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about royal

music is my life, a spirit and philosophy: the turn of time, the break of the world, a change of consciousness at every level and aspect of existence, revolution/resolution in the universe.

royal hartigan is a musician who has studied, lived, and performed the music of Asia, Africa, Europe, West Asia, and the Americas as well as African American blues, gospel, funk, hip-hop, and jazz traditions. He has made a life focus on the sounds and meaning from world cultures, bringing new concepts to drumset and jazz ensemble interaction, including original and Indian time cycles, West African rhythms and structures, music from the traditional gong cultures of the Philippines, China, Korea, and Java, which he has adapted to drumset in coordinated independence, layers of time, timbral shading, and tonal motion. He is one of the most unique artistic, influential drummers and scholars of our time.

royal has played with jazz innovators and master artists as well as his quartet at numerous global events, including the Midi Festivals in Beijing, Rizhao, and Lichuang, China, CCP Philippines Jazz Festival and Mt. Makiling Festivals, Philippines, Chale Wote festivals in Ghana, Toulon Jazz Festivals in France, Black Saint/Soul Note Tour, Italy, and in the U.S., at such venues as Yoshi’s (Oakland, CA), New School University Jazz, World Music Institute, Visions Festival, the Apollo Theater, National Black Theater, Merkin Hall, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Stone (all in NYC), Walker Arts Center, (MN), the Smithsonian Institution (D.C.), Hartford’s Real Art Ways (CT), and Boston/Cambridge’s Multicultural Arts Center and River Festivals (MA). 

In 1991 he created his ensemble, blood drum spirit, that uniquely adapts world music cultures and exploratory jazz. They incorporate complex rhythmic, timbral, melodic, and harmonic structures into radical new works, arrangements of jazz classics, and traditional repertoire from world cultures. 

A Fulbright scholar to the Philippines (2006) and Ghana (2014-15), royal’s works include five books and CD/DVD on African and world music for drumset, four double CDs as leader and three with his blood drum spirit ensemble, and over 50 CDs, DVDs, and other media with Fred Ho’s ensembles and others on the creative music scene. He has produced an award-winning film, We Are One, directed by Sara Pettinella, from his blood drum spirit 2015 and 2017 tours of Ghana, sponsored by the U.S. State Department. Its theme is the historical, musical, and personal connections between African music and jazz, and by extension, the world’s peoples.

royal has done educational residencies/given workshops/presented lectures for students at numerous institutions and universities across the U.S. and abroad, including St. Michael’s College (VT), UMass, San Francisco State University, Berklee College (MA), the New School University (NY), Toulon, France Jazz Festival, the China Conservatory, the University of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (Ghana), Nagoya Yamaha Japan, the SALT Youth Camp in Trinidad, University of Santo Tomas (Philippines), and the University of the Philippines. He was a professor at UMass Dartmouth from 1999 to 2018. Prior to that he taught at San Jose State University (CA), the New School Jazz Program, and Wesleyan University(CT). He received his Ph.D. from Wesleyan in 1986. His publications on drumset and world music have been recognized as among the most significant drum books of all time; musicians worldwide have been influenced by his teaching.

In an era of violence, irrationality, and division, royal works for universal consciousness and change, creating music and art as a vehicle to impact and connect with the world’s peoples.


designed by little comb productions © royal hartigan 2019-2020