The Tumbara Project
Interview with Keith Baker


Tumbara was formed through a process of coming together, instruments and artists uniting as one spirit. It started simply with a group of musicians meeting every week to play and allow for an organic sound to emerge. There was little structure, only an intention to harmonize and meet through music. The sessions went on for hours, each player bringing his energy and devotion to the creation of something new and uniquely original. It was meditative, trance inducing, lively and energetic, ephemeral and spacious. It was organic and had a life of its own. It was music created from the unification of the moment.

At some point Keith Baker, who had a long history in music and a passion for recording, decided to set up some mics, to capture some of what was occurring during these sessions. This was the beginning of Tumbara. It would take several years to capture just the right union of these varied players and their instruments, and then many long hours in the production stage to refine, mix and compile these works into what you hear today on their debut CD ‘Spiral Spirit’. Keith’s dedication to this process continued through the inclusion of his own tracks ‘Udu Tu Yutu’ and ‘Duality’, both rich with layered textures of tribal percussion and drums that groove and move. Other tracks co–produced with Sky evolved into meditative trance pieces, ‘Sombrio Spirit’ and ‘River Zen’, that allow the listener to live in the music with the lush sounds of flute and didgeridoo – spacious and tranquil.

The finished CD, years in the making, is a fresh, authentic union of tonally rich earthy sounds that celebrates the moment of spontaneous expression. Udu - Silver and RedIt’s humble and healing, great for yoga, movement and massage. The inclusion of several tracks from ‘Spiral Spirit’ by renowned Vinyasa flow yoga instructor Shiva Rea, on her compilation CD ‘Shakti Rhythms’ and subsequent DVD release called ‘Yoga Shakti’, is a testament to the power of these infectious grooves. A versatile recording as enjoyable to listen to, as it is to move with.

Hazart Inayat Khan wrote “music is the language of the soul, and for people of different cultures to unite there is no better way than music. For music not only unites people to each other, but people to the one spirit”. Tumbara’s music aims to inspire our cultural unity through openhearted musical expression, bringing together players and instruments as one spirit – celebrating the diversity. With instruments from Africa, Australia, Tibet, the Middle East, Native and South America Tumbara’s music embodies these ideals and hopes to ignite the one spirit that lives within us all.


What does Tumbara mean and why did you choose that name?

The name Tumbara came to me through the writings of Hazrat Inayat Khan, in which Tumbara and Narada are claimed to be the first musicians. When I said the name Tumbara out loud it sounded percussive. It was rich and warm – it had rhythm and tonality – it felt perfect for the project. I also liked that Tumbara was one of two: Tumbara and Narada. For me it represented duality – unity through many becoming one.

There are numerous percussion instruments recorded on this CD from around the world. Can you talk about some of your choices and their significance?

It’s challenging to just talk about some of the choices, because they were all so important. The djembe for instance has a warm sound that is distinct and varied. The tone is felt in the body. It is extremely sensitive – soft tones and deep tones that have a presence about them. It was a foundation instrument for playing together, something that could be built upon, joined in with, by Bob and the others. There are two djembes recorded on this album, most distinctly in ‘Duality’.

DjembeThe didgeridoo brings the drone – it’s the glue that holds it all together. It creates a vibrational space that draws one out. The healing effects of that were felt right away and it led the direction of the music towards healing. Sky brought the South American flute. It is a hand made instrument with a beautiful ethereal quality to it’s sound. Sky had actually brought it to me to repair, and when we subsequently heard the rich tone, we used it in ‘Sombrio Spirit’.

There is also the udu, which is a very deep and quiet instrument in the room, that benefits dramatically from being recorded. It provided a warm, rich, supportive bottom end to the music, allowing for a full representation of frequencies.
There were many other equally important instruments to consider – like the marimba and the crystal bowl – where do I stop.

Two of the tracks on this CD are over 10 minutes long, what was the intention behind that?

Well it occurred organically, born out of the experimentation that occurred while playing. There was a natural evolution that was able to develop within the broader time space. This music is different in that it is not confined by time, it was allowed to grow, explore and evolve. What we found when we did that was that by being in the space of the music for longer periods of time we (the players) were affected vibrationally, having a positive affect on our bodies.

We also recognized the unity that came through being in the music, the influence music can have over ones well–being.


Does Tumbara play live?

No, Tumbara was born out of a coming together, having an opportunity to explore music together and not performing. There was an intimacy created through that communing that was able to be captured through recording it, rather than performing it. We began communicating with each other through the language of music and benefiting through that.

The project of Tumbara recorded just about everything it did and through that process it became clear that certain instruments could benefit from being recorded. Some of the more delicate instruments that otherwise would be lost, could be beautifully captured. There is far more depth in this music than there is musicians to play it.

The recording environment also allows for a creative process of layering and sculpting of sound. It is an art form unto its self. On two of the tracks I play all of the instruments, creating something in its entirety, from playing to recording and mixing. Tumbara is really a recording project – it’s about what can be done with music in the creative studio environment.

As your debut CD, what is your hope for its impact on your listeners?

I hope that they would listen to the music and feel a sense of wellness – that they would allow the healing sound in – that they would want to listen to it again – hear more of it – experience it’s depth and all of it’s subtleties.

I highly recommend a headphone listening experience with this music. That is where you can really go into it, experiencing the movement of the sounds.

Can you talk about the importance of musical influences in your life?

There have been musical influences and musical turning points for me. SticksI’ve been influence by everything I’ve experienced and heard really. But some that stand out for me are Peter Gabriel, Jorge Reyes, Deep Forest and Stomp.

When I saw Stomp perform live I was opened up to an infinite possibility in percussion and music. Their pure creativity in finding percussion everywhere, in everything, lead me to play things differently and to explore the seemingly endless possibilities.

Seeing Jorge Reyes perform was another unforgettable experience. He is a multi–instrumentalist, who performs as a solo artist. He has a very creative approach to music making, quite shamanic and experiential. He uses his instruments in unusual ways, as well as using everyday objects as instruments. He has this unique, additive approach of building multiple parts, layering sound and blending technology with pure organic instruments. Through him I was opened to the potential of technology to bring out the organic qualities of music and sound.

I also had the opportunity to play with him, after the performance, at a wonderful beach cottage in Cadboro Bay. Very memorable.

What is ahead for Tumbara in the future?

To continue to explore, record and produce this type of music. Tumbara is the framework I create in. It gives me the freedom to do the music that occurs.

As a musician and recording artist, I want to continue to explore my creative expression – continue to experiment in creative percussion and record more of my numerous instruments. I want to continue to evolve as a producer – to explore the potential of technology, but not for its own sake, for the art of it – for what it can bring to the expression of this music.

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