New Jersey native Tony Marotta pictures himself as One Heart Beat's manager and promoter. The percussion group had been doing monthly gigs before Marotta joined four years ago and brought some organization into the mix. About 15 drummers make up the core of the group, and anyone is welcome to pick up a drum (or any other instrument) and play alongside. One Heart Beat performs every full moon at 6th Street Gym, 1001 N. Main Ave. It can also be found across from the Fox Theatre at Second Saturdays downtown. Keep up with the band by requesting to join its Facebook group.
Tell me about One Heart Beat.
I like to call us a world beat percussion jam band. We are a percussion band, primarily, but we mix it up with other music, other instruments. We'll take a War song, something like "Cisco Kid," and we'll just sing part of it. We'll chant it and then we'll go into a big drum jam. But we do all sorts of stuff, including some original stuff. We play the peace fairs and the water festivals, solar potluck, things that make people more aware, and we do most of it for free. Some things we get paid for but mostly it's just community service. We're friends with a lot of these people and they just call us when they need us.
What makes you guys different?
Everyone is welcome to come and sit in and play with us anytime. Nobody does that, ya know? We're just able to do it. A lot of it is that the regular people are going to play louder than anybody else, but no one can really do any wrong when it comes to percussion. Hand drums, that's mostly what we play. Congas, bongos, African djembe, that kind of stuff. We were labeled, "Oh, that drum circle band," but I would say it's a drum circle on steroids. But I don't really want to call it that. We're not a drum circle band; we've taken it to another level.
How did you get involved with music?
Bob Dylan found The Band at my father's nightclub in 1965. I was 7 years old and because my father was from the old country, he didn't have any qualms ... about a 7-year-old kid running around a nightclub. Of course, at 7 you're probably asleep by 10:30 p.m., but I used to catch the first band. Bottom line is, I grew up in the music business. (The nightclub) was a well-known music mecca on the East Coast. They also filmed that movie Eddie and the Cruisers there. They used it for the flashback scenes. But Bob Dylan finding the band that took him from folk to rock 'n' roll, that is definitely rock 'n' roll history. The place was called