George Lawler is an accomplished percussionist, drummer, and music producer who has been involved in the Chicago music scene for over 20 yrs. He has been playing drum set for 33 years, and is adept at many genres of percussion, from ancient to electronic, with an emphasis on styles from the Middle East and Mediterranean region.
Percussionist - Drummer - Producer - Instrument Maker - Composer - Teacher
George has performed music in 22 countries, toured the U.S. with Egyptian pop star Natacha Atlas, and toured Europe with Lamajamal, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, and Bobby Conn. He is a founding member of Chicago’s 25 piece punk rock marching band “Mucca Pazza,” and has composed several pieces for the band.
George presents percussion workshops at Chicago Public Schools and directs a 33 piece drum line for five schools in North Lawndale. He teaches the Middle Eastern Rhythms class at the Old Town School of Folk Music, and since 2007, he and his wife, Eve Monzingo have been music directors for the Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society, providing musical instruction and performance for Greek and Balkan folk dance. George teaches darbuka and riq lessons in Chicago and is a first call for Chicago darbuka players.
Other genres George has performed extensively include: Afro-Cuban percussion (L’Orchestre Super Vitesse, Occidental Brothers, Roccambu jazz), Chinese surf-pop (Red Chamber), electronic music (Frequency Lab, Tranquility Bass), reggae (DaDa Do, Family of Souls), and indie rock (Dan Wallace, Bobby Conn), along with his hobbies, ragtime piano and Spanish guitar. At his home studio, George records music, and has produced and engineered albums for Lamajamal, Byzantine Time Machine, Intercultural Music Production, and Funkar International.
THE NEWBERRY CONSORT In November of 2017, I played percussion with Chicago's Renaisance music group "The Newberry Consort" for their "Songs of the Sephardim" concerts in November. A presentation of the music of faith and longing from Renaissance Spain and the Ladino oral tradition of the Sephardic Jews.
EAST MEETS MIDDLE EAST or "EMME" plays in India. From Chicago and Kolkata, EMME creates a fusion of Indian and Middle Eastern styles, and juxtaposes drums and string instruments from these cultures.
Our main shows were at the Jaipur Literature Festival where we played a morning concert, then an evening show at the authors ball. We were also invited to sit in with local group RAJASTHAN JOSH. In Delhi we played for a Republic Day Concert sponsored by Desmenia Design.
Listen to East Meets Middle East below
George’s specialization in Middle Eastern, Balkan, Turkish, and Greek percussion began in the mid 90’s as an apprentice to Tunisian percussionist, Najib Bahri, a sublime master of darbuka, (goblet drum), riq, (Arabic tambourine) and bendir, (frame drum). Najib's teaching had already launched the careers of several percussionists around the world. George joined Najib's group "Al Amal" and they played many shows and festivals across the USA and in Europe. Through this mentorship, George learned the nuances of classical and folkloric drumming styles of the Middle East and North Africa, and also the ingenious teaching method of the Arabic music conservatory.
My most unique invention, the pitch bending thumb piano, is the result of tinkering and brainstorming in my "Jamoflage" laboratory.
It started out as a sketch on a post-it note, and evolved into an elegant instrument with and electronic pick-up and output jack.
I have built this instrument for about fifteen people around the world and requests keep coming in. The current price is $500, and there is a waiting period while I build and test.
The instrument creates some sweet thumb piano like sounds that can be bent and distorted into space-age bells, and resonating buzzing. The youtube video of my first model has over 100,000 views! Ill be rich!!!
The Pitch Bending Thumb piano's ancestors are a couple of pitch bending drums I made. One is a frame drum with a pitch bending contraption inside it that you squeeze with your hand. The other is a floor tom with a pedal that changes the pitch.
"219 N. Keystone" by Desettlement with Marvin Tate, Forrest Roush and George Lawler
I actually had a real job for a short time in the early 90's.
With the psych degree and spanish speaking skills I landed a job as a Probation officer in Kane county. Every day, after supervising a caseload of minor criminals, I would drive into Chicago to play with bands. Soon, I moved to Chicago with my guitar and bass playing buddies. We became fans of Parliament/ Funkadelic and also the psychedelic sound of early dub pioneers like King Tubby and the Mad Professor. Me and guitarist Forrest Roush met underground poet Marvin Tate, and formed the band "Desettlement" which put funk grooves behind spoken word poetry.
After a few years of late nights and early mornings commuting to the burbs, I quit the probation office, and decided to pursue music full time. I cashed in my small pension fund to buy studio equipment, electronic drums and other toys.
The obsession with psychedelic funk morphed into a love for underground electronic music, house, then jungle, then drum and bass and "trip-hop" a term I used to describe our music in "92.
My early exposure to music included listening to classical music on my dad’s quadraphonic Harmon Kardon system, piano doodling on our family’s often ignored Steinway, and 8 years of playing trumpet in school band. From this, I developed an appreciation for the pentatonic melodies of the black keys, a lifetime fascination with Scott Joplin, and a desire to never play trumpet again. I also spent 4 years of elementary school in a small town in Mexico which led to my ability to spontaneously wail “narcocorridos.”
Upon realizing that my true calling was drums, I fabricated a hodgepodge kit of random drums found in basements, flea markets, and “borrowed” from the band room at school. I practiced for many hours every day, offending my family, disturbing the neighbors, and distracting golfers.
Determined to be self taught, I did not pursue music courses at the University of Illinois. I did bring a small, crappy drumset, and quickly became in demand to the wannabe bands in my freshman year dorm, not because I was good, but because no other drummers actually had a drum kit in their closet. Again in college, moving from dorms to apartments to houses, I disturbed the peace and annoyed entire neighborhoods through constant practice. After changing majors a few times, I graduated on the dean’s list, with a bachelor of science in psychology.