Recently, the station featured Timo Beckwith, local multi-instrumentalist and composer, for a solo set live on-air.
Timo, largely inspired by a variety of music from around the world, plays a spectrum of instruments.
During our in-studio, he brought several different drums: a Pandiero (Brazilian), a frame drum, two darbukas and a dumkek (Middle Eastern), and two cogitas (Latin American). He also brought a Berimbau (Brazilian), a recorder (European), a Shruti Box (Indian), and a Gourd Ennanga, which he built based on a Ugandan bow harp. His voice is also an instrument in itself. Through a mixture of resonant melodies and improvised soul exploration, the music coming from this man can seemingly fill any room with a warm light of happiness.
Timo began his musical journey at a very young age by repurposing his father’s instruments as hand percussion. Even after years of playing, he still chooses to drum without sticks for a more direct connection with the instrument while channeling a special child-like state of bliss. Over the course of his life, Timo has remained devout to grow a deeper relationship with himself, his instruments, and the world around him through art, and attributes much of his process to tapping into the “trance-state.” The “trance/flow-state” is described by many artists as a complete dissolving of goal-oriented creating and a letting-go of expectations of a final product. Even if not directly acknowledged, this state of mind is both critical and expansive to the habits of yoga, meditation, improvisation, and stream-of-consciousness writing. From the Coltranes to the Dali Lama to Ginsberg, the probability that you have been exposed to the lives of people in touch with this state of mind is high, and their impact is often widespread. Timo’s liberating discovery of expression through meditative music states ignited a lifelong passion for all which feeds the soul, and he continues to bubble over into every medium he can get his hands on.
A large inspiration from his practice comes from both tribal and Eastern music. He can pinpoint this infatuation back to a trip to the Museum of Man in San Diego, an anthropology museum that features ancient cultures and their instruments from around the world. Later in life as a collegiate art student, he would make frequent trips to the Berkeley Public Library to borrow from its extensive vinyl collection, where he was swept into the ever-deepening fractals of non-Western music. With each record, a new plethora of sonic possibilities and rhythmic connections were illuminated. During our phone conversation after the set, he continuously stressed how lucky we are in this day and age to have access to an ever-growing well of music from around the globe (and actually began the on-air interview with a mention of the Baka Forest People of Cameroon). In a globalizing society, it is essential to discover, self-educate and share music that would otherwise be buried beneath the sands of time, ethnocentrism, or absorbed into the amoeba.
At the moment, Timo has been listening to and is largely inspired by the band Tinariwen of the Tuareg culture, an ethnic group mainly native to Saharan and parts of southwestern Africa that has been breaking through to American audiences in the past few years as a form of geopolitical activism for their state that has struggled with civil war and human rights. Other groups of this area include Bombino, who performed at Live Oak Music Festival this past summer 2019, and Mdou Moctar, who has a full set featured on KEXP and will be touring the U.S. this spring.
Timo has lived on the Central Coast of California for more than four decades, during which his role in the art community has been pivotal. He taught world music appreciation and visual arts at state prisons with Arts in Corrections for fourteen years. He also taught at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, and has worked with a number of dance productions in the county alongside musicians Ryan Herr, TROPO, and Poranguí to name a few. His band, World Wind, has played Lightning in a Bottle (I saw them firsthand and it was transcendental), and is set to play Lucidity in Santa Barbara this spring. In addition to all of his musical endeavors, Timo is also an experienced digital and studio artist working in set and stage design, mask-making, photography, and film-making. You can sift through his vibrant mind via a series of portfolios on his website, beckwithdesign.com.
Olivia Peluso is a Cal Poly Journalism senior and a KCPR staff member. She wrote the article with, Austin Gandler a Cal Poly Biochemistry senior the lead audio engineer of ANTI. David Krawitz is a Cal Poly Environmental Management senior and a KCPR staff member. He and Austin produced the rest of the media featured in this article.