In addition to my work as a drum set player, I also specialize in drumming traditions from other parts of the world, especially the Middle East, Turkey and Greece. I play the darbuka (dumbek), the riq and a variety of frame drums and tambourines and I perform and teach on these instruments in a variety of styles from Egyptian classical to urban and folk forms from all over the Mediterranean. Below, I'll share a little bit about how a kid from Florida ends up playing classical Arabic music and I'll include some performance videos as well.
My interest in these instruments began as I was graduating from The Florida State University in 2008, and it started with N. Indian tabla and Hindustani classical music. Right after I graduated with a degree in jazz performance, I traveled to India where I spent three months studying with a couple great tabla players. When I moved to New York City in 2009 I continued studying tabla with Pandit Samir Chaterjee, and though I didn't end up sticking with it, the tabla became sort of a gateway to delving deeper into other forms of hand drumming, and today, the repertoire and techniques I learned in those years of studying Indian music still informs how I approach every instrument I play.
Shortly after I moved to Brooklyn, I met a handful of drummers that would become good friends and mentors. Guys like John Hadfield, Shane Shanahan, Matt Kilmer, Rich Stein, Mathias Kunzli and others who were all drawing inspiration from drumming traditions from all over the world and applying them in interesting and contemporary contexts. I found my niche! So in 2010 I traveled to Israel where I stayed for seven months studying frame drums with virtuosos Zohar Fresco and Yshai Afterman. When I returned to NYC I joined the New York Arabic Orchestra under the direction of the great Lebanese musician Bassam Saba. This was my introduction to classical Arabic music, a love and interest that has shaped my entire professional career.
Since then, I've embarked on independent studies in Turkey, Greece, Italy and Spain, studying and playing with incredible musicians all along the way Here at home, I continue to have the joyful opportunities to play with some of the finest practitioners of these respective traditions in N. America. Additionally, in the vibrant cultural backdrop of NYC, I also get to draw on my background in jazz, improvisational, and American popular music to participate in a variety of interesting projects that fuse the musics of different traditions to create brand new and contemporary sounds.
Led by oud player and singer Mavrothi Kontanis, Meandros plays urban, folk and classic music from Greece. We did this session at Dreamland Recording Studios in Woodstock, NY, in the nave of what used to be a church built in 1896.
Mavrothi Kontanis, oud, voice
Lefteris Bournias, clarinet
Megan Gould, violin
Philip Mayer, darbuka
Rooted in the maqam tradition of the middle east, Sharq Attack plays repertoire that ranges from Arabic classics to originals to more obscure compositions, likely never performed in the US.
Brian Prunka, oud
Marandi Hostetter, 5 string violin
Simon Moushabe, percussion, accordion
Eric Allen, cello
Philip Mayer, percussion
Yemeni oud player, Ahmed Alshaiba wrote beautiful original music. I had the pleasure of playing all over the Arabian Peninsula with Ahmed and the great band he put together for those tours.
Ahmed Alshaiba, oud, composition
Tamer Pinarbasi, kanun
Philip Mayer, frame drum
Here's a Turkish tune I recorded with my friend Kane Mathis during the pandemic.
Ussak Sirto by Necip Gülses
One of the most beautiful instruments I own, the pandeiro cuadrado is a folk instrument from the Iberian Peninsula. The style I play comes from a village called Peñaparda in Salamanca, Spain and I learned it from one of my favorite drummers on the planet, Aleix Tobias in Catalonia.
Here's an improvised duet in an 11 beat cycle (22322) with John Hadfield in 2018.
And another pandemic time video that features the darbuka, but also showcases the rich tone of the square drum.
From back in the day with Yshai Afterman