Drummer Mickey Hart recalls 30 years of ‘world music’

The World
Drummer Mickey Hart

"There's no such thing as world music." That's what drummer Mickey Hart told us when we asked him about the term "world music," which was coined 30 years ago.

This year, we're touching base with artists who were attracted to global sounds or who became champions of those sounds and to reflect on what this thing, world music, is. Mickey Hart, the drummer for the Grateful Dead, is one musician who's been at that global cutting edge practically since the beginning.

He's a percussionist who's always had a massive curiosity about sounds and the way people make them. Hart's passion for the beat was first fostered in his childhood home in New York City, explored with the Grateful Dead, and coalesced on his album "Planet Drum." 

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"Planet Drum" was actually the first recipient of the Grammy for World Music back in 1991. He just wanted to jam with other like-minded percussionists, like Giovanni Hidalgo from Puerto Rico and Zakir Hussain from India.

When Hart recorded "Planet Drum," he says there was never a concerted effort to sit in the studio and make world music. "They didn't know each other, but I knew the sensibilities of each one of them and I knew that they could work together. Therefore, I made the call. It was a call to drummers, actually. I picked the best."

Since that groundbreaking release, Hart has put out a number of other rhythm-based albums — including the "Global Drum Project," which came out 10 years ago — that also went on to win a Grammy as the Best Contemporary World Music Album.

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In a way, Hart has been playing world music his whole life. And it's impacted him not just as a musician, but as a person.

"It's certainly stretched my imagination," he says. "You have to give your ear to it [music] and you have to deep listen. Once you do some deep listening, then you fall in love for the first time, every time." 

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