Ashtabula, Ohio, USA
BandWorldSpoken Word

Drumplay fuses jazz and folk elements with spoken word, and uses world rhythms in their percussive pulse. Winners of Best World Music Act 2002-2003 in the Cleveland Free Times Music Awards, the band continues to explore exotica by means of electronics.



"While we honor the elder master drummers, we strive to create our own unique voice in the vast universe of percussive sounds," states founding member and vibraphonist, James Onysko. Indeed, Drumplay has achieved what few groups of its kind have been able to do. In 1996, for the Cleveland Bicentennial Festival, the trio performed with Arthur Hull and D`Cuckoo before an estimated audience of a half million people.

A published writer and veteran radio broadcaster in Cleveland , Ohio, over the past two decades, Mr. Onysko was host and producer (for NPR Distribution) of the annual Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance in conjunction with Finger Lakes Public Radio, WEOS, Geneva, New York.

His musical influences are numerous, including time spent interviewing SUN RA as well as digging the Canterbury sound of England's progressive jazz rockers, and the percussive elements of Pierre Moerlen's Gong with their use of marimba.

Mr. Onysko credits teacher Bessemer Taylor of Grupo Folklorico for inspiration, and for giving him first lessons in Afro-Cuban percussion

James has also contributed music for the world premiere of "Jungle Rot" at the Cleveland Play House, and to the documentary by filmmaker Susan Wehling called "Bingo: You Betcha!", which aired nationally on PBS.


Conga player, Warren Levert, studied extensively with Nigerian master drummer Babatunde Olatunji; and he is considered to be congero extraordinaire.

He is related to famous musical families - cousin to Eddie Levert of The O'Jays of Canton, Ohio, and to solo R&B artist, Gerald Levert - part of the Northeast Ohio music scene.

Mr. Levert was also a member of the OBI Dance Troupe, and has been a percussionist in Black Lion as well as part of many of Cleveland's top reggae groups over the past two decades.

Besides Olatunji, Warren's musical influences are varied - from Cuban drummer Armando Peraza to maestro sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar to funkmaster George Clinton.

"The music business and music, in its purest form, are at cross purposes", Warren says. "The purpose of art is to enlighten, and inspire both the artist and the audience.

The purpose of business is to make money. We do an incredibly poor job in this country (USA) at both presenting and preserving art. There should be greater opportunities for groups whose music and whose instrumentation are unconventional.


Phil Kester first joined Drumplay for the Psych-Out '99 sessions while studying at Kent State University, where he also worked with Poet Daniel Thompson.

This world-class percussionist has toured and recorded with Gongzilla (a Gong off-shoot band), and can be found on "East Village Sessions" with fellow bandmate Benoit Moerlen. He has also gigged with Mark Wagnon of Brand X.

Mr. Kester also works with RELM, a jazz group from NYC, and writes music for conch and trident shells. He is a graduate of Youngstown State University's music program, and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.


A public poet and political activist since the sixties, Daniel Thompson was the founder of Poetsbank, and organizer of such cultural events in the Cleveland area as Junkstock.

Poetsbank helped poets establish a presence in Cleveland by focusing on poetry as a performing art, and encouraging a greater participation in the life of the community. Mr. Thompson later captained the first slam poetry competition in the city - an artform evolving from the written (and spoken word).

His poetry keeps alive the tradition of (and adds to) works of that pantheon of great Cleveland poets: Hart Crane, Langston Hughes and d.a. levy.

Daniel chose the first team to represent Cleveland, Ohio, in the National Poetry Slam; and he ran the open competitions the next year - then walked away. His search was not just for audiences and venues, nor for the voices of poets, old or new; but for those whose r





Out of the body politic dying
Nights without bread
Led to the carnival knowledge of color
At the nip and tuck of the budding revolt
In naked beard and scandalous sandals
I was overcome by the shallow, wee town
And contrary minds of the city sprawl
My mustardseed faith moved the
mountain on me
And the flowers crushed on the sidewalks of time
Were my seedy bedpartners in crime
Rocks from the cradle and the billy club rub
Were wisdom cracking the star-spangled fang
After the dogbite the rabbis returned
With plastic priests and pastorized milk
So I wrapped God's news in an old fish story
...and man swung from ape's umbilical cord
Till guilt edged the serpent under the heel...
Bruised legacy and the bootstrap snapped
When all the innominate, hump-the-dump bones
Went grinding the stones and sticks to fire
While I Adamed an apple off the
knowledge tree
And turning the other tongue in cheek
Slicked my good hair in her downhome desire
Then shifting to high gear in the wilderness streets
Where pot and panic handlers begged to differ
Of necessity tripping fantastic
I turned on the system, the dark riders circling
Brother, can you spare a victim?
And moved on as thin as a praying mantis
...alive again: deadly as sin...
On the nit of my grit and grin of my skin


