Feel the PULSE at HOTA

Pulse, on show at HOTA on 17 December, is described as “a night of world music”, but that barely begins to encapsulate the experience. The rhythm-based line-up is packed with performances featuring percussionists from all around the world.

Words by Nikki Archer

We had a chat with Atman Okyay, the creator of the Pulse Project and producer of the show.

Atman is a self-taught musician who, in his earlier days, was financially constrained and lacked access to formal training and percussion instruments. This did not stop Atman pursuing his interest in music. He just started to use his own limbs to practice beats.

Atman’s educational background is in engineering. The convergence of mathematics and music comes to question. Are they complementary? Has an engineering background been helpful in Atman’s musical voyage?

“Rhythm is very mathematical,” he says.

“The mathematical part of the brain helps for drumming. Rhythm is more mathematical than melody, which is maybe why I play drums and percussion. It feels very connected.”

Atman moved towards the Turkish percussion instrument, ‘Darbuka’, and found heavy influence from Indian music, even eventually ditching the western metronome for its Indian counterpart, the ‘Lehra’.

In addition he grew a keen interest in other instruments such as drums, bass, didgeridoo and jaw harp. He saw a spiritual connection to music and found intent to use it for healing and sharing in ways the spoken word cannot. He claims that, “music unveils secrets.”

The inspiration for Pulse sparked in 2017, when Atman met his percussion master in Egypt. He joined him and other percussionlovers from various nationalities on a camping and musical journey in the desert. After Egypt, Atman continued on to other countries to play and travel along with various diasporic percussionists and musicians, finding authentic connectivity with various cultures through sound.

“In that time it was such a beautiful experience to come together with people from different nationalities, just for the sake of percussion…I wanted to establish such a community.

“People are so mindful and also they are really authentically interested in learning music, rhythm, drumming, percussion…and they are connected.”

Traveling over 30 countries and having lived in eight, Atman has now parked his “Gypsy Soul” in Australia. Atman feels many musicians are focused on one particular style of percussion and so was inspired to take an all-inclusive approach to his percussion workshops. He wanted to bring them all under one umbrella. The project’s slogan states:

“Pulse is a multicultural percussion project which embraces all rhythm lovers from different backgrounds.”

The Pulse Project embraces participants with a diversity of skill levels and backgrounds. Many are beginner level and Pulse has given opportunity to learn and perform alongside professionals of various genres. The Pulse workshops are designed to learn the foundations of rhythm from different parts of the world including the Middle East, Africa, India, Turkey, the Balkans and Latin America.

The culminating show on 17 December is a reflective snapshot of the last year and the year ahead for the Pulse project. We can expect to see an exciting blend and holistic approach to world music. Workshop students will be joining professional musicians, known as the Pulse Collective. An acknowledgment to country with didgeridoo will be followed by a Japanese Taiko drumming set, Indian percussionist, Turkish and Balkan musicians with a belly dancer, African drums and Latino music including Samba.

Atman is grateful for HOTA’s support, finding it a happy surprise in the current climate of the Gold Coast’s mainstream music scene of pop and rock. He sees the event as bringing in a new era of performing arts, stating lack of diversity is something to overcome.

True to its world music genre, Pulse is about connectivity through rhythm, much the same as seeing a local band at the pub or going to a nightclub on the Gold Coast. This event is sure to bring a new energy to the area with global beats.