One of the most underappreciated forms of drumming is what I like to call “street drumming,” or more specifically, “bucket drumming.” Walk around any metropolitan area and you’re more than likely to come upon one or more of these urban drummers beating the hell out of a bucket for tips. Many times these street musicians exhibit amazing speed, endurance and chops. I’ve been amazed on more than one occasion by the blistering single stroke rolls or heavily accented rudimental playing that the better street drummers perform as part of their routine.
Many of these drummers do not play drum set or any other form of percussion. For them, the bucket is more than just a rudimentary instrument, it’s an extended form of income.
The origins of bucket drumming are believed to have started in the 1990’s when a teenager from the Bronx named Larry Wright started drumming on buckets in the New York City subways. Wright used different sized buckets to generate different sounds. He often used the rim of the bucket as a hi-hat, a larger, seven-gallon bucket as the bass drum and a smaller, five-gallon bucket for the snare. His biggest innovation was lifting one bucket in time with his foot to produce a steady beat that he would play on top of.
Wright caught the eye of film and television producers and appeared in a documentary, a Levi’s jeans commercial directed by Spike Lee, as well as the Mariah Carey video for “Someday.” Those high-profile appearances helped to spread the popularity of street bucket drumming and influenced Broadway shows like “Stomp.” While it remains a mostly informal and un-commercialized genre of music, there are some well-known and prominent bucket drumming artists, including the Chicago Bucket Boys, and Funk Plastic from Seattle.