Music is a powerful medium that moves people and dissolves cultural differences like few others. It consumes me – whether I’m playing or listening to it, talking about it, absorbing musical ideas through visual inspiration or hearing it in the silence of its “ghost notes”.
Music isn’t simply a sound produced with instruments – it’s everywhere, permeating our environment, and it shares a common thread with nature, especially rhythm. Rhythm is what fascinates me most !
All cyclical patterns – the seasons, moon phases, tides, the cycle of birth and death – have a rhythmic “structure” because they emit, transform and absorb a certain frequency. Even colours consist of sound. These patterns inevitably affect our mood, behaviour and how we live – perhaps people are so drawn to music because it feels natural to us, simply because it is!
The science of music is endless and I’m constantly fascinated by how little I actually know about it. Like other art forms, music is as unforgiving as it is rewarding.
See my biography below.
Ronan was born in Northern Ireland in 1980 and grew up in Germany. His musical journey started at the age of 10, with seven years of classical French horn training. He was introduced to the didgeridoo when he was 16 and a year later was given his first traditional didgeridoo by Ghanaian virtuoso drummer Emmanuel Gomado. This was Ronan’s first significant experience with improvised music and prompted many collaborations with other like-minded musicians.
After teaching himself the instrument for a few years, he developed a strong rhythmic style of playing, which sparked a fascination with percussion. In his early twenties Ronan travelled to Australia to learn from the Aborigines about the origins of the didgeridoo and the culture surrounding it.
His musical travels continued, leading him to Ghana and South Africa, where he was fortunate to meet a tabla maestro. Having developed a passion for percussion and being particularly intrigued by this classical Indian drum, this introduction couldn’t have come at a better time. Ronan travelled to India in 2003 and began playing tabla under the tutelage of Ustad Akram Khan, a master of a rich and intricately technical North Indian style known as Ajrara Gharana. He regularly visits India to further his studies.
Ronan has been exploring a fusion of tabla, percussion and didgeridoo by means of a hybrid percussion kit which he designed. This has become part of his permanent set-up and demonstrates a rich textural variety and a unique versatility. He makes many of his instruments by hand, using natural objects such as seed pods, tree bark, cocoons, reeds and hide to create percussive sounds.
Ronan has featured his sound in musical genres across the board, from classical, rock and folk to electro, jazz, world music and hip-hop. He’s performed in South Africa, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, France, Lithuania, Swaziland, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Namibia the UK and India, and has featured on many recordings and film scores.
Noteworthy collaborations include performances with Rodriguez, Johnny Clegg, Deep South, Kailash Kokopelli, A.Spell, Ricardo Garcia, Jazzart Dance Theatre, Freshlyground, Hot Water, La Rosa Spanish Dance Theatre, Cherif Sisokho, Coleman Barks (Rumi poetry recitals), Hilton Schilder, Babu, Jan Galega Brönnimann, Saadet Türköz, Nadja Stoller, Omri Hason, Werner Hasler, Guy Collins, Schalk Joubert, Rus Nerwich and Tonik, which in 2008 won a South African Music Award for Best Instrumental Album.
Ronan has recorded music on albums for release with:
Babu, Tonik, Guy Buttery, Rus Nerwich, Hot Water, Mantras 4 Modern Man, Chris Tokalon, Starkravingsane, Guy Collins, Gerald Clarke, Lisa Bauer, Moreira Project, Amanda Tiffin, Melanie Scholtz, Grassroots, Luna Paige, Chris Chameleon, Dan Shout, Red Earth and Rust, Deep South, and A.Spell, among others.
©Maya Morgan & Ronan Skillen