PULSE: A STOMP ODYSSEY
The beat begins behind the grille work of a modest tenement in New York City. Someone bangs on a trash can and thumps on a tea chest and suddenly we’re in Botswana where the Bushmen of the Kalahari show the ghetto-dwellers what can be done with real drums. The beat goes on in West Africa, India, Japan, Spain and Brazil and the world tour ends back at the same tenement, proving that the rhythm of the streets has evolved after 25,000 years of much the same clatter and clang.
Review by Keith Lofthouse:
After years of torture, I’ve come to realise that some people will listen to any kind of thumping (except maybe the fury of bombs) and will happily praise the Lord for the glory of “music.” I had a tin drum when I was a kid and I made a lot of noise. I knew it was noise when my parents yelled “stop making that racket,” or the neighbours shrieked “piss off, you little rat,” or Susie the blue heeler ran howling under the house with her paws clutched to her ears. Finally I joined the high-school flute band, to make more noise. The boys from STOMP, which has performed their boom crash opera in 350 cities and 36 countries round the world can disguise all the ear-bashing as much as they like with their swishing brooms, whistles and clatter, but at times its more concussion than percussion. This STOMP business is nothing new, of course. In Australia we have Tap Dogs; in the 1970s, “the stomp” became a short-lived dance craze 25,000 years after the Bushmen of the Kalahari pounded the desert believing that their music had supernatural powers to heal.
It was stirring to see Japan’s loin-clothed Kodo artists flail their thunderous drums and quaint to see, in vivid contrast, the dainty Winchester Cathedral Bellringers upholding a unique tradition dating back to 1035, which perfects the diatonic ring of 14 different bells. Some of it is clever, but it is never melodic and it was more oddity than odyssey when, submerged in the murky depths of the English Channel, scuba-divers chimed in clinking tethered pots, pans and empty fire extinguishers. The Spanish Flamenco was uninspired and despite due respect for their ancient traditions, the American Indian Dance Theatre was much less exciting than a Comanche war dance in a Randolph Scott western. When the makers tried to inflict cacophony from a South African mining site on us and made out that a pneumatic drill was music to the ears it was time to depart, but not before The Jackie Robinson Steppers and The Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps collided in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge, which was surely not part of the act. Oh, and it seems that not only can white men not jump, they also ain’t got no rhythm. About 95 percent of the performers are “colored.”
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PULSE: A STOMP ODYSSEY (G)
CAST: Documentary featuring Qwii Music Arts’ Trust Khoi San Music, Les Percussions de Guinee, Moremogolo Tswana Traditional Dancers, American Indian Dance Theatre, Kodo, Bayeza Cultural Dancers, The Winchester Cathedral Bellringers, Eva Yerbabuena, Shafaatullah Khan
PRODUCER: Jim Stern, Harriet Leve, Don Kempf, Steve Kempf
DIRECTOR: Steve McNicholas, Luke Cresswell
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Christophe Lanzenberg, James Neihouse
EDITOR: Steve McNicholas, Luke Cresswell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 40 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: IMAX
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 17, 2003 (Melbourne)