Movie Review: A Drummer’s Dream

A Drummer’s Dream

Review by Robin Lloyd

The Film:

Award-winning Canadian documentary film maker John Walker was a rock drummer in the late 1960s, until the I-Ching told him to choose another career.  Beautifully filmed in the Canadian wilderness, Walker’s A Drummer’s Dream documents the gathering at a summer drum camp, staffed by some of the top performers in rock, jazz and latin music.

Mr. Walker was so inspired by this camp, he picked up drumsticks for the first time in decades.  You’ll see him at the drumset in the jam session finale.

The Players:

Montreal-based drummer/composer Nasyr Abdul Al-Khabyyr spent 4 years touring the world with Dizzy Gillespie’s band.  He’s also worked with pianist Oliver Jones and most recently, saxophonist Kenny Garrett. Nasyr is currently a Professor in the music faculties of both Vanier College & Concordia University in Montréal.

For his drum camp idea, Nasyr reached out to the drummers he’d met and befriended on his tours with Dizzy, as well as a few well-known clinicians.  Many also have connections with Carlos Santana.

Boston’s Mike Mangini is best known as a metal drummer and is currently with Dream Theatre.  His many honors include “Boston’s Best Drummer”  “Best Clinician” and “World’s Fastest Drummer”—which he demonstrates for the students.  His love for teaching is obvious in the film.

One of the most prominent Cuban drummers, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez shares his love of drumming, his realistic attitude toward practice and dedication, and provides some laughs as he stages a “get-away” from the camp via rowboat.

Giovanni Hidalgo, the power-house Puerto Rican conguero, lives for drumming and spreading joy.  His credits include work with every Latin jazz star from Tito Puente to Eddie Palmieri.  He is always a delight to see and hear.

Raul Rekow is Santana’s percussionist, and has been since 1976.  This film shows him to also be a thoughtful, respectful teacher, and he offers some insight into the minds and hearts of drummers everywhere.

Groove master Dennis Chambers (Santana, Maceo Parker, John Scofield) is a proudly self-taught drummer, known for his impressive speed and technique.  He’s an imposing figure, not one you’d expect to get emotional about much of anything.  But you’ll see him do just that in the film as he talks about drummers playing from the heart.

Kenwood Dennard is the drummer from another planet–a very rhythmic and happy planet, I’m sure, and one that I wouldn’t mind visiting.  He’s worked with Maceo, Miles, Dizzy and Pat Martino.  His mission is to make everyone feel as good as he does when he’s playing the drums, and he does create many, many smiles in the film.

The Mystic Brotherhood of the Drum

I’m always curious about why musicians and artists do what they do.  A Drummer’s Dream reveals some common threads:  All the drummers showed musical interest and ability early in life, 3-5 years of age.  All remember in intricate detail the first time they played a drum.  Most felt that drumming was a calling, and that it made them part of “something bigger” than themselves.  All agree that talent is fine, but it is dedication, practice and hard work that makes a great drummer.


  • Hidalgo and Rekow making each other laugh, and finishing each other’s sentences.  They are truly in tune with each other.
  • Watching the students start to understand what they’re in for at drum camp.  One student speaks about the rhythms of nature, and it’s quite touching.

The Lesson:

Here’s what I hope the students took away from their time at drum camp:

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have the fastest, most impressive technique, the best and the most drum gear, the fame and recognition of a master drummer.  But if you’re not having fun, expressing yourself and playing from the heart, you’re missing the whole point.

Actually, that’s not a bad philosophy for your life’s work, whatever it may be.

A Drummer’s Dream plays at Northwest Film Forum in Seattle Friday January 20th through Sunday January 22nd with three showings daily. For more information, visit