Exclusive: Keith Terry talks about International Body Music Festival and its 10th anniversary

When we think that we have found a way to define and categorize art, someone comes up to disrupt our notion and offer a new form.

Thanks to Keith Terry, Body Music has finally found its place in the hearts of dance enthusiasts. Keith Terry has been working to spread awareness and bring together people who wants to explore the art form.

The founder of International Body Music Festival will be retiring this year from producing full scale Body Music Festival but his legacy has paved a path for the future generation to further his aim and bring light to the art form. For his immense contribution, he will be receiving a Percuaction Lifetime Achievement Award by Percuaction Global Percussion Network.

Talking about his decision to step away from producing IBMF, Terry said,

“I’m stopping to produce the full-scale IBMF, still producing the IBMF MiniFests, plus continuing to tour as a performer and teacher. Still out there, still doing it.”

Fuzzable talked to Terry to learn about his journey. Check out the complete interview below:

1. Keith, you have been working for years to help educate people about Body Music and appreciate it. For readers who are yet to learn about you, can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

I was fortunate to grow up with an excellent music program and teachers all the way through school, and started on drums when I was very young.  Through drumming I was drawn to jazz early on, via recordings my parents had around the house. When I was 12, my cousin and her boyfriend took me to a concert where I heard Thelonious Monk’s trio, plus the Cannonball Adderley Quintet (with his brother, Nat) and Dione Warwick.  The experience made a huge impression on me,  I knew, then, that I had the bug.  I started working in night clubs in my teens, and moved from Dallas to New York City to pursue music when I was 21. After a few years there, I ended up in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Body Music grew out of a natural extension of drumming for me. When I was working with the Jazz Tap Ensemble in the late 1970’s in Los Angeles, I stood up from my drum set and started displacing my percussion onto my body, and moving it around.  Charles ‘Cookie’ Cook and Charles ‘Honi’ Coles, both famous hoofers, told me what I was doing was similar to the hambone they had done in vaudeville, but it moved differently, and the rhythms were different, and they encouraged me to pursue it.  The pianist in the group, Paul Arslanian, and I coined the term Body Music to include the melodic and harmonic possibilities with vocalizing, whistling, etc., not solely the percussive side. I’ve been using it as my primary art form since — in a variety of settings — one-off collaborations with a wide range of musicians, dancers and actors; plus ongoing projects such as my Crosspulse Percussion Ensemble (based on the West African Diaspora, now in its 25th year) and the Body Tjak Project (a 30 year collaboration involving Indonesians with North and South Americans.)   Inspiration comes from a myriad of musical sources  around the world — traditional and contemporary body musics, as well as other instruments – both the common and the unusual; plus circus drumming, found sound, nature, visual rhythms in design and architecture, mathematical patterning, geology, the solar system, epidemics, flocking/herding instincts, to name a few.

2. As an art director, how do perceive music?

I love that humans basically have the same instrument, yet they express music on it so differently culture to culture.  I also love the intimacy and primacy, the visceral connection people have, when you use your body as the sole instrument.  This is also the most challenging aspect, as it’s not as bombastic as contemporary culture has come to expect from performance.   It’s both personal and universal.

3. What prompted you to start International Body Music Festival? In all these years as the founder of IBMF and an admirer of Body Music, which moments would you consider to be the highlights of your journey?

The International Body Music Festival was long-time a dream of mine. Traveling the world teaching and performing, I was meeting other like minds, artists, cultures and wanted to bring them together into the first festival of its kind.  In 2008 I received a Guggenheim award and used it, along with other funding, to launch the festival.  With Executive Director Evie Ladin we created a six day event that touched a diverse and multigenerational audience and cast of artists, with free and ticketed events, and extensive educational outreach. The impact was profound, especially amongst artists that had never had contact with others whose work was both so different and so related. It was a bit of an epiphany.

