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Maymi 'Shara' Vurzu

Amazing Drummer!

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VURZU can best be described as African jazz funk music with a New Orleans groove played on unexpected instruments. The main purpose of VURZU's music is to incite people in the audience to dance, and dance they do! Along with Mayumi"Shara" Vurzu on both trapset and taiko drums, VURZU features Nathan Wendte on African funk banjo, his unique original instrument. These, along with a number of artists on instruments as varied as koto, saxophone, and keyboards as well as vocals, produce VURZU's danceable and unforgettable musical experience.

Mayumi"Shara" Vursu 
On Drums and Taiko Drums is Mayumi"Shara" Vursu, long a mainstay on the New Orleans music scene as a veteran performer of trad jazz, blues, funk, and New Orleans rhythms. 
 
N.A. Wendte
N.A. has been playing banjo for 12 years. His style draws heavily from the old-time traditions of minstrelsy, ballad singing, and fiddle tunes. He has applied his unique brand of banjo playing to various genres and world music traditions, jamming with everyone from Japanese shamisen players, Ghanaian drummers, and Bulgarian guitarists. He also builds and plays a few of his own instruments. He currently plays roots/folk music with the New Orleans-based band Chris Sheard & the Transplanted Roots. 

Tracy Wannomae 
Tracy Wannomae was born in Hawaii and raised in Los Angeles. He went to Dorsey High School and graduated with honors in music from Los Angeles City College. He studied saxophone privately with Phil Sobel and Vernon Martin. Tracy has toured extensively worldwide and has performed/recorded with: Macy Gray, Rickie Lee Jones, Santana, Ziggy Marley, Alton Ellis, Ben Harper, Judy Mowatt, Aster Aweke, Me'shell Ndegeocello, George Clinton, Kelis, Solomon Burke, Irma Thomas, Mos Def, Madlib, Dr Dre, Everlast, Jason Mraz, Arturo Verocai, Lauryn Hill, Aloe Blacc, Quadron, Rhye, Bare Naked Ladies, Sam Sparrow, Brad Meldhau, Robin Hannibal, Dave Sitek, and others. Tracy has performed on such shows as The Late Show with David Letterman, Tonite Show, Conan, Saturday Night Live, Today Show, The Grammy Awards, Brit Awards, VH1 and MTV Shows, etc.

Composer and drummer Mayumi Shara is a uniquely cross cultural whirlwind of talent and energy, making her a well established pioneer female jazz drummer in Japan.
Mayumi's vision combines the eloquence of Japanese traditional drums with American jazz that allows her to create musical cultural harmony.  Mayumi seeks to inspire people through her love and understanding of the universal power of music which resonates deep within every human being.  Her music serves to revitalize her audience's energy through the powerful performances of her original compositions.   Mayumi achieves a delicate musical fusion of East and West, all the while preserving the traditional aspects of Japanese drum expression.  Here is a master of Japanese taiko drumming who is equally at home on a trap set playing modern jazz, funk, R&B, blues, and traditional jazz, all the while, equally as talented as she plays second-line snare with a New Orleans brass band.  In any culture, that's a remarkable stretch. 

This Tokyo native began her study of the fundamental classical rudiments with influences as varied as Motohiko Hino and Elvin Jones. The defining moment in Mayumi's life came when she was told,"Opportunity presents itself to everyone equally.  One must not only be aware of it---one must be prepared for it when it occurs in order to grasp it fully."  These words made a profound impression on Mayumi, even after her own drum teacher in Japan told her repeatedly that she could not be successful as a drummer because she was a woman.

Eight years of devotion and hard work later, Mayumi had studied to improve with Japanese jazz great Motohiko Hino, studied under the master percussionist of the Tokyo Municipal Philharmonic Orchestra, had made a name for herself in the Tokyo jazz world and had gained the admiration and respect of her fellow musicians.  In 1992, Mayumi joined Himiko, an all-female traditional Japanese drum group learning and playing wadaiko, and toured throughout Japan. 

In 1998, Mayumi moved to the United States, establishing herself in New Orleans to prepare for herself for the next professional level.  She graduated from Delgado College in New Orleans with a jazz studies major.  Mayumi's"street" education, however, would serve to put her on top of the map.  Formal lessons in funk, New Orleans R&B, and New Orleans-style drumming came from Jeffrey"Jellybean" Alexander of George Porter and Snooks Eaglin fame.  Mayumi's open-air"professors" are a veritable list of New Orleans greats in jazz, funk, brass band, blues, zydeco, and other areas:  James Rivers, Marva Wright, Kermit Ruffins, Johnny Vidacovich, Victor Atkins, Jesse Boyd, Leroy Jones, Chief Alfred Doucette, Doug Belote, Robert Snow, Tuba Fats,"Sunpie" Barnes, Louis Ford, Phil Campo, Cyril Neville, Rockin' Jake,  and the myriad of students and musicians who constantly pour through the New Orleans music scene. 

A measure of the devotion and respect Mayumi has earned from the community of New Orleans musicians came post-Katrina in the form of a relentless campaign they waged to assist her in obtaining a coveted Artist Visa from the United States government.  She---and they---were ultimately successful, to the great benefit of us all. 

 Here's what some of Mayumi's peers in New Orleans have to say:

"She reminds me of the great jazz drummers of New Orleans."
Kermit Ruffins, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers

"…a consummate professional as well as a mind blowing jazz drummer."
Lawrence Jacobs, The Rockin' Jake Band

"Mayumi has a will and perseverance that makes her successful no matter whether she is playing jazz, blues, or traditional Japanese.  She has become a much loved personality in the landscape that is New Orleans music."
Donna Poniatowski, owner of Donna's

"...a performing artist of exceptional merit."
Patrice Fisher, Director, Musicians For Music, New Orleans

"She is truly a part of New Orleans' Rebirth after Katrina. . .a true New Orleans asset!"
Chief Alfred Doucette, Big Chief Doucette and the Decibelles

"...always brings the audience to their feet during her performance!"
Doug Belote (Willie Nelson, Mem Shannon, Gatemouth Brown)

"The unbelievable talent of this young lady is absolutely incredible."
Robert Snow,  New Orleans Jazz Vipers

"A gifted, talented, and unique artist."
Joe Morgan, owner, The Venue

"...an invaluable asset. . . meaningful and important in promoting the Japanese culture."
Greg Tokuyama, President, Japan Club of New Orleans

"(Mayumi) has captured it all... an extraordinary player and entertainer."
Phil Campo, Loose Change Jazz Band

"I do not think that there is anyone in the world who can do this (Japanese and New Orleans music) as well as Mayumi."
Hisako Young, Ninja

"Mayumi is an example of the richness of the new Orleans musical culture."
Eric Paul Perez, Esquizito

Discography

CD "New Orleans, Jazz Letter From Mayumi" 
by Mayumi Shara Jazz Letters
CD "Soul de Shara – memory of my father" 
by Shara’s
CD "Belle Du Jour" 
by Belle Du Jour featuring Cari Roy & Mayumi Shara
CD "Live at Columns Hotel New Orleans" 
by Mo’Lasses
CD "The Big Music Machine From New Orleans" 
by Dr. Bone & The Hepcats
CD "Kissing Bandits" 
by Kissing Bandits
DVD" Shake That Junk" 
by Lani Ramos & Big Pearl
DVD" Time For Change" 
by Timothea

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