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Djembe Adds Special Element To Down The Line

Of the Oakland Press

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Playing the djembe, an African drum, was “very much an accident” for West Bloomfield native Derek Fawcett.

Fawcett, a member of the Chicago acoustic rock group Down The Line, already played several different instruments and had studied music at Western Michigan University when he took a trip to Africa with one of the directors from the school. “I thought, ‘What should I try to bring back? Well, they make pretty great drums in Africa...Why don’t I get a drum?’” recalls Fawcett, 31.

It took awhile before he incorporated the instrument into Down The Line’s harmony-laden mix, however.

“We played a gig once, and we’re like, ‘Wow, there’s no real percussion here...,’” Fawcett says. “So Levi (Britton) was like, ‘Why don’t you play that weird drum you have,’ and it really seemed to resonate with our fans — which at that point, were our friends. So I decided to keep playing it, and now it’s part of our sound.”

The djembe has lent an exotic flavor to Down The Line over the course of its three studio albums and new concert set “Home Alive,” and Fawcett notes that it has allowed the group to work in a number of different settings -- including opening shows for Peter Frampton, Ben Folds, Pat Benatar and America, as well as an appearance at this year’s Ann Arbor Folk Festival.

“It’s a pretty pliable sound,” Fawcett notes. “We’re probably one of the few bands that can play the Blind Pig and the Ark, and have it kind of make sense. I feel really lucky to being a band whose sound is really that versatile.”

Down The Line performs 8 p.m. Saturday (March 29) at the Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $15. Call (734) 761-1451 or visit www.theark.org. The group returns May 17 to play the Magic Bag in Ferndale; details will be announced soon.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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