Issue 10 - Sarah Thawer - October 2019

Featuring the ‘Drum Guru’ herself, Sarah Thawer, this all-female powerhouse issue comes out hot on the heels of women’s month in South Africa. “It started with listening to the music, on stage & diving into creativity of how I could achieve the sounds not even knowing how to hold a stick correctly.” – Sarah Thawer We went all female for this issue, featuring amazing players such as: • Sarah Thawer • Julianna Mascia • Michaela Isaacs • Marguerite Swart We added articles showing our appreciation for the women in our lives. We touched on whether you should quit your day job to pursue your dreams and we included some new drum lessons and a drum chart for the song “Hero” by Skillet, a band being driven forward by female drummer Jen Ledger. So come check out issue 10 and give all the amazing women in the industry the support and respect they more than deserve. – SA Drummer Team.

Featuring the ‘Drum Guru’ herself, Sarah Thawer, this all-female powerhouse issue comes out hot on the heels of women’s month in South Africa.

“It started with listening to the music, on stage & diving into creativity of how I could achieve the sounds not even knowing how to hold a stick correctly.”
– Sarah Thawer

We went all female for this issue, featuring amazing players such as:
• Sarah Thawer
• Julianna Mascia
• Michaela Isaacs
• Marguerite Swart

We added articles showing our appreciation for the women in our lives. We touched on whether you should quit your day job to pursue your dreams and we included some new drum lessons and a drum chart for the song “Hero” by Skillet, a band being driven forward by female drummer Jen Ledger.

So come check out issue 10 and give all the amazing women in the industry the support and respect they more than deserve.

– SA Drummer Team.


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Let us know who you would like to see in future issues.

Or just what you think of the mag, We’ll add our

favourite letters to the next issues.






Editor’s Letter



Our second issue using the new layout and design

is here. And we thought, seeing as it was

just Women’s Month over here in South Africa,

what better way to celebrate than by having

an all female powerhouse issue. There were so

many amazing drummers to choose from but

we finallty settled on the ones you are about to

meet. That being said, even though it was just

Women’s Month, we have had a rough couple

of weeks here when it comes to gender based violence

and the awareness thereof in our country.

So this does end up on a bitter sweet note.

We have also added some articles showing

appreciation to the strong, amazing women in

our lives and we have a drum chart from a band

with a “monster” female drummer; this being

something we would like to do more often for

you guys, adding drum charts for you guys to

peruse, especially from local drummers.

To end it off, we hope you enjoy this very

special issue that we have prepared for you and

we look forward to having more consistent representation

of all the amazing female drummers

out there going forward.



September 2019 | SA DRUMMER | 5




The women behind the drummers

Giving credit where credit is due

By Louis R . Malherbe II

Being a musician and then also being the

partner of a musician is something that is

often glamorized. Parties, events, meeting

celebrities, etc. We know that sometimes

that is a part of it. But, what we want to

know is what is the side that people don’t

see? The behind the scenes of being a drummers

partner? What are the parts that aren’t


Caitlin: Yes, being married to a drummer

definitely has its perks. We’ve had

some awesome experiences together.

But as you’ve said, there is a side that

not everyone sees. These are the moments

when all night band practice is

happening or weekends away for festivals

that I’m unable to attend. Theres’s

studio time for a few days in a row. It’s

the late nights and a couple hours of

sleep when we have to be up and ready

super early the next morning. There

have been a few family occasions, such

as weddings and milestone birthdays

that I’ve had to attend alone because it

falls on the same day/weekend as a gig.

There are those unseen moments when

I’m at home, unable to sleep, because I

want to be sure that he gets home safely

after a late night’s gig.

Heidi: The truly unglamorous parts

that people don’t see includes all the

effort put into getting the gear to the

venue, set up for sound check and then

& & &

Candice Warnasuriya

Larissa Ferreira

(Drummer for Variary)

Caitlin Jayne Chetty

Craig Wesley Chetty

(Drummer for Strait Jackal)

Heidi Kuhn

Louis R. Malherbe II

(Drummer for Jesse Clegg)

packed up again. I’ve spent many a late ited him here in JHB for the first time. I

night at the end of the gig lugging gear thought he was soooo cool hahaha. My

back with Louis to the car to pack up. musician boyfriend.

Sometimes I wish that he was the singer

so that the packing up part wasn’t so on him. I clearly remember him play-

Heidi: I instantly had a major crush

tedious (not really but sometimes maybe

a little).

in Potchefstroom at a small bar. Never

ing in a bluesy rock band at that time

Candice: Carrying the gear. With have I ever seen a man playing a cajon

both of us being in a band together it and purple tambourine look so attractive.

I’m pretty sure the performance

means I carry my stuff AND then I have

to help her carry all of her stuff. was great too!

Candice: I was like damn she’s got

What went through your head the first time good timing. I just thought she was

you saw your partner performing? better than all the other drummers in

Caitlin: The first time I saw Chetty play the world.

was actually at church band practice, in

2008. We were still dating and I had vis-

For you, what has been the most memora-

6 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019

le gig your partner has played? And why

was it so memorable for you?

Caitlin: The most memorable gig

that Chetty has played was definitely

Strait-jackal’s first gig at Oppi-Koppi

in 2016. He always told me how much

he wanted to play at Oppi and I knew

that this was an opportunity not taken

lightly. So seeing him up on that stage

was a really proud moment. I knew how

much went into being there. Also, their

last gig in Lesotho recently, at Afriski

Winterfest was awesome! Everyone had

such a jol.

Heidi: Thats quite a difficult question

to answer. I think the most memorable

one would have to be the first

time I went with to Splashy Fen, Louis

was playing for The Motherland at that

time. It was a great gig and the most

beautiful festival ive attended. We were

however not prepared for the cold!! Be

prepared for the cold!!!!

Candice: We’ve always been in bands

together, even before we were dating.

My most memorable gig with Larissa is

hard to pin down because at every gig

I wasn’t even focused on her, I was just

trying not to mess up my guitar parts.

I never managed to look at her while we

were on stage because I was focused on

my own stuff. So technically I’ve never

“seen” her play a show. Ha ha!

Right, we need to know, what is the one

thing they complain about most when it

comes to their drumming career?

Caitlin: “I’m never in photos!” Hahahahaha.

No seriously, drummers are way

at the back so they aren’t always on the

pictures with the whole band on stage.

The amount of drumsticks he goes

through is another complaint haha.

Heidi: Probably the admin around

being a professional musician. It’s quite

difficult to plan around music lessons,

gigging for multiple bands and rushing

to sound checks. Just looking at his

scheduling on our calendar makes me

tired so I can definitely sympathize.

Candice: She complains about a

lot. Number one is that she isn’t endorsed

and has to pay for drum sticks

always. She complains about not gigging

enough, about not being in studio

enough and about how she can’t play

her hi-hat like Jay Postones. Shame.

Okay drummers, now it’s your turn. Show

some appreciation for your ladies. How do

they make your life as a drummer easier?

Chetty: My lady has been there and has

been supporting me from the very beginning...

with the late nights and time

away from home, I’m always sorted with

schedules, things to pack and a cooked

meal before or after a gig. She’s always

in front taking videos and dancing her

tits off. At festivals she’s always running

around reminding people when

our gig is and that they need to be there

to dance with her and helping me carry

my heavy equipment from my car to

stage and back. She’s my number one

supporter and first person to regret not

coming to a gig.

Louis: Wow, it’s impossible to list all

the things that Heidi does for me when

it comes to actually just making my career

possible. The amount of shows she

has lugged gear at 01:00 in the morning

with me, and the amount of times she

has packed me quick little snack packs

either when I leave for a long roadtrip

to a gig or just for a day where I am up

and down the entire day. She knows I

can barely take care of myself when it

comes to manic days so she helps me

do it. If it wasn’t for her I 100% think

I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my

own schedule. She also vents with me

about all the frustrations of being a

professional musician and it helps!!

Larissa: Okay, my turn! I am probably

the luckiest drummer in the world

because I’m married to a guitarist. I get

to talk about music and make music

inside and outside the band room. She

makes my life easy by making music

so accessible for me. It’s really special

when you get to do something you’re so

passionate about with the person you

love. Also I have a lot of gear and she

really does carry a bunch of it around

for me.

