OGADE's Brief History

OGADE, the Oxford Gourd and Drum Ensemble, was formally begun in 1995 by Peter (Pete) Carels and Lawrence (Larry) Sherman, two professors from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  Pete’s passion for African drumming and Larry’s love of gourds and the conceptual performing arts guided their formal creation of OGADE. As early as 1987 Larry wrote an article entitled The Oxford Gourd Ensemble: A dispersed and continuing conceptual piece with occasional site-specific performances, that initially explained the conceptualization of the  performance.  Back in the 1980’s this was a conceptual piece represented by an IBM card with a description and address (Don't bend, spindle or mutilate!).

IBM Card

This was followed by a short piece written for the Ohio Gourd Society’s News Letter, The Gourd, also entitled The Oxford Gourd Ensemble . As of the year 2011, OGADE has now been in existence for nearly 16 years.  With great regularity OGADE engages in both site-specific and dispersed performances among many diverse communities of practice.  For example, most anyone reading this article on the web might be considered part of the dispersed performance.

The ensemble is considered an evolving community of percussion enthusiasts who enjoy learning about and experimenting with various rhythms performed on many different kinds of  percussion instruments.  Membership in the ensemble is open to anyone interested enough to commit two hours a week in rehearsals. OGADE’s inclusive philosophy has made them a trans-generational/sexual, highly integrated group: young and old, male and female, many ethnic backgrounds represented, and many levels of sophistication with regard to musical background and sophistication of reading music.  Because of the breadth of diverse musical abilities one of OGADE’s biggest challenges has been a way to both teach as will as learn the various pieces in their repertoire.  While learning their repertoire has been accomplished primarily by an oral/aural tradition, Pete, while not a complete autodidact, has taken great effort to discover/create/develop a unique "block" notation that is not dependent upon the ability to read modern musical notation. This has been accomplished by various methods where numbers, letters, words and phrases, are aligned vertically to indicate where they are to be played in relation to foot taps that are numbered in a manner similar to the traditional music notation of notes, beats and measures.  Sometimes spread-sheets such as Microsoft-Excel have been used to display the notation like an orchestral or choral score where the vertical columns are similar to the rhythms of beats and measures, and the horizontal rows are the voices of individual instruments.  A visual example of this solution may be seen below:

ogade block notation example 

While OGADE has focused more on learning west-African rhythms, they also attempt traditional rhythms from Cuba, Brazil, Haiti and other places around the world including Eastern Mediterranean music.  Their original creations have been described as traditional Southwestern Ohio music. They practice various rhythms in order to gain a level of competence, but also jam freely when the mood strikes.  Among the instruments they have incorporated into their weekly rehearsals are the didgeridoo, various flutes, gourdonium, gourd trumpets, shekeres, gourd maracas, tambourines, mbira, balaphon and berimbau, as well as many different kinds of west African drums. Pete has developed the gourdonium which is made up of a rack of tuned gourds similar to Harry Partch's "Gourd Tree" shown in Summit & Widess's (1999) book on page 18.  Larry has developed some gourd stringed instruments, the one and the three stringed bass gourd, similar to Bolog instruments depicted in Dagan's (1988) book on page 152. 

Over the years OGADE’s site-specific performances have become a tradition at various Oxford community functions: they annually participate in events such as the celebration of Martin Luther King Day (see Youtube example), the Ohio Gourd Fair, the opening and closing days of the Oxford Community Farm Market (see photo below), the annual American Cancer Society’s fund raiser Relay for Life,  and the Oxford Community Art Center. Occasionally they make random unannounced gorilla performances in the local community.  OGADE has even inspired one of it's members to create a print of the group that is used on the front page of their current web site (http://www.ogade.org) Thus, OGADE is a vital part of many communities of practice.  And, this descriptive piece might be considered part of their ‘dispersed performance’.

OGADE Relay For Life

drumstrong Relay for Life

Jessie's print


Dagan, Esther A. (1988). The African Calabash: When art shares natures gift. Montreal, Canada: Gallerie Amrad African Arts.

OGADE’s first web site: http://www.users.muohio.edu/shermalw/ogade.html

OGADE’s second web site: http://jomammatee.no-ip.org/ogade This site is no longer available as the server has been taken out of service.  It existed on Jo Hudgins personal computer and when she passed away in 2009 the site was transferred to the third site below here.

OGADE’s third and current (2011) web site is: http://www.ogade.org

Sherman, L. (1990). The Oxford Gourd Ensemble. The Gourd, Volume 20, No. 2, pp. 5-6, ISSN 0888-5672, Summer 1990.  Ohio Gourd Society, Mt. Gilead, Ohio 43338

Sherman, L. W. (1987).  The oxford gourd ensemble: A dispersed and continuing conceptual piece with occasional site-specific performances. Experimental Musical Instruments, II (6), April, 1987, pp. 15-17.

Summit, G & Widess, J. (1999.  Making Gourd Musical Instruments. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Company.

OGADE on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoPZzR30Q7k

LWS: 5-23-2011