truths: Prayer for a Forgotten World, a 5.1 surround-sound composition recorded with seven Filipino indigenous tribes, performed with Roberto Rodriguez as a duo called Electric Kulintang.“
Ibarra has semi-regularly been uploading performances to her YouTube channel. Here’s a 35-minute jam commissioned by Montreal’s UnDrum Festival in 2021.
Ibarra’s 2019 work reel illustrates both her wisdom and her skills. The entire video is worth watching, but here’s a link to Ibarra in Morocco recording musicians known as the Hamdcha Sufi Fez Group.
Watch on YouTube (embed unavailable…): https://youtu.be/-y9ZKpS3aZw
Ibarra’s albums, both collaborative and solo, are well worth seeking out. Her 2017 record Perception is particularly great.
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