September 2019 | SA DRUMMER | 7



Gem in

the Heart

of the


(of JHB)



By Louis R. Malherbe II

Photography by:

Trioleo Photos

September 2019 | SA DRUMMER | 9

Michaela Isaacs

In our never-ending quest to find

new content for our readers I happened

to stumble across one of your

videos, and just fell in love with your

playing. It was such a great feeling when

I realised you were South African as well.

So first up let’s hear where you are from?

I was born and lived in Little Falls until

I was three years old and we moved to

Johannesburg South where I grew up

and still currently reside.

How old are you now and how long have

you been playing drums for?

I am 20 and I have been playing drums

from as young as five years old but more

seriously for about nine years now.

What got you into music and when did it

happen for you?

I was brought up by a very musical

family. My mom sings, my dad plays

the keyboard and my brother plays the

bass guitar. There is no doubt that I was

always surrounded by talented musicians

and exposed to incredible music

with extended family members also being

musicians. My love and passion for

music started from a very young age,

I used to play drums on car seats, tables

and chairs etc. The minute I heard

music I got my sticks, which was cutlery

at the time. I was about five years

old when my father realised I had a special

gift and I got my first drum set for


You’ve got some chops going on for sure.

10 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019

Where did you pick that up? Did you teach

yourself or did you have education or a

drum teacher?

I have never really been one for chops,

I enjoy sticking to the groove but I am

fascinated when watching other drummers

play chops. This inspires me to try

and I quite enjoy it. I was self-taught at

first but received a few lessons from David

Klassen and was mentored by Mr.

Larry Rose while I was at the National

School of the Arts.

Are you currently studying anything drum


I am currently studying Music Production;

it’s not directly related to drums

but does afford me an opportunity to

bring my instrument to assist students

with drum tracking.

You cover a lot of pop music in your Instagram

videos but you put a very different

spin on them when playing. What were

your musical influences like growing up?

My parents were musicians in our local

church and also sang in various gospel

bands so my first exposure was to different

local gospel bands and their style

of playing. My dad is also into jazz, fusion

and R‘nB music and over the years

invested into a lot of live DVD recordings

of artists like Fourplay, Earl Klugh,

Lira, Isreal Houghton, Fred Hammond

and many more. I was exposed to different

genres and styles of playing and

my main influencers were Harvey Mason,

Ron Otis, Joshua JStar Zacheus,

Marvin McQuitty Jr, Calvin Rodgers to

mention a few.

What genres do you find yourself listen-

September 2019 | SA DRUMMER | 11

Michaela Isaacs

L o c a l H i d d e n G e m

12 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019

Michaela Isaacs

ing to most often now?

I currently play drums for my local

church and therefore listen to a lot of

gospel music. Gospel music has evolved

over the years and you find various

genres within gospel music. I do however

also enjoy a variety of genres and

listen to a lot of pop, R’nB, jazz, fusion,

soul, rhythm & blues artists.

Who are your local and international

drumming inspirations that you currently

look up to?

Locally in no particular order, I look

up to guys like Lydell Wilson, Joshua

JStar Zacheus, Ramon Sampson,

Leagan Breda, Sabu Satsha, Sinikwe

Mabaso, Ricco and Daniel van

Niekerk. Internationally my female

inspiratons would be Sarah Thawer,

The Pocket Queen (Taylor Gordon),

Nikki Glasper and Bianca Richardson.

I know that’s a long list

(lol) but lastly there would definitely

be guys like Eric Moore, Aaron

Spears, Devon Taylor and Aaron


Are you involved in any bands at the

moment? What are you currently doing


I play at my church, Crystal Ministries

and for Thabsie. At the moment I am

working on improving my drumming

and would like to start my own drum


Are you playing at a professional level at

the moment? If, not, is that something

you would

like to do? Or do you have other plans for

your future?

I am playing with Thabsie, she is fairly

new in the business and I look forward

to growing with her.

What are your favourite Cymbals, Drums

and Stick brands? And what models of

those brands do you actively use?

I recently moved on from using Paiste

to Anatolian Cymbals, the Kappadokia

series to be exact and I must

say I am enjoying them, they have

a very earthy and natural sound to

them which is good for jazz music.

I have the 14” regular hi-hats,

15” crash which is very small but

still has a great sound and the

20” ride. I am still working toward

purchasing an 8” splash

and maybe an 18” crash. I have always

been a lover of Tama drums

and I currently own the all birch

shells, Tama Silverstar 6-piece

kit. I use the Remo Emperor black

suede drumheads on my toms and

the standard Remo Emperor coated

drumhead on my snare drum. When it

comes to drumsticks, I love Vater and alternate

between 5As, 5Bs and Sabu Satshas

signature African Rhythm sticks

which are the 55AAs.





14 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019


Exploding onto the scene with


Balancing drumming, social media and education

By Louis R. Malherbe II

September 2019 | SA DRUMMER | 17

Julianna Mascia

You are absolutely one powerhouse

drummer, especially on your Instagram

videos. There’s not much

more to find about you on the net, apart

from your playing, which already speaks

tons. But would you mind sharing some

details about your life with our readers?

At what age did you start playing drums

and how old are you now?

Thank you! I started playing the drums

during my freshman year of high

school, just around my fifteenth birthday.

I’m currently 22-years-old, born in

Staten-Island and raised in New Jersey

with one heck-of-a NY/NJ accent.

There’s a story about a grumpy English

teacher being the reason you picked up

drumming initially. Is this true, and were

there any other influences in your life that

led you to drumming?

Who can blame her for being annoyed

with a student tapping their hands and

feet the entire class?! Haha. I shockingly

used to be a super, super, super

shy kid. I am forever grateful for that

push to go out of my comfort zone. The

camera continues to push me, for any

one can really examine their technique

and search for areas of opportunity to

grow. In high school, my band director

always pushed me to be better since day

one. He taught me the importance of

18 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019








to have my absolutely amazing best

friend wake me up. She asked me to go

to an event with her in California for a

drum company I have highly admired

for years. I knew I couldn’t go empty

handed and it was time to put my

over-thinking mindset aside for once.

I had exactly a week to get content out

and not at the best time – finals week.

I made it to Cali – and then it clicked.

This is my dream; this is what I want to

do. I had to do something while I was

still in school, so it was time to evaluate

what was realistic for me. With taking

18 credits, working, having an internship

and hitting the gym six days

a week, I chose Instagram clips. I really

can’t thank my best friend enough,

the iconic YouTuber and overall Internet

sensation herself, Kristina Schiano.

I especially can’t thank her enough

for all the times she’s come over my

house to help me record and film and

has had to deal with my crazy self. I’m

super grateful for my family, who have

had to deal with so many hours of loud

playing throughout the years. Mom

and Dad, I’m sorry!!! I also am blessed

to have several talented friends who

have gifted me inspiration and support

acknowledging everything from hard

work to failure. Most importantly, he

believed in me and I needed that more

than ever. We still keep in touch and I

know we always will.

Fast forward into my 20’s, I was in

a rut. I lost inspiration from getting

a small taste of touring to eventually

leaving my band at the time. I didn’t

have the courage to post any videos

until I was beyond fortunate enough


Julianna Mascia

from jams to buying several tickets to

shows over the years.

Did you have a drum teacher at the school

you were playing drums at or are you selftaught?

I went to a local music shop for my first

30-minute lesson. My teacher, Brian,

told me we would start on the practice

pad for a few weeks and eventually

head to the kit. 20 minutes later, I had

played my favorite All Time Low song

in full on the kit. I remember my teacher

telling my father, “Your daughter

has something very special.” However,

I decided to go off on my own and

kept in touch with Brian. At the time, I

was still highly invested in sports and

would have never thought drumming

could indeed be my career. When I was

16, I dropped sports and instead spent

that time listening to endless tracks

off my iPod and watching drum cover

upon cover on YouTube. Drumeo eventually

became a huge influence in my

self-education, with everything any

drummer could ever want at their fingertips.

