Rhythm of the Ancients

If the four members of the percussion ensemble Rivers of Time appear to be just milling around in the audience before one of their shows begins, don't be deceived. Although an array of drums, shakers, gongs, and cymbals awaits the group on stage, the performance is likely to begin before the band gets there.

Look closely and you'll notice that, while chatting with the audience, members of the band are holding small noisemakers. When the lights dim, one member blows a conch-shell blast, and then all four begin to shake their rattles.

"It sounds very primitive," explains percussionist Damien Stevens, who also sings and dances during Rivers of Time concerts, a New-Age mix of tribal drumming and vocals.

Still standing amid the audience, vocalist-drummer Gayle Coursol will start singing. The words to the song sound like a blend of Native American language and the chanting of monks. Finally the trance-inducing utterances trail off, and the words come home ring out.

"Sometimes the audience joins in," says Stevens, "and they know that they are a part of the show." As audiences chant, the band -- which includes percussionists Michael Moses and Buckley Griffis -- makes its way to the stage.

Performing this primitive-sounding music live is the reason Moses, the band's leader, formed the group six months ago. He's composed and recorded similar music for years, in some cases for TV programs on the Discovery Channel and PBS. He also worked for 25 years as a dance-class drum accompanist at the Omega Institute in New York, which he describes as "a cross between a New-Age university and Club Med." He's spent the last several years working Omega's hotel-seminar circuit.

When not on the road, Moses backs dance companies and teaches percussion programs in public schools in Palm Beach County, where he's now a full-time resident. "I'm finally in one place for long enough to put a group together," he says. Coursol is a long-time friend; Moses knows Griffis and Stevens through Omega.

Rivers of Time plans to finish recording a CD by November, but playing live is the main objective. The group has played only a couple of local shows but already has some tour dates under its collective belt. One was quite auspicious for a fledgling act; last May the band was asked to perform in Naples as the opening act for the New-Age guru himself, Deepak Chopra.

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John Ferri