From the outset we wanted the IBMF itself to be international, so after two years of establishing the model in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’ve worked with partners around the world, hosting the annual event in Istanbul,Sao Paulo, Bali, Paris, and now Ghana for our 10th.  The 10th will be the last full scale festival we plan to produce, primarily because now there is demand for iterations in so many places. Our new model of an IBMF MiniFest suits a higher frequency, community building event wherever it’s produced. We continue working with partners in all of these places to make sure there is a mix of traditional and contemporary work, and is international whether pulling from diverse cultures in that region, or adding artists from far flung places. We also work with partners to ensure the MiniFests are spread out regionally.

We’re so excited to produce our 10th IBMF in Ghana with Dr Kofi Gbolonyo, a native to Dzodze.  We have participants and artists coming from all over the world – the US, Brazil, Israel, France, Spain, Colombia, Austria, Thailand, China, Vietnam, South Africa, Canada – and know from experience the event draws some of the most high energy and adventurous people.

4. In today’s arts world where a lot of well known and rare art forms co-exist, where do you see Body Music placed amongst its counterparts? Has it been able to gain the momentum that you had been aiming at?

In the 10 years we’ve been producing the IBMF, body music has become a thing. So many more people are practicing Body Music today than they were before we began the festival. It’s connected and networked people from all over the world who are drawn to this art form – both traditional and contemporary styles. It is most popular in Europe and South America, with smaller pockets in Canada and Southeast Asia.


5. IBMF has hosted its events all over the world. This time, the event and the workshops will he held in Ghana, a place where music plays a huge role in communication amongst people. What made you choose the place for its 10th year?

It’s been my dream, from the beginning to produce IBMF in West Africa, a tap root for much of the world’s rhythmic music and dance — a creative force of nature. I’ve been developing the idea with our host, Dr. Kofi Gbolonyo for the past five years, or so. It’s taken this long to create the infrastructure to support the project of this scale.

6. Does 10th year offers something different as compared to the previous years? What all can be expected from the event?

Each year is different in that we tailor the festival to it’s setting. We’ve produced the full-scale IBMF in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we are based, and in Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia, and France; plus MiniFests (shorter, regional incarnations) in Italy (twice), Greece, Canada, and Brazil. We did not create a model in the States that we replicate in other places. We always keep in mind the people and culture where we are producing.

7 You said that the pre-requisite condition for participating in the event should only be “curiosity” to learn about Body Music. Does curiousity in your opinion, offers one a chance to really learn about an art form, they have no knowledge of?

I do, particularly a curiosity to explore new things – new ways of perceiving and making music/dance, and new ways of thinking through the lens of a different cultural perspective.

8. How would you make sure that interested people feel enlightened after attenting the workshops and sessions?

We strive to provide our participants and artists with a deep, authentic cultural experience, packed with world-class artistry.

9. Percuaction Global Percussion Network has decided to honour you with a Lifetime Achievement Award. How do you feel about it?

It’s a great honor to have your work acknowledged.

10. Can you share with us your vision for Body Music? What do you think will happen to the art form once you take a back seat as a host and an initiator?

I’m taking a backseat to producing the full-scale IBMF. I will continue to create body music performances, to teach, to tour internationally, and to produce IBMF MiniFests. It’s just the large scale productions that I’ll be moving away from. Hopefully, I’ll have many more years of involvement, but Body Music has become a thing, I feel confident it will continue on, with or without me.

The 10th International Body Music Festival (IBMF) will take place in Dzodze, Ghana from 6-16 July 2018. Check out the details here: http://www.internationalbodymusicfestival.com/2018/

So, what’s your views on Body Music? Have you ever attended an event by IBMF? Share your thoughts via tweet @Fuzzable.

Written by ayushi

Hello! I am Ayushi from India. I love writing poetry, listening to K-POP and spending time alone. Writing is what defines me and I am on the journey to make the definition as good as possible.


Fuzzable Blogs- July 7th, Holiday Wishlist

Exclusive: Ananya Birla talks about her journey and her new single “Circles”