I continued to learn in college,

taking music theory and technology

classes. Even outside of class, I spent

hours learning the basics of how to

edit videos, mic placements, recording,

etc. and attended lots of local shows to

watch other musicians. I think we all

continue to teach each other, indirectly

and directly. There are always things

we can learn along our journeys.

It was quite strange the first time I came

across your playing on Instagram. I tried

my best to follow the rabbit hole and see

where you’re playing started and how you

progressed and to the best of my efforts

all I could come up with was that you literally

just exploded into existence with an

arsenal of chops that most players would

dream of. Can you shed some light on this


Love me some chops! Haha. I know it

all comes down to the pocket. When

you’re hired, you have to enhance the

music and embody the sound. This is

where it all started for me and it will

continue to be my foundation in hopes

to tour soon. However, I take my clips as

an opportunity to create my own fills,

focus on truly listening to all elements

of a track and creatively grow overall

as a musician (not just a drummer). I

cherish the recognition, love, feedback,

inspiration and opportunities of

growth. After only posting drum clips

for about a year, I am truly blessed to

have received the amount of love I have

gotten. I’m super excited now to chase

my career in full-force post-college. I

previously played in some local bands,

cover bands and even one serious band

for quite some time. However, I decided

to make the decision to finish my

education and chose to major in communications

with a focus in public relations.

My education helped with understanding

branding, marketing and

enhanced my communication skills

while also developing a true passion

for it. It was then I decided I wanted to

start a project on my own with drum

covers always being something I really

wanted to do. I needed it – I needed to

chase something on my own, to grow

better independently both musically

and personally.

Did you have any musical family members

while growing up?

Music was a world I had discovered on

my own, even outside of playing an

instrument. No one in my immediate

family plays an instrument and I think

it’s still pretty shocking that I’ve turned

half of our basement into my recording

space to chase a dream. Prior to

this, it started with pop music for me.

I remember carrying around the same

navy blue CD player with that years’

“NOW” CD. Who would have thought

that I would eventually become infatuated

with the idea of playing an instrument?

I remember the day so vividly – I

was listening to a Paramore single on

the back of the bus on repeat the entire

way to school. This actually inspired me

to pick up the guitar first. Fast forward

to high school with an altered vision

for primarily drums, my band director

helped me branch out into many styles

such as rock and jazz. When I joined

my college jazz band, my craft became

much for preciseness and my musical

ear grew. While in this group, I met and

performed with Bernie Williams along

with many other renown artists such

as Bernard Purdie, Brandford Marsalis

and Renee Marie. Today, I listen to it

all. I think it’s important to keep every

door open to all different styles of music,

to not only learn, but to be a versatile

player for more opportunities.

How did you go about developing your

own identity as an artist and a drummer?

I stay true to myself. I always have and I

always will, with anything I do. I’m passionate,

a jokester, like to have fun and

spread that happiness to others. However,

I’m also very serious, diligent and

work hard at whatever is thrown my

way (even in school with 4.0 GPA). Balance

is important – you have to be great

in your craft and a superior team player.

I’m not afraid to be myself – even

if that means putting on a Darth Vader

mask or throwing Sour Patch Kids all

over my drum set. It’s important to remember

who you are and your foundation.

What bands have you played for and

toured with so far?

I’ve worked and toured with several solo

local artists and groups. I was in one serious

band in which I was fortunate to

experience my first international tour

in Japan.

Are you actually performing with any acts


Not at the moment. I made the decision

to focus on getting better as a player and

musician in hopes for future freelance

work after college. Now, after graduating

in May 2019, I have my doors fully

open for any opportunities!

What are your goals with regards to your

drumming career currently? Are you looking

to become a social media drummer, a

touring drummer, a studio drummer? Or

20 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019

and acoustic drums. We live in a time

where we are fortunate enough to incorporate

electronic products to expand

our creativity, not just in drumming,

but in so many of the Roland products.

all of the above?

In regards to my career, it’s a mix. Ideally

– I want to play my heart out every

night on stage in a different way

than most have seen and have yet to see

through my videos. However, I want to

continue to post on my socials, too. I

would never want to trade the platform

I am blessed to have to inspire and get

to know other drummers and for them

to inspire me.

You are primarily active on Instagram,

where you post regular drum vids, with

all sorts of twists, and it’s great. Is there

a reason that you aren’t also posting full

length video on YouTube?

I had to do what was realistic for me, especially

with taking 18 credits, having

an internship, maintaining a healthy

lifestyle and working. I set realistic

goals to not only post, but focus on my

mental and physical self and perfecting

my craft behind the camera.

Do you feel that being one of the “Hit Like

A Girl” contest weekly winners, was a big

deal for your career? Do you think it had

something to do with catapulting you into

a spotlight you weren’t in before?

“Hit Like A Girl” definitely inspired me

to be better and blessed me with opportunity.

This recognition did indeed help

me join my old band and experience

touring internationally. Post competition,

this inspiration helped me develop

my socials on my own.

It was obvious that you were heading in

that direction, but you are now officially

a Roland artist. What does this mean

for you? Are you going to be moving into

a more electronic scene or maybe focus

more on the hybrid vibes?

Future Sound

Pushing the capabilities

of drummers

in the modern world

with modern gear.

I’m always going to explore the endless

options of combining both electronics

Do you feel that partnering up with Roland,

will open up certain doors for you

or present you with opportunities you

wouldn’t otherwise have had?

Absolutely. I’ve been working with Roland

for over a year now, attending

events for their new products and performing

at their NAMM 2019 booth.

Ironically, the first kit I ever played was

a Roland kit, so they definitely hold a

sentimental place in my heart. Now, as

an artist, I am ready to work even harder

with a staff that empowers and supports

me. More specifically, I want to

be an example and outlet for aspiring

drummers that you can achieve superior

sound and your dreams out of

your home, basement, practice spot,

etc. Now with my TM-6 Pro in my studio

set up, I am thrilled to show viewers

how Roland products can enhance

their sound, creativity and confidence

to put out quality content to showcase

their talents. However, Roland and I

are not only showcasing these quality

products but are focused on the bigger

picture: spreading priceless inspiration

to all musicians.

Can you run us through your current gear

set up? What kit are you using and what

cymbal set-up are you using?

I proudly endorse Evans Drumheads,

Vater Drumsticks, Roland, MeeAudio,

DrumTacs, Snareweight and VRATIM.

I rotate between Vater’s Power 5A and

3A models and have for years. I tend to

aim toward the 3A models when I want

to practice my rudiments since they are

a bit heavier. I’m currently rocking my

Roland Octapad (SPD-30) and I am super

excited to start showing you all the

magic of Roland’s newest hybrid drum

machine, the TM-6 Pro. I really believe

this product is going to change drumming

forever and whip up endless creative



Julianna Mascia

I currently am rocking a Tama Silverstar

Kit (22” x 18”, 16” x 16”, 10” x 8”)

with an Orange County Percussion 13x7

Snare. I play Zildjian cymbals – a mix

of A and K Customs, the Oriental Series

and the A series. I’m a sucker for

stacks. I’m constantly mixing around

my cymbals. I think its super important

to change your set up every month or

so to inspire new ideas and strengthen

technique. I also use DrumTacs to and

a silver chrome Snareweight to help

dampen my drums to get rid of additional

hums. If you catch me wearing

any drum-themed apparel, it’s from

Destroy A Drum, the sickest and most

comfortable drum apparel out there.

For drumming shoes, I prefer the VRA-

TIM Drum Shoe II for an additional grip

on the pedals.

“I want to show you can

come from a dream – you

can come from no musical

background at a

young age – you can come

from a small town on the

focusing on overall musicality. After

searching to purchase my Tama Silverstar

kit, I discovered Dillinger Escape

Plan’s Billy Rymer, who had demoed the

kit out in a video. Shortly after, I found

Matt Gartska as well. Rymer and Gartska

eventually became two of my biggest

influences, especially in opening my

mind to polyrhythms. Currently, my

absolute favourite drummer is Aaron

Spears, not only for his superior playing,

but his love and spirit he spreads

everywhere he walks.

