Greg Peache Jarman
(December 18, 1947 - August 3, 2009)
Clifford Gregory "Peache" Jarman first learned conga drumming from Robert Crowder and Garvin Masseaux in Philadelphia. Crowder recalls that Mr. Jarman was his first student; Crowder's friend and Mr. Jarman’s father, James Jarman, asked Baba to teach his son. Mr. Jarman played with many local Latin bands here and went to California during the peak years of African Cuban drum culture, where he studied and played with Mongo Santamaria, Francisco Aquabella, and others. Aquabella was especially known for batá drumming. Santamaria was a famous congero from Cuba who came to the United States in the 1950s, from Cuba, before the Cuban dance and culture craze hit.
Much of the music that became commercially successful was far from roots traditions. Yet many artists continued to school themselves in the more "undiluted" African Cuban sounds and rhythms. This was Mr. Jarman's approach. He returned from California with expertise on batá drums and the religious culture surrounding them and continued to develop the structure of batá drumming here. Mr. Jarman was involved with African-based percussion for over 40 years and studied and played West African, Haitian, and Cuban styles. He performed widely with Latin bands and played with many well-known artists including Santamaria, Cal Tjader and Willie Bobo.
Mr. Jarman was a member of Kulu Mele African American Dance Ensemble for more than 30 years. He was an original member of Philadelphia's Traditional African American Drummers Society, a group dedicated to the preservation and continuation of African hand drumming in the city. Beginning around 1995, he was part of the Spoken Hand Society, a group consisting of four percussion ensembles: Brazilian (led by Tom Lowery), West African (led by Daryl "Kwasi" Burgee), North Indian (led by Lenny Seidman), and Afro-Cuban (which Mr. Jarman himself led for a time). The Spoken Hand received a 1998 Rockefeller grant to pursue cross-tradition compositions, and they were featured at Atlanta's National Black Arts Festival in July 1998.
Mr. Jarman was deeply involved in the spiritual dimensions of the drum. He embraced the traditional faith of the Yoruba people. He was a priest of Yemoja.
He was also a gifted teacher and gave lecture-demonstrations and classes at churches of various denominations, schools, youth programs, and penitentiaries for over 30 years. Sometimes, along with other drummers, he played on street corners where all could hear. He taught in the Folklore Project's artist in residence program, and performed, with Kulu Mele, at "Philly Dance Africa." In June 2000, he was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts (2000). He passed on August 3, 2009. He will be missed; his spirit endures in the vital extended family/community into which he poured his heart.
Photographs by Thomas B. Morton