This week at Indian Drummer we’ve decided to focus on an all female line up of drummers. First up, we caught up with Lopeno Ovung who is an accomplished drummer and teacher. She describes in detail the progress she’s made over the years as a musician. Here’s what she had to say in her interview with Indian Drummer.
Lopeno - Festive season kept me busy. Now I’ m back to the studio teaching and feeling good.
ID – You play the guitar; you’ve also handled vocal duties for a band and then obviously the drums as well? How did drumming begin?
Lopeno - Once while I was rehearsing with my school band the power went off so just to kill the time I asked my drummer to teach me a groove. I kept on playing that groove on the table and in the air, that’s how it all started.
ID – Do you still play the guitar? And having played the guitar, does it give you any sort of advantage when it comes to writing parts on the drums?
Lopeno – Yes, I still play some of my favourite classical pieces to entertain myself only. Yes, having the knowledge in guitar and music theory have always helped me in understanding the voicing. I always try to compliment the melody and not play over it unless I have to take a solo.
ID – Training is quite an issue when it comes to learning any art. Did you have any formal education when you began drumming?
Lopeno - No, I didn’t have any formal lessons in my formative years. I upgraded myself by watching live shows, MTV (in 90’s was the best for any rocker), took tips from books and magazines. My uncle who is a bassist gifted me a Modern Drummer magazine in 1999 which was of October 1992 publication, page 62- 67 had Sabain cymbal ad. That was the first time I saw a Sabian cymbal and I fell in love with it. I started my formal lesson only in 2004 when I attended a crash course at Yamaha school ofMusic,Singapore and Then with Manoj J Mavely (Musictek).
ID – Tell us a bit about the bands you played for and the genres you covered?
Lopeno - The first band that I played the drums was Oleanders in 1996, it was a four piece all female band; my sister was the bassist. I was supposed to play the guitar but we couldn’t find any girl drummer so I tried and I liked it. From 2000 to 2005 I was the only female member in the band. I also did freelancing and played for XTC, Alive 101 and Native rising. Alive 101 was a gospel band the others were Rock band.
ID - Who were your influences early on? Did you attend any clinics back then that gave you a good outlook on drumming or percussion in general?
Lopeno - My early influences were Rock drummers. Andrew Ngullie, Jimmy Imchen, Temsu Kichu, Pat Torpey, Lars Ulrich, Cozy Powell, Mike Mangini, Ian Paice, Kenny Aronoff and Mike Portnoy. Back then, I didn’t attend any clinics. It was a band called Em Trio fromItaly that blew my mind away. I was for the first time seeing Jazz musicians live, it changed my perspective of drumming and the percussion world.
Lopeno - Yes, I play glockenspiel (tuned percussion), and tambourine.
ID – Tell us a bit about your setup and the brands you’re using at the moment.
Lopeno - My drum kit is Yamaha Stage custom Advantage Nouveau series (20″ bass drum, 10″x8″ and 12″x9″ mounted toms 14″x14″ floor tom). DW 5000 double pedal and Sabain Cymbals: 14” B8 pro hi- hat, 16”/14 B8 pro thin crash, 16”/ 14 hand hammered thin crash, AAX 8”/20 splash and 20”/50 AAX stage Ride 20”/50(Oh! Lord, won’t you buy me a Hand Hammered 14” Hi-hat, 12” crash and a 12” china) Sticks, I use Vic Firth – 7A, 5A and Terry Bozzio phase 1 all wooden tip.
Drum head: Snare – Remo weather king coated ambassador. Toms and kick – Clear ambassador.
ID – You’re involved in teaching, what do you think are the absolute essentials for any drummer?
Lopeno - Love for drums and not just because it’s cool to be sitting while others are standing, proper technique, rudiments, Knowledge of different genre of music, endless hours of listening and practicing on the pad and the Kit with the band, back up track or with the metronome!
ID – What are the common mistakes you’ve seen people commit?
Lopeno - Trying to play Dream Theatre or any other before learning to play a simple groove in the pocket. I committed the same mistake in my early drumming days; there was no one to tell me to practice with a metronome for which I suffered from “Bad Tempo Syndrome”. Now I am much better after undergoing treatment with the daily dosage of practicing with the metronome for 2 hrs at least for the past 5 years.
Lopeno - For me the First and the most important thing is to learn from the best trained teacher in town who can guide in detail about developing the technique, point out my weak points and find a way to improve it. Secondly, I’ll practice in a very slow tempo so that it is in the muscle memory and that I don’t have to worry even while I am playing fast. Drum set technique is best understood when we keep in mind the mechanics of movement both of the larger and smaller muscle groups while maintaining a relaxed state of the body. This applies equally to both hands and feet. A large portion of drum set technique revolves around the ability to let strokes rebound off the drums naturally and their respective application to the 26 standard rudiments. A great way to incorporate drum set technique within grooves is to apply the 26 Rudiments to different styles of music. When you start combining the hands and feet, orchestrating different parts of the rudiments between the various drums and cymbals on your set, you’ll start to make inspired music. Learning and internalizing them will help you expand your vocabulary to play creative grooves, fills and solos. Using rudiments in groove is a great way to apply technique to the drum set which can create an infinite number of combinations, in any styles and at any tempo.
ID – What are your plans for year ahead?
Lopeno - I am working on some hands and feet technique so I will practice until they look good and sound good too! Get ready for some gigs and since last year I’ve been doing a research on the Naga log drum so I hope something will come out by the end of this year.
ID – This is your space, fell free to say anything to your students, friends, fans, family, etc.
Lopeno - Oh! My dear students please come to class with your homework done. My near and dear ones thank you for your love and support; for letting me do what I love most. I love you all. My fans yo! Keep on Grooving! And thanks a lot Indian drummer for giving me the opportunity to revisit my good old days. Keep Rocking!!
Thanks a lot for doing this interview Lopeno. Indian Drummer wishes you the very best.