What have been some of the highlights to

you career so far? Played any interesting

shows? Any amazing experiences? Met

any people that you wouldn’t have met


I was fortunate enough to sit in and

jam with Bernie Williams on multiple

occasions with his all-star band with

legends such as Richie Cannata. Ultimately,

NAMM 2019 changed my life

both musically and personally. I was

able to perform with Williams, perform

four times at the Roland booth

while demoing the TM-6 Pro and improvised

a set at the Drumeo booth. I

remember looking at the camera for a

brief second and couldn’t believe I was

seeing myself behind that iconic blue

background I had watched for endless

hours when practicing. I’ve been fortunate

to meet so many awesome players

and meeting so many other drummers

I have inspired in-person. There’s no

greater feeling in the world than someone

taking time out of their day to not

only support you, but to tell you their

story and how you’ve helped make them

better in some way. That to me is something

that continues to change my life.

Where to from here? What are your longterm


From here, I grow and continue to grow.

I have concepts I want to build toward

and eventually introduce throughout

my career, aside from touring, studio

work, clinics, lessons, workshops, etc.

As I build toward these ideas, ultimately,

I want to lead a change. I want to

show you can come from a dream – you

can come from no musical background

at a young age – you can come from a

small town on the East Coast. I am in

full-gear, taking a chance toward my

dream. I live with a faith that someone

will take a chance on me and I can continue

that chance in the future to another

aspiring drummer.

East Coast.“

“I’d like to leave you all with something: it takes time.

It takes effort. It’s not going to always be easy and expect

Who were some of the most influential

drummers for you in your early days of


It all started after listening to Paramore’s

Zac Farro’s style. When I started

jamming to Paramore on the guitar,

I noticed my focus started to shift toward

the drums. The way he accenting

his grooves and fills was a way that my

ears have never heard. Eventually, this

led to searching YouTube and discovering

Cobus’ iconic “Pop” by NYSNC

cover. Additionally, Guitar Center 2012

Drum-Off Champion Juan Carlito Mendoza

helped open my mind to incorporating

hybrid drums while playing and

frustration. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had lost an

awesome session, had lights falling on my head, etc. But it

can be done. I promise to be living proof of that and we can be

that living proof together. If you have found what you truly

love to do, whatever that may be, why not spend the rest of

your life getting better at it?

Thank you for your time, SA Drummer and special thanks to

Evans Drumheads, Vater Drumsticks, Roland, MeeAudio, Drum-

Tacs, Snareweight and VRATIM. Much love to all of my drummers

and musicians”

22 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019

She is the drum guru; genre bender, positivity ambassador and intense facial expressions


all wrapped in one powerhouse package.

24 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019



By Louis R. Malherbe II

September 2019 | SA DRUMMER | 25

Sarah Thawer

Okay to start off, can we get some back story? Where

were you born? Where did you grow up and at what

age was your first musical performance? Age 6 if

I’m not mistaken.

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. Close! :-) My first

performance on stage was at age 5.

When did you start playing the drums?

I have been playing drums for as long as I can remember.

My parents have footage of me playing the drums at age

two, so I usually go with that!

Were there any other instruments before you found the best


Drums were always number one and they will always be! :-)

We had so many percussion instruments as well as drum

kits in the house. I played various world percussion growing

up, such as tabla, dholak, dhol, ghatam, kanjira, cajon,

tumbek, darbuka, congas, timbale, bongos, etc. I also

studied western classical piano for over 10 years as well

as sang in english and various other languages. I feel that

playing all of these instruments on top of playing drum

kit played a huge roll in my development as a drummer

and musician.

What was your earliest musical performance? Age six if I’m

not mistaken?

Close! :-) My first performance on stage was at age five.

Did your dad being a musician have a very large influence on

you with regards to your passions for drumming and just music

in general?

My dad’s passion for music was the way I was introduced

to music. He would have rehearsals a few times a week at

our home and there would be instruments laying everywhere.

My dad would babysit my twin sister and I by having

us three jamming on instruments for hours. I would

fall asleep with either hearing music from my dad’s band

rehearsing or my parents would have us fall asleep to different

albums playing every single night.

Since my dad is a self-taught musician as well, I learned

music in a very organic way. I first started off playing percussion

in his band then moved to the drum kit. Being the

drummer in his band, he didn’t always hire percussionists,

and he would ask me to play all the percussion parts

on the kit. Indian music is very percussion based and he

would ask me to cover tabla, dholak, dhol, etc parts on the

drum kit. This forced me to tap into my creative side. This

became a hobby of mine, where after school I would listen

to Indian music, hear the grooves, play them on Indian

percussion and then hop on the drum kit and see how I

could voice them on the kit. To the point of imitating the

26 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019


“On stage he would quickly beat box

the groove to me and tell me to just

feel the song and figure it out.”

clicking of a ring hitting the shell on the dholak, and using

the rim on the kit to simulate that sound.

Two big lessons I learned from playing with my dad was

learning the right “feel” in the music and developing intuition.

Anything I played, specifically the Indian genres of

music such as ghazals, bhajans, qawallis, folk, etc, I would

start playing them in rehearsals for the gigs, and he would

say, “It doesn’t feel right”. Because he was self taught, he

didn’t know why it didn’t feel right, so he would just say

“it doesn’t feel right. Figure out why, fix it and come back

and play me the groove”. I developed intuition by playing

with my dad because he would put me in so many situations

where we would be on stage, I wouldn’t know what

song we were about to play, and when we would start playing

it was a song that was never rehearsed and chosen on

the spot. On stage he would quickly beat box the groove to

me and tell me to just feel the song and figure it out. His

band was (still is) kind of a house band for different artists

coming from India, for local gigs and various festivals, so

the repertoire is massive and of course each artist’s style is

very different.

My development as a musician was unorthodox. I never

had formal lessons on drum set growing up. I learned on

the bandstand and from the music, from watching, and

transcribing percussion onto the kit. I never learned how

to hold a stick or never used a drum book until I went to



Sarah Thawer

Was your mom a musician as well?

My mom is not a musician, she’s an

electrical engineer. She has an incredible

work ethic, discipline and this constant

desire to learn in every area of her

life. She inspires me to practice, work

hard and her motto is, “Never leave a

page unturned”.

Tell us about your drumming journey, and

how growing up in a traditional Indian

household influenced that?

My parents did not want me to become

a drummer because they never wanted

me to suffer and they cared for my

well-being. Their reasoning was the life

of a musician/drummer can be unpredictable

and not consistent or reliable

and it includes staying up late nights,

carrying gear and on top of that, drummers

are always at the back and that no

one cares about drummers. They said

if I wanted to be in music I should become

a singer/songwriter and pianist,

so that I will always be at the front of

the stage since I am the ‘artist’, and that

I will not get treated poorly, and make

more money.

As a result, they enrolled me in western

classical piano lessons for over 10

years, as well as Indian classical singing

and pop singing for over 10 years.

At the time I hated it but was forced to

attend these weekly lessons and practice

piano and singing daily. However,

they quickly noticed that all I cared

about was playing drums and how hard

I worked towards being a drummer.

So they told me to take the mindset of

being an artist and translate it to the

drums and become a “drummer-artist”

and have a name for myself.

I feel so fortunate that my parents

have been incredibly supportive towards

my music journey for as long as

I can remember. Since I was a little kid

I asked for them to buy me so many instruments,

and they would never say

no. They bought me over three drum

kits growing up, over 20 percussion instruments,

pianos, guitar, you name it.

They always encouraged me to practice,

to keep learning and getting better. My

parents, especially my mom and grandfather

believed in getting educated at

the post-secondary level. I wasn’t sure

if I wanted to go to university for music,

I just wanted to play. She forced me

to go to university and told me that the

condition was that they would continue

to support me after high school only

if I went to university and got a degree.

So I went to study at York University in

Toronto to study jazz and world music

performance, was awarded the Oscar

Peterson Scholarship, and graduated

with the Summa Cum Laude distinction.

I thank her almost everyday that

she forced me to go to university. University

exposed me to so many genres

of music and exposed me to so much

that I did not know was out there.

Can you tell us more about your piano education

and training and how it affected

your perception of music, your thinking

and performance on a kit?