Long past the bedtime of the wise

Past asphalt light, bright as tarnished gold

Under a fogbound moon, Gonzales & I go

To our secret place; there, crickets & stars & witches bloom

With room enough for him to run. What fun to watch that black dog move

Across the long green gulf of grass
--Iean against the wind

While I attend the shaggy end of things (thistles & burrs, weeds Leaves, logs & broken limbs) chanting & whistling a hymn to him

Go, Gonzales, Go

Chase those ghosts
With your black magic

Ghosts from a grandfather time

They have waited all these years to play


Now to discard the skin of darkness

Of the cellar where I dwell on ambiguity

Up the stairs I rise to wake the moon

Out of its cold beauty sleep, the ghost snow

On the lawn inviting me to live the life

Of children in the light, in the

Like desert nomads, the white garments falling

Through the branches of the tree into a state of grace

No sacrifice of an Isaac nor a ram caught in a thicket

Integrates our hearts. Only this, to awake to dream

Can take us beyond our nostalgia for the new

And teach our children how poets live

Mouth to hand, hand to mouth, silent as light


Am I that bum

Who thumbs from Cleveburg to Chi Town

Comes in a rush of fools to Rush Street

Reads poetry at an eatery with Joffre?

Hallelujah, good friend Joffre

His sword beaten into a plowshare pen

Tilts in the Windy City

At the dark conspiracies of the age

Balances his rage wih his matchless laugh

His rude pockets burst with info

But hold no folding legal tender

He trashes cash in the same flames

With the red, white and blue

Or any flag of state

For flags mean business

And business means war

And war means the poor

Go from rags to ditches

And in the last ditch

You sing or die

So on a nightstick night

Under the wild onion moon

He sings out poems of Anarchy

While at his feet

Like hounds round a fire

His bags are as comfortable as you

Who may desire to weigh this knowledge

Joffre, sedentary among his friends

Or hoofing it down these streets

Alone, carrying his own black silence

Is his own black poem


This quiet night

And the murdering ant

An army on the sidewalk moves

Carrying its starlit prey

Across the chalked children's game

This wax moon night the rabbit runs

His white tail bobbing as he weaves

Through backyards to the black, black trees

Suddenly a voice, cat or child, troubles the silence

0 down these streets where sleeping dogmas lie

Lo, the flickering lamplight moth shadowboxes with the wind

As my friend, the talker, talks: widening the hole in his shoe

Till all his words arrive on time

Bloodshot, in the gunsight of dawn

That quiet night the dark cargo of my heart

Pitched on the green grave wave and broke...


When my mother
Sunbathed on the roof
Planes would sometimes
Buzz the house

On an afternoon
At home after her operation
She was proud
Vacuuming the rug
Of her lone breast
And her scar

Out of her mind
In a time of violence
(O forgive me, Mother
My brutality)
She ran from the trailer
Out of the camp
Without a stitch on
In time
To wrestle home
The angel of death

A tree
Or a whole forest
May have fallen
The night no human woke
To hear her dying breath
After that
My life in pain --
Wounded, aggrieved
Dejavued b


Drumplay discography on Signal Tree:

Drumplay - 1997
Live at Nelson Ledges - 1999
Pyramid People - 2000
beachland - 2001
Under the Map of the World Where I Sleep - 2002
Dayshine to Stars-end - 2004
Who's Listening? - 2007
Infinity - 2011

Set List

Drumplay's set list is comprised of what we like to call "rhythmprovisations", with the goal of creating anew each time in performance. Our newest CD "Dayshine to Stars-end" lists the following tracks, the first three of which are available as sound clips on this EPK.

1. Go
2. Tangerine
3. Rhythms Ride the Rocket
4. Mother
5. Dayshine to Stars-end
6. Rhythmprovisation #9

Please visit www.cdbaby.com/drumplay for more songs and sound clips.

Among the world rhythms in our repertoire: Afro-Cuban "guaguanco"; Brazilian "samba"; Nigerian "funga" and other West African rhythms from Senegal, Mali, as well as Middle Eastern motifs. Drumplay also engages children with instrument-building sessions; and we conduct percussion workshops for all skill levels