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December/January 2021

by Mark Baynes

Tia Drumma: Feeling The Love

by Mark Baynes

Tia Drumma: Feeling The Love

Reported by the Bay of Plenty Times in early November, Mount Maunganui College students released what they claim as the first original school album coming from the BoP. The album features songs from school bands and artists Vegan Funk Machine, Emily Tattersall, Skye Hine & Malakhai Sadler, Good Morning Good Night, Kofe Table, Mabel George and El’fah.01 & TJ. Driver of this ambitious project was teacher and music producer Tia Beaufort, aka Tia Drumma. ‘MMC 2020’ caught the ear of NZM columnist Mark Baynes who talked with Tia about performance, production and education.

Tia Beaufort is a musician turned producer who has collaborated on tunes with acts including Sid Diamond, JessB, Mikey Mayz, Raiza Biza, Paige and Lyttelton hip hop act The Settlers. He’s also an educator, a teacher at Mt Maunganui College who marked the end of 2020 school year with the Spotify release of a collaborative student album titled ‘MMC 2020’. The album, he says, took about two months in-between classes to record, with all the bands recorded live in one take.

How were you drawn towards music?

I was drawn to music from a real young age. I always gravitated towards the drums. My mum and dad were in a band and I grew up by the beach. I used to go down to the beach, get driftwood and make drumsticks and drum kits out of what I found there.

I didn’t have many lessons. I listened to records and my parents’ music and taught myself how to play drums mainly by listening to music and trying to work it out. For my 10th birthday, my parents bought me a drum kit, and from 11 or 12 I ended up joining their band, playing gigs with them. So by the time I was at high school I was already performing, and in terms of drumming anyway, I was pretty proficient.

When I was younger I would practice for hours, listening and playing, but I didn’t do so well at school because all my teachers were classically trained. I was in an originals band at the same time but the music we wrote wasn’t considered composition. I left school and started an apprenticeship as an electrician, I played music on the side. I never really played in covers bands, I just focused on original music. I played in a rock band and a metal band, but they never had commercial success.

My partner Caroline convinced me to study in a university jazz program after getting some drum lessons from Reuben Bradley. Reuben taught me how to play softer, and other things that I needed to pass the audition. I worked hard and was accepted into the programme.

While I was at jazz school, I got into a band called The Shakedown. We started playing more commercial music like pop and dub, we were starting to draw a crowd. We got to open for Smashproof, and Sid Diamond noticed us, then hit us up for a collaboration. The band didn’t work out but I ended up going on tour with Sid, playing the festival circuit and that got me into the world of hip hop drumming.

What tools do you mostly use to produce music?

I started producing on Logic Pro and Ableton but when I bought a Deluge (which is hardware synthesiser, sampler, and sequencer), it took my eyes of the screen and opened my ears up. A lot of the time when you use a screen you fall into the trap of making decisions on what looks good, and you forget to listen to it!

In terms of your music, what are you most proud of?

I got nominated for the Pacific Music Awards’ Best Producer this year for Wild People by Mikey Mayz. I really enjoy collaboration and really enjoyed working on So Low with JessB and Paige. It was cool working with musicians to re-record my samples at Roundhead.

Why was the Mount Maunganui College album, ‘MMC 2020’ release important to you?

I ended up teaching at MMC for the last two or three years. I started jamming with some of the staff, including the principal. We used to talk music, and after a while, he gave me an enrichment creator role for a project, and eventually, we came up with the idea of doing a school album. Most of the bands were Year 10, so really young. There are some really talented students at MMC, and I have a way of interacting with them that gets the best out of them I guess. If I go back to my school years, I kind of wanted to create something that I would have wanted to do when I was at school. It has never been an easier time to get a good recorded sound if you really skill yourself up, even with a cheap interface and a reasonable mic you can do a pretty good job.

How do you see your role in music education now?

I want to try and do some workshops for teachers to try and help them get the best out of their set up. There are always natural musicians but I am really interested in helping those who need a little more help, those who aren’t natural but who can be encouraged to learn the skills to find their own voice.