My parents forced to take piano classes

weekly for over 10 years. I studied

western classical piano under the Royal

Conservatory of Music program, and

completed until grade 9 (which was the

second last grade for the program). Then

in university I took harmony, counterpoint,

jazz theory, harmony and composition

also. Understanding theory

and playing piano is so important. It

has helped me see music from various

angles and helped me understand what

is happening in the music, so I don’t always

have to respond to rhythms— so

that I can respond to chords and melody.

I love listening to music without any

drum kit and I especially love listening

to ballads. My theory and piano education

connected me emotionally to melody

and harmony. I feel so emotionally

invested in chord changes, melody and

can respond with an emotional connection

on the drums.

You told your parents that if they supported

your drumming career you would

give over a 100% and it’s evident that you

did seeing as you received the Oscar Peterson

Scholarship as well as graduating

with the Summa Cum Laude distinction.

Have you always been a hard worker? Or

was this you you proving as point?

To be honest, I don’t think I work hard

enough. The thing is that I love what I

do, and because I enjoy it so much, I can’t

tell if I am working hard— i’m just having

fun and enjoying the journey. It’s

funny because when I am doing laundry

I feel like I have worked extremely

hard and need a reward and a break.

But when I practice three hours on the

drum kit on an average day, I just want

to keep going and I know there’s still so

much to learn and do.

Do you feel there were benefits to growing

up in Canada, Toronto, with regards

to the music scene, culture etc?

Most definitely. Toronto is extremely

diverse in regards to the culture and

especially music. You can listen to any

genre of music and you can find a venue

that will suit that genre. One of the

main reasons I love living in Toronto is

because I get to play at least three different

genres of music weekly. Every Sunday

I play gospel music at a church (this

will be the fourth year since I started

playing there), then I’ll have a straightahead

jazz gig at The Rex Hotel and

Blues Bar, then the following day I’ll be

playing Cuban music at Lula Lounge,

then some R’nB and hiphop at Poetry

Jazz Cafe, then some middle eastern

music at the DROM, and then I’ll play

some Indian music at a festival. By the

way, this is just scratching the surface!

You strongly advocate taking Indian

rhythms and applying them to the drums

in a modern way. How do you go about

translating or interpreting these ideas?

A simple example of interpreting for

instance the tabla on the kit would be

to take the bass of the tabla (Baiyan) and

assign it’s pattern to the kick and take

the high pitch sound of the tabla and

assign it to the snare, and the hi hats

would be emulating the ghost notes

that are played in between the accents

on the tabla, which really helps with

the feel. To go another step further, the

28 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019


“I never knew that I had

crazy facial expressions

when I played the drums,

until people started

telling me that they love

my showmanship.”


You’ve never seen

anyone with as

much expression

as Sarah Thawer

September 2019 | SA DRUMMER | 29

Sarah Thawer

syllable “Ghe” being the bass of the tabla

would be the kick, the “Tin” a more

open sound on the tabla could be simulated

by the cross stick and “Ta”, a sharp

accent could be the snare.

My approach of translating Indian

rhythms and grooves came from just

having fun and being creative. Growing

up I was a kid who was a drummer

but loved the rhythm and grooves

that came from percussion. It became

a mission of mine and a hobby to hear

a tabla, or dholak or dhol groove for instance

and then find many ways to voice

it on the kit. My favourite rhythms to

translate on the kit were from genres

such as ghazals, qawallis, folk, classical,

semi-classical, Bollywood, and so

many others.

A little back story on why I started

translating Indian rhythms onto the


Indian music was the only music

I was surrounded by and listened

to growing up. On these records, the

rhythm section is filled with various

and diverse percussion instruments,

with drum kit being played like a per-

“It started with listening

to the music, on

stage & diving into creativity

of how I could

achieve the sounds not

even knowing how to

hold a stick correctly.”

30 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019


on the SPD 30. I still remember some of

those grooves.

Growing up I never played drum kit

in a conventional way - I never thought

of coordination, independence, rudiments

or any of that stuff. That came

later on. I just tried playing the grooves,

beats and tried to emulate the sounds

from those records, as mentioned earlier.

Then, I would start to improvise. I

would sit for hours and just play with

the floor tom. Looking back now, I did

develop some independence as many

of the grooves had a theme and then

one limb would do different variations,

but I never thought of it like that. My

drumming journey never started with

a drum book, a rudiment or a drum

teacher. It started with my ears, listening

to the music, on stage and diving

into creativity of how I could achieve

the sounds and have a creative approach

without even knowing how to hold a

stick correctly and understanding various

grips. That mindset of listening

to percussion and playing grooves that

stem from percussion on a drum kit has

moulded me into the drummer I am

today. It’s like seeing the kit in a whole

new way.

#VF Jams LIVE! What a performance! Tell

us about that feeling and how exactly #VF

Jams work?

Thank you! :-) Being a part of VFJams

Live was truly an honour. Joe Testa (Vice

President of Artist Relations at Zildjian

and Vic Firth) reached out in November

2017, about two months before and

asked me if I wanted to be a part of the

lineup. I couldn’t believe it and was beyond

excited. Robert Sput Searight was

the musical director for the session and

he rearranged and added so much to my

song for the session. It was THE experience

of a lifetime; to perform at East

West Studios in Hollywood, to have all

of your idols watch you play and to play

with an all-star band that I’ve actually

never played with before at that time

but have been a fan of for years. We ran

through our song twice the day before,

and the day of the session it was 3-2-1

GO. The take that was chosen and released

was my first take. I was nervous

because everywhere I turned was a musician

or drummer I loved and every

instrument I heard in my headphones

was being played by some of my favourite


Anyone who watched that performance

would be hard-pressed to put you in a

specific stylistic box. It was such a beautiful

blend of everything from rock to Indian

rhythms. How do you find yourself

being so diverse when it comes to playing

music in all these styles?

I grew up listening and playing mainly

Bollywood music (music from Indi-

cussion instrument rather than it being

in the forefront such as in western

music. I would line up all my percussion

instruments and drum kit in the

basement and would use my elbows,

fingers, hands, hold the stick in funny

ways, hit cookie jars, hair straighteners

and the locks on doors to try and achieve

and copy the sounds and grooves that I

heard on those records. I even remember

hiding in the corner during family

gatherings to make drum and percussion

grooves on my dad’s drum machine:

BOSS Dr. Rhythm DR-660 and

September 2019 | SA DRUMMER | 31

Sarah Thawer

GENRE BENDING It’s impossible to put into words exactly how truly versatile,

intruiging and convincing Sarah’s performance was.

an cinema), which in itself contains so

many genres. For instance, there was

an era of Cuban music where there were

congas, guiro, timbale in the music.

As well middle eastern music, hiphop,

R’nB, flamenco, jazz— you name it.

I never grew up consciously learning

different styles, to me it was all music.

I don’t think I could ever only play one

genre of music. I love it because I find

myself constantly re-inventing myself

in different situations. When I play gospel

music every Sunday I am known

there as a gospel drummer, when I play

indian music at festivals I am known

as a drummer specialising in Indian

music, when I play with an R’nB artist I

am known there as an R’nB drummer.

I find it so challenging in the most fun

way, because it forces to me to be as authentic

as I can to each genre and to

constantly listen and study the music.

Is there any specific style of music you

have a particular love for?

That’s a tough one for me to answer. If

I have to answer I can give three vague

categories: jazz (improvising), anything

with groove (hiphop, r&b, gospel),

world (indian, cuban, etc.) and lastly

I like to use the word fusion because

it encompasses everything and has no


I recently witnessed your out of this world

single pedal speed. How long did it take

you to develop that speed/technique?

It took me a few years to develop my

single pedal technique. Especially to

figure out which technique works for

me depending on how many strokes I

want to play. I don’t think I’m that fast,

still a long way to go. :-)

Was there a reason you opted for building

single pedal speed instead of using a

double pedal?

I wanted to make sure that I can first do

everything that I want to do with one

pedal rather than relying on a second


Shout out to your brands, Vic Firth, Evans,

Yamaha, Zildjian. How long have you

been with all of them?

Most definitely! A huge shoutout and

lots of love to Vic Firth, Evans, Yamaha

and Zildjian! I have been officially

with Yamaha and Zildjian since 2017

and with Vic Firth and Evans/D’Addario

since 2016.

Additionally, I endorse ProLogix

Practice Pads, 64 Audio in-ears and Gruv

Gear. I also am the brand ambassador

for the company Remitbee. Remitbee is

one of the most reputable and leading

money transferring online companies

in Canada. It is regarded as one of the

best ways to transfer money from Can-

32 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019


has to rely on anyone to get work— that

one was a big one for me. I played this

gig in Amsterdam back in 2015 and we

(the musicians) were walking with the

artist back to the hotel, and it started

to rain. The organisers rushed to cover

the artist with umbrellas and the musicians

and I were soaked and walking

in the rain. That made me frustrated

and there have been so many situations

where I have seen this difference in

treatment between the musicians and

the artist since I was a kid. So growing

up I developed that mindset of being a

drummer/musician but an artist at the

same time. I love social media because

it gives us such a platform to create our

own fan base and our own brand, and

not having to rely on anyone to get any

publicity or work.

Style & Genre Fluidity

So between all the Drumeo

Drum-offs, Bollywood

Monster Mashups,

Drum Fests and all the

other gigs thrown in,

Sarah is as comfortable

playing Indian Rhythms

in a Saree as she is when

playing a full on rock show

in a jumpsuit.

ada to India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

You can download Remitbee’s

Money Transfer app on Google Play or

Apple App stores. :-). I am extremely

grateful to be with all of these amazing


What Yamaha kits do you own? And what

do you use most often?

I own the Yamaha Absolute Hybrid Maple,

22”, 20”, 16”, 14”, 12”, 10” 8”, 14” Snare

and Yamaha Stage Custom 20” 14” 12”

10 and 14” Snare. As well as 13” Steve

Jordan Snare, Recording Custom 14” x

6.5” and Yamaha 10” Birch snare drum.

I use the Absolute Hybrid Maple most

often and I played the new Live Custom

Hybrid Oak at NAMM in January and

fell in love instantly. Hoping to get my

hands on one soon!

Can you run us through your most used

or preferred cymbal set up?

I play an array of Zildjian cymbals, and

pick the ones to use based on the musical

setting. I find myself most often

using the 13” K Custom Hybrid hi-hats,

and the 10” splash, 21” ride, 16”, 18” and

20” crash from the K Custom Special

Dry line. I also love to use the K Custom

Hybrid crashes as well as the K Cluster

crashes. I am a big fan of short and quick

response sounds, so I have tons of fun

with splashes and stacks. I love to stack

the 10” and 8” Trashformer with the 10

A Custom EFX, as well as the K EFX 18”

with the 18” FX Oriental China Trash.

‘How to build a brand for yourself’ is a really

difficult concept to explain to young

drummers, or musicians for that matter.

How did you develop that mindset of creating

your own product and selling yourself

as an artist not only as a drummer?

My dad is a band leader and seeing him

hire artists versus musicians was very

different. The artist/singer always gets

the best treatment, increased pay, has

to do the least amount of labour, always

at the front of the stage and never

How do you stay authentic to your own

identity instead of chasing trends on social


To me, social media is a vessel in which

we can express ourselves, it’s an outlet.

I use social media to showcase my

playing, my ideas and who I am— I

try to be as transparent and honest as

I can be. I use social media as a tool to

get gigs/work and I use it to get inspiration

by watching videos of incredible

drummers and musicians. For me, social

media is not a destination; it’s not

about how many likes I get and having

that as an achievement—no. For me,

it’s not about trying to copy the latest

trends and trying to be someone I’m not

to get likes and followers. Social media

for me is to share my drumming, my

love for drumming and music, sharing

my thoughts and having the intention

to share my growth and journey, and

hoping to inspire and put a smile on at

least one person’s face.

Social media is an illusion. On social

media we are all happy, we all wear

the nicest clothes all the time, and have

the nicest “stuff”, and are always at the

coolest places and living such incredible

lives. That’s not reality. What about

the days when we can’t get out of bed in

the morning, or when we’re sad, or anx-


Sarah Thawer

ious, or when we fail, make mistakes,

and are struggling. I see people in third

world countries who can’t even afford a

phone because they don’t even have the

basic necessities such as water or even

food, and here we are taking pictures

trying to show how perfect our lives

are. That keeps me on the path of being

authentic to my identity and being as

real as I can.

Have you got any tips on how to go

about building your brand on social media?

You’ve mentioned the never-ending

chase for followers on Instagram or other

social media. Do you feel that it is completely

irrelevant or is there a purpose as

long as you have a healthy perception of

what those followers can do for you?

My tip would be to use the social medias

as a vessel to share who you are, your

work, your music, etc. Be yourself, be

authentic. Just because everyone’s posing

a certain way or writing something

a certain way doesn’t mean you have to

copy the trend to get followers. Social

media depicts perfection in everyone’s

lives—we all have our own strengths

and flaws which makes each one of us

so unique and ultimately human. Social

media and technology takes away

our human-ness and make us feel like

robots. We always have to be happy, we

always have to have the perfect post,

the perfect videos, the perfect playing,

etc. I try my best to post my live performances,

because it shows some incredible

moments and mistakes as well. Before

I used to record videos until I got

the perfect take or use footage that had

no mistakes, because a lot of people

online don’t post mistakes. In turn, I

had this misconception and started

believing that to be an amazing musician

means that you’re perfect and that

you don’t make any mistakes. Not true

at all. I have been making a conscious

effort to post moments online as they

are in real life, mistakes and all.

If you like my Instagram videos and

my social media accounts, that’s awesome.

And if you don’t like my Instagram

videos, or my drumming or me,

“Maybe some people

judge, I don’t know. I consciously

choose not to

look in that direction or

think about it that way.“

that’s totally ok too. I try to be the best

version of myself on the drums and off,

and that’s all I can give. Whether you

like it or not that’s totally up to you because

I don’t play drums to please anyone,

I do it because I love it. That’s the

mindset I have when posting online

and building my brand.

I feel that second only to your drumming,

your faces you pull when you are drumming

are world renowned. Was this a conscious

decision? Or are the faces just a

thing that happens that you have owned?

I never knew that I had crazy facial expressions

when I played the drums, until

people started telling me that they

love my showmanship and the fun that

I’m having behind the drums. As a kid I

used to stick out my tongue while playing

if I was thinking too hard or having

fun, and my mom would ask my why

I am doing that, and my answer was,

“Doing what? Whatever I’m doing feels

natural to me”. As I started recording

myself I started noticing what my expressions

looked like, and I realised

that my facial expressions represented

how I was feeling inside in that particular

moment. It felt natural, so I never


As a kid I loved the art of performance,

I loved being a performer and

I loved humour. I would be the MC for

various shows at my high school, be the

lead for plays and be the class clown.

I would do solo drum/percussion performances,

where I would set up a mini

drum kit, the indian congas, tabla, dhol

and run around the stage playing them,

sitting on my knees, using my face to

pitch bend the Indian congas, you name

it. I also took this act to a competition

in 2010 called “South Asia’s Got Talent”

in Toronto, and won the competition.

My showmanship at first was unintentional,

as it was my natural expression.

When I would keep a straight face and

play the drums, I felt uncomfortable,

unnatural and like I was holding back.

The facial expressions, and the fun I

have is my normal and who I am behind

the kit. Actually it’s who I am both on

and off the kit.

Another motivation to express myself

freely behind the drums and when

36 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019


I’m playing music is to connect with the

audience. I always imagine my 91 year

old grandmother sitting in the audience.

Will she connect with me and the

music though my fast paradiddles or

through the intense chord changes or

odd time signatures? No. She will connect

with how I am feeling, my expression

and my emotion while I’m playing.

Another completely different motivation

to continue my innate ability

to display showmanship was, because

of a frustration I had growing up. The

frustration was not understanding

why musicians get treated differently

than the artists. It never made sense to

me as why drummers are sometimes

hidden in the back and people don’t

know what the name of the drummers

are. Drummers are the glue that hold

the band together. As mentioned earlier,

my goal became to prove to myself

that I could be a drummer-artist. That

I would be recognised for who I am and

not only for whom I play for and am associated


You talk about everyone being proud individuals,

and being healthy on social media.

Do you feel judged on social media?

Or are you excited about being watched

by peers?

It depends how you look at it; glass half

empty or half full. I feel very excited

about sharing my drumming as it’s just

an extension of who I am. Maybe some

people judge, I don’t know. I consciously

choose not to look in that direction

or think about it that way.

You are very into developing positivity,

and it’s amazing. Does it stem from family

morals, from past experiences, or are

you just a great person in general?

Thank you. :-) I grew up with my grandparents

living with us all my life. With

my parents being only children, my

twin sister and I had to be an adult before

our time. I got to witness what matters

at an age where you lose your ability

to walk, talk, eat, your memory, basically

things that we take for granted. I

learned at a young age that nothing is

permanent, and we are not entitled to

anything. So that whatever we have, be

grateful. Whatever you don’t have, still

be grateful. Being so close with my three

September 2019 | SA DRUMMER | 37

Sarah Thawer

beautiful grandparents taught me to

have empathy and to be understanding.

My parents are also immigrants,

and from a child I saw the struggle of

being an immigrant, and witnessed the

poverty that exists back home. With all

of these experiences that I have had so

far in my life I continue to remind myself

that walking is a gift, love is a gift,

being able to feel sad is a gift.

We live in a world today where everyone

is comparing each other’s lives

and “successes”. Success to me is being

happy. Success to me is learning, growing,

making mistakes and especially

being grateful for my past and present.

In music and in the arts, success can be

easily associated with awards, likes and

follows on Instagram, applauses and

validation from others. I know some

people who help the elderly, donate to

various causes and help humanity behind

the scenes and don’t get any applause

or recognition for their kindness

and generosity.

“Before I hit my sticks on

the drums I tell myself

that I will play the best

that I can, with all my

heart and with all of my


of learning is never ending. With this

mindset, I feel successful and want to

be the best version that I can be.

Seeing my grandparents age made

me realise that we all are on this journey

together, we take nothing with us.

Why not work on making this world a

better place, and be the best that we can

be with the best of our intentions. Life

is not a race nor a competition. Everyone

is on their own path and their own

journey. Create your own path and keep

being the best version of YOU. Believe

in yourself even when no one around

you does.

Do you have any advice for developing the

confidence you seem to exude?

Play music from a place of humility and

gratitude. Before I hit my sticks on the

drums I tell myself that I will play the

best that I can, with all my heart and

with all of my being. I will play from

a place of love and gratitude and I will

give all that I can in this moment. Because

that’s all that I can offer. I remind

myself how lucky I am to be playing the

drums, and there are people who wish

they could play, but maybe they cannot

because of their health or circumstance.

I play for all of those people as well.

Do you believe that a plan B is a good idea?

Any backup plans yourself?

Everyone operates differently and different

things work for different people.

However for me, I don’t believe in a

backup plan or a plan B.

the social media front. At what point do

you feel that you “made it”? What was

the point where you felt that you had now

become a known name when it comes to

being a badass drummer?

I don’t think there will ever be a point

where I think that I’ve made it. Whenever

I reach a goal that I’ve worked towards

or played with someone that I’ve

dreamed of playing with or finally gotten

a technique down in the practice

room, my mind is always on the next

goal and how I can be even better.

What have been some of the highlights

of your career so far?

Being on tour for two months this year

in US and Europe (around 42 shows in

60 days) with George Watsky and playing

a drum solo at every single show.

Being invited by AR Rahman to play at

Coke Studio in India back in 2013. Playing

with the Mark Lettieri Trio in Toronto

last month. Playing at Tam Tam

Drum Fest in Seville Spain, doing a

drum clinic tour in Mexico with Yamaha,

and lots more fun stuff. Extremely


Any tips and words to motivate young

girls and women, but more specifically,

any lover of music, to chase that dream

regardless of what their parents or peers


Follow your heart. Go after whatever

makes you happy. Believe in yourself

even when no one around you does.

There are people who are suffering

and for them to simply wake up in the

morning is a milestone. Success to me

is having empathy, being grateful for

this moment, and still grateful even if

I don’t get what I want. I used to tell myself

that I’ll be successful when ___. It

made me greedy, envious and play and

practice drums to be the best or “win”,

and post videos to get likes and followers

and waiting for validation from others.

Now when I play drums I play from

a place of love, of humility and from

a place of knowing that the journey

You have a certain charismatic confidence

when speaking to crowds, is it natural or

did you develop it?

Thank you! :-) Since I was a little kid I

was the MC for so many variety shows,

Christmas concerts, lead in some plays,

I loved giving speeches and I would

even do the New Years countdown at

my dad’s shows with hundreds of people

in the audience. I loved being on

stage, talking to crowds and also loved

including humour in whatever I did.

It really felt like you just exploded onto

38 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019









September 2019 | SA DRUMMER | 39










Tom 1 Tom 2 Snare Flam Floor










Single Stroke Rudiment

Exercise 1

Exercise 2

Exercise 3

Exercise 4

Exercise 5



Louis R. Malherbe II




Should I

Quit My

Day job?

By Warren van Wyk

Everyone has a dream and a passion,

and to do that as a living

is everyone’s ultimate goal. That

comes with a price and a lot of hard

work, dedication and some risks, but it

will reward you with the most incredible

life and journey that you could ever


I had a young drum student one day

with loads of potential say to me that

he wants to quit his job and start pursuing

drumming full-time. He asked

my opinion, and I am always careful

to answer these questions because it’s

one that you cannot take lightly. I have

played and taught drums for a living

most of my life, and I know the sacrifice

and dedication that it brings, but

the reward outweighs the sacrifice by


If anyone asks me this question, the

first thing I ask is why they want to quit

their job in the first place? Sometimes

it is because they hate their job or that

they wish to pursue their dreams or


If you hate your job and want to quit

to pursue music full-time, there is a

much better and less risky way to approach

this. The mind is a powerful

thing, and if you change your thought

pattern and your outlook on your situations,

you will most definitely get a

different result.

Back to this particular student. Here

is how the conversation went:

Student: I am thinking of quitting my

job so I can focus on drumming. What

do you think?

Warren: You work in a music store,


Student: Yes, but I earn such little

money, and I don’t enjoy it.

Warren: There is another way you can

look at this situation. Firstly, you are

around music all day and meet different

musicians all day. That is awesome

because you never know who you may

encounter. That’s not so bad. Why don’t

you carry on with your job, take that

money you are earning and put it into

your drumming instead of giving the

income away. Buy new gear, use it for

marketing your videos on social media,

use it as a network platform for all the

musicians you meet. I wouldn’t think

of your job as a burden, think of it as

a way to fund the foundation for your

drumming career. If you are thinking

about quitting your day job that probably

means (I hope) that you don’t need

that income to live, so another alternative

is to put that money away in a savings

account. You could try and save at

least three months worth of income, so

you have some back up if need be.

I was listening to a podcast not so long

after this conversation, and I couldn’t

help but smile because it was so relevant

to my discussion with this student.

46 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019

Someone asked whether they should

quit their job because they hate it and

would instead make money from one

of their passions, and by leaving their

jobs, they could focus on that. The answer

to this was fantastic:

Caller: I hate my job and want to

know if I should quit so I can start my

own business doing the things that I


Podcast: Why don’t you change the

outlook on your job? Don’t think of it

as a job you hate but rather as a fund

for your business that you can start

in your spare time. Make your dream

business a side hustle for now. When

the company kicks off, only then quit

your day job. If you think of your day

job that you hate as a way to make your

dreams possible then your whole perspective

will change and you will find

that you won’t hate going into work as

much as you do because you will have

a bigger picture and a goal. The job you

currently hate will have so much more

meaning because it can now make your

dreams a possibility.

If you are in this situation and don’t

know what to do, I suggest taking a

step back and write down all the pros

and cons before making any final decisions.

Change your outlook towards

the job you hate and start thinking of

it as a temporary way to make all your

dreams come true. I can guarantee you

that you will hate the full-time music

game if you are going to struggle your

whole life. You will start to resent it and

land up back into a job that you hate to

make ends meet. Take your time and

work towards your dream. Consistency

is vital in everything that you pursue.

Never give up your dream but also

don’t kill it by jumping the gun because

you want to get out of a situation that

is making you unhappy, which with a

goal in place, will be a temporary feeling.

No matter what type of job you

have, think of the bigger picture and

change your thought from “I hate this

job” to “I love this job because it is paying

for my future career in music.”

September 2019 | SA DRUMMER | 47

Marguerite Swart






48 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019



By Warren van Wyk

Photography provided by:

Marguerite Swart

How did you get into music?

Growing up in a musical family

there was no doubt that I

would end up playing some kind of

musical instrument. I always used to

lean with my ear against the speakers

and listen specifically to the drums in a

song. I used to make beats and rhythms

with my mouth so my dad figured “this

one is going to be the drummer.” So,

he bought me my first drum kit for my

tenth birthday (whoo hoo) and my siblings

and I formed the band Buckle Up

that later became Roots Of Youth.

Which local and international drummers

influence you?

Internationally Thomas Lang, Jojo Mayer,

Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro, Dave Weckl,

Simon Phillips, Aaron Spears, Tony

Royster Jr and many more. Locally I’d

have to say my drum teachers Andrew

Rheeder and Neill Ettridge, and Phillip

Botha, Riaan van Rensburg (percussion)

and Darren Petersen, to mention

a few of my friends.

Do you play any other instruments?

Drums and percussion is my thing.

Did you take lessons, or did you teach


I took lessons with Andrew Rheeder

from age 11 to 18 and completed the

Rock School Grade 8 drumming examination.

I then went to study further

at COPA and obtained my NQF4

(with distinction) in 2009. In London,

I acquired the Academy of Contemporary

Music Certificate for performance

drumming. I then had lessons with

Neill Etridge and completed my Trinity

Classical Grade 8 examinations (with

distinction). I don’t think being selftaught

is always the best thing. If you

start off with poor technique it takes

more time un-learning these bad practices.

Tell us about your early beginnings with

the band Roots of Youth that you were

playing for when you were only 10 years


My brother was nine at the time (bassist)

and my sister 16 years old (keyboard).

Another brother and sister duo that

went to the same school, joined Buckle

Up and we later changed the name to

Roots of Youth. We recorded two albums

on our own, and gigged at music festivals

and private and corporate events.

Our songs aired on Jacaranda FM, and

numerous other local radio stations.

We won the Grand Champions Award

at the Junior World Championships for

performing arts in 2004 and also won

R100 000 in the Doritos competition

for up and coming artists. Numerous

of our videos featured on music channels

and we just had a ball! We’ve been

all over the place, revelling in the punk

and pop rock genres. I am so thankful

for the actively gigging childhood I’ve

had. I’ve gained so much experience

from a young age of how the music industry

works and just the magic of it

September 2019 | SA DRUMMER | 49

Marguerite Swart

all. Large crowds, big stages, best lighting

etc. Roots of youth lasted 12 years

with the same five members and were

eventually signed by SONY BMG. Our

third album was produced by Byron

Keno under the SONY BMG label.

How do you feel Roots of Youth paved a

way for you to be able to play drums professionally?

Well, you can’t put a price on experience.

It opened many doors for me as a

drummer. If it wasn’t for Roots of Youth,

we wouldn’t have met Louis van Wyk,

who introduced us to Kurt Darren when

he wanted a band. We performed with

Kurt for more than 200 shows touring

the country.

Who else have you played for?

After Kurt I played for Mean Mr Mustard

for two years and on and off for

Irene-Louise van Wyk. and now currently

for Karlien van Jaarsveld. I also

do occasional gigs with The Divas.

Then I perform on a project basis for

shows such as Carpenters Retrospective,

and The Billy Joel show for Show

Time Australia. I performed in the

house band of the Lief Afrikaans show

for some of greatest Afrikaans acts. I

also toured India for five months with

the Red Entertainment Company, gigging

for the most spectacular indian

weddings you can imagine!

You are currently playing for Karlien van

Jaarsveld. How did you land the gig?

I was doing a show with Irene-Louise

at Carnival City one evening. Karlien

stood in the left wing of the stage checking

us out. After the show she told me

that my energy had her captivated and

that she would love if I could fill the

drumming seat.

Being one of the only professional female

drummers in South Africa, what do you

feel it is that has made you stand out?

You have mentioned the answer in your

question. Professionalism is hard not

to notice.

What do you think are the key things you

need to have a chance at having a career

in drumming and music?

This is a meaningful question that deserves

a meaningful answer!

To really improve your chances of

success in a very competitive industry,

irrelevant of your gender, the following

key points can be noted, assuming you

have a great musical/rhythmic intelligence:

• Hone your skills set through following

an appropriate syllabus under the mentorship

of a good teacher. During this

process, ensure that you learn to read

drum notation and become skilled in

rudiments and the application thereof.

Practice through the hurt! Don’t think

if you can play singles very fast that you

are a good drummer.

• Get experience. Play regularly with

tracks and live. Learn music dynamics

and focus on what really matters

namely keeping a beat, not funny tricks

with sticks. Drummers that can deliver

an awesome solo but can’t keep the

beat are just show-offs. A professional

drummer is firstly a timekeeper! Learn

about good drum mixes and how to act

on stage for sound checks and performances.

Learn what is important for

studio drumming and how it differs

from live

• Get to know your field. Get acquainted

with technology such as in-ears, good

gear etc. Watch drumming videos but

do not get discourage by skills of others.

It’s not a competition. Learn about

different genres and legendary drummers.

Engage with other musicians and

drummers and learn.

• Be professional on and off the stage. Apart

from technical acumen, be disciplined,

responsive, ethical, trustworthy,

friendly, humble, kind, and committed.

• Teach. The industry is competitive,

and gigs are sometimes not frequent

enough to pay the bills. If drumming is

your thing in life you must also teach!

Self-taught drummers are not always

the greatest teachers. During lessons

they normally play more than the learner!

Not only do you play professionally but

you also teach, right?

Yes, I teach! I’ve been teaching from

the age of 16. With my mom also being

a music teacher, I’ve learned a lot from

her. I currently teach at St Mary’s DSG

school for girls and I love to see them

grow! I mentored a few students, male

and female, from scratch to grade 8 level.

What advice would you give to another

female drummer that may feel insecure

about being a female drummer?

Audiences are still intrigued by female

drummers and that could put extra

pressure on you to perform well. If you

feel insecure as a female drummer, get

over it, fast! Follow the steps above and

get your mind right. You are not the

main artist. You support the main artist

to perform at their best. Stage lights

are often such that you are not really visible

behind your kit. Just meticulously

keep the beat with confidence and musicality

and perform with passion. That

is sexier than how you dress.

I have noticed a considerable shift in the

female drum community, which is getting

more and more popular. Have you

seen this? What/who do you think gave

the female drum industry such a massive


There is an increase of female drummers

although the ratio between male

and female drummers are still leaning

largely towards male drummers. I personally

trained great female drummers

but most of them pursue more lucrative

careers and do not feature in the industry.

I personally know just a handful of

professional female drummers.

Do you think that there can be more support

for female drummers in South Africa?

There is enough support for drummers

in general. Good drummers rise

to the top, male or female. The problem

with support for female drummers

is that it is sometimes misplaced. For

instance, a competition is launched

50 | SA DRUMMER | September 2019

to find the best female drummer and

the prize goes… To the half-naked one!

Criteria for such a search should rather

be judged on technical acumen, experience

in different genres, musicality,


to read drum notation/ability to keep

time in live performances with or without

track etc. That will be meaningful

and inspirational support for female


What are your goals for your drumming

and career?

To keep playing for top performing

artists and to keep travelling and visiting

new places around the world doing

gigs. I would love to play for a few

international artists as well and to be

recognised as one of the go-to drummers

for major South African shows.

Who would you marry instead? Luke Holland,

or Chad Smith.

Lol! This made me laugh! Definitely

Luke. hands down.


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