Slap a belly, claps them hands, shake your head side to side and buzz through your lips like a motorboat. It's called body music, mon cheri – and since 2008 the Bay Area's been the yearly gathering spot for all manner of the diverse artistes that call this noise home at the International Body Music Festival. This year, the festie's moving down south to Sao Paolo, Brazil – but before it does, festival founder and primo tap dancer Keith Terry has organized a benefit show (Sat/7 La Peña Cultural Center) that features his group, Slammin, along with sometimes-clown and presently hambone performer Derique McGee. The show will fund Bay performers trips down south – and more presently, out to NYC where they will perform at the Lincoln Center (Thurs/12). We spoke with the mastermind behind this convergence of natural noisemakers over the phone, and found him to be more than happy to explain his unusual passion for playing with one's self. Keith, what's all this noise about?
Keith Terry on the ones and two-legs
San Francisco Bay Guardian: Now then. Body music. I must admit, I wasn't previously familiar with the art from. How'd you get turned on to it?
Keith Terry: I came to it 30 years ago – I'm a drummer, and I was in a rehearsal with tap dancers, and I had this thought that I could displace everything I was playing on my drums onto my body. And it became a career.
SFBG: Did you start out by researching the background of body music? It's been around for quite some time, hasn't it?
KT: I was really into tap dancers, people like Charles “Honi” Coles, Eddie Brown, Steve Condos. I'm really drawn to dance that has its own inherent soundtrack, or music that has a visual component. I've been fascinated by that for a long time. I was aware of hambone for a long time, that it grew out of slavery, of drums being taken away from slaves to suppress rebellion. There are a lot of traditional styles of body music. I'm a student of world music. But the style that I do is a contemporary style.
SFBG: Tell me about it?
KT: I do solo and group shows, but for the festival my group is called Slammin'; 3 singers: beatboxer, and body music – eight in the ensemble. It's very urban music: we draw from jazz, hip hop, R&B. There's usually five of us, but for the Lincoln Center show we're adding three additional body musicians, so this is the enhanced Slammin'.
SFBG: The Body Music Festival has been doing great the past few years in SF. Why are you moving the event to Sao Paolo?
KT: We've always had performers come to the festival from all over – we've had people from Indonesia, Turkey, Polynesia, France, Brazil, Spain. One thought I had in 2008 when I started the festival was that it would be great if the festival itself became international. I had asked Barbatuques, a group from Sao Paolo of 12 performers, I asked if they would host, and they accepted. Next year the full festival will be back in the Bay Area, then the next year in Istanbul.
SFBG: Do audience members ever call foul on you and say that what you do is actually dance, not music?
KT: It's hard to categorize and put it in a box. But people find it really accessible.
Body Music Festival Benefit Send-off Concert
Sat/7 8 p.m., $20-100
La Peña Cultural Center
3105 Shattuck, Berk.