Sounds of Blackness percussionist keeps beat of the ancestors alive

Daryl Boudreaux
Submitted photo

Long-time member of the Grammy-award-winning group Sounds of Blackness, Daryl Boudreaux’s many talents have taken him around the world and back again quite literally. This includes Europe, various countries in Asia and of course, the Motherland. “West Africa—that’s where the drums came from. That was the way to communicate you know, before telephones,” said Boudreaux.

A percussionist of great notoriety, Boudreaux has played alongside other remarkable musicians and performers including BeBe and CeCe Winans, George Clinton and Funkadelic, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and one of the most iconic figures in music history, Minnesota’s own Prince.

To many, the terms drums and percussion have a narrow familiarity that is often associated with the classic drum set which would typically include a kick drum, tom drums, a snare drum, a high hat and symbols. As a master of percussion, Boudreaux fluently opens up about the various aspects of percussion that you might not think of right away. “Hand percussion, it’s color, like when you hear the chimes. The chimes connect different parts of the song.

“When you hear the shakers, they represent a wind sound. Or a rain stick, on the inside it is like a coil, the beads go all the way down, just like rain or a triangle or a cowbell.”

The “colors” by percussion are as nuanced as any instrument. Still, there is something about the drum that keeps everything anchored. “It’s all rhythm… Like James Brown said, ‘They’re [instruments] all drums.’” said Boudreaux.

He also makes a nod to some of his favorite musical pioneers: “Ralph McDonald, he played a lot of Grover Washington. I really liked his technique and his style, his choices and his tone. Then there was another, Armando Perez, he played with Santana…Prince introduced me to [Santana’s] music,” he recalled.

While Boudreaux continues to play on many different stages, his relationship with percussion has carried him into circles beyond that of performance. He reminisced about a time when he was touring in Ghana. “We’re in Africa and we’re staying in this hotel. One day I walked out and I heard this drumming. So I walk towards this community gathering of folks and I grab some rocks to just sort of beat on the side of the wall. They saw me and invited me over. They were dancing and playing these African rhythms. I learned [Kolukku drum] playing with these drummers.”


Boudreaux explains how this experience, while occurring across the world in Ghana, exposed him to a greater sense of belonging. “After we had played drums, they had representatives come down from the villages, they asked me where I was from. I said I was from the United States, and they said, ‘You are home. Welcome home.’”

Now, as a performer, Boudreaux admits that he often does not pay attention to the lyrics of a song for sake of getting caught up in the feeling of the music and the rhythm of the tune. He explains how it is sometimes those unexplainable moments in life, that are the most pure. “I have grandkids. Being a parent and watching [my] babies have babies…I’m grateful,” he said.

Continuing a long-lasting legacy; Boudreaux is confident in the next generation of Minnesota drummers, many of whom are already beginning to leave their mark in the Twin Cities and beyond.

Some of these names include Brandon Johnson who in 2019 played the Dakota Jazz Club with local hip-hop royalty; The Lioness; William ‘Will Picasso’ Johnnies of Serenity Village Community Church and various community projects; Brandon Commodore, drummer for Mint Condition; and L.A. Buckner who recently released his chart topping jazz album entitled ‘Big Homie’ just this year.

Like the reverberating rhythms of our ancestors that served as means of communication or signals for war, in the most trying of times, Boudreaux’s continued work reminds us that we also cannot forget to celebrate how far we’ve come as a people. And we can’t forget to dance. “As a people, we can do it all. We had to. We had to survive,” he said.