Royal Hartigan is jazz Renaissance man. An author, educator, and student/teacher of world music, he has incorporated the sounds, native instruments, and cultural nuances of West Africa and Southeast Asia into a two-disc collection where the emphasis is strongly toward jazz rather than the world music that subtly influences it.
Like Collin Walcott's earlier efforts, Cloud Dance (ECM, 1976) and Grazing Dreams (ECM, 1977), Royal Hartigan has found that elusive ground that emphasizes the pure innovative nature of jazz without excluding the unique attributes of the cultures Hartigan has closely studied and been influenced by.
Hartigan's percussion work is as musical, or more so, than most of the percussion greats who have gone before him. His versatility could be imagined as a solo percussion work, much the way the Art Ensemble of Chicago's drummer Don Moye is.
Royal Hartigan is a percussionist who has studied and performed the musics of Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas, including indigenous West African drumming, dance, song, and highlife; Turkish bendir frame drum; Japanese taiko drumming; Philippine kulintang gong and drum ensemble; Chinese Beijing, Cantonese, and Kunqu opera percussion; South Indian solkattu rhythms; Korean Nong ak drum and gong ensemble; Javanese and Sumatran gamelan; Gaelic bodhran; Native American drumming; Dominican merengue; Brazilian samba; Cambodian sampho drums and Vietnamese clapper percussion, European symphony; and African American blues, gospel, funk, hip-hop, and jazz traditions.
Royal Hartigan was awarded an AB in Philosophy from St. Michael's College in 1968, specializing in medieval metaphysics and the existentialism of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Satre. He received a BA degree in African American music at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1981, studying with Roland Wiggins, Frederick Tillis, Reggie Workman, Archie Shepp, Max Roach, and Clifford Jarvis. royal earned his MA and Ph.D degrees in world music at Wesleyan University in 1983 and 1986, studying intensively with ethnomusicologist David McAllester and Bill Lowe, Bill Barron, Ed Blackwell, Freeman Donkor, Abraham Adzenyah, and other master artists from Java, India, and Ghana, West Africa.
Royal Hartigan has taught ethnomusicology, African drumming, and world music ensemble at the New School for Social Research in New York and the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at Wesleyan University. royal helped develop and taught graduate and undergraduate courses in world music, large and small jazz ensembles, experimental music ensemble, Asian music ensembles (Philippine kulintang and Javanese gamelan), African American music history, and West African drumming and dance at San Jose State University before assuming a position as Assistant Professor in world music at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. He has taught Music Theory and Fundamentals, Western Music history, and Introduction to World Music. He currently teaches music of the African Diaspora, area studies, and World Music Survey. He has served on the music department curriculum development, the CVPA lecture series, and the University Cultural Diversity committees as well as initiating grants for numerous workshops and concerts of world music during the 1999-2000 academic year.
Royal Hartigan's publications include Cross Cultural Performance and Analysis of West African, African American, Native American, Central Javanese, and South Indian Drumming, a 1700-page analysis of world drumming traditions (the Edwin Mellen Press); articles in Percussive Notes, World of Music, Annual Review of Jazz Studies, and The African American Review; and a book with compact disc, West African Rhythms for Drumset (Manhattan Music/Warner Brothers). He has given lectures and clinics on world music and jazz in Africa, China, Europe, and North America. He travels to West Africa each summer to teach, perform, and do research, collaborating with J.H. Nketia at the Institute for African Studies, University of Ghana, and the musicians at the Dagbe Cultural Center, Kopeyia village, Volta Region, Ghana.
Royal Hartigan has performed, given workshops, and recorded internationally with his own quartet (Blood Drum Spirit, 1997 and Ancestors 2000), Juba (Look on the Rainbow 1987), Talking Drums (Talking Drums, 1985 and Someday Catch, Someday Down, 1987) the Fred Ho Afro-Asian Music Ensemble (We Refuse to Be Used and Song for Manong, 1988, Underground Railroad to My Heart, 1994, Monkey Epic:Part 1, 1996,Turn Pain Into Power, 1997, Monkey Epic Part 2, 1997, Yes Means Yes, No Means No! 1998, Night Vision 2000), Hafez Modirzadeh's Paradox Ensemble (Chromodal Discourse, 1993 and The Peoples Blues, 1996, The Mystery of Sama 1998), the David Bindman-Tyrone Henderson Project (Strawman Dance, 1993 Iliana's Dance, 1996), and Nathaniel Mackey (Songs of the Andoumboulou, 1995). He has released a documentary and artistic video of his work in West Africa and its relation to the African American music cultures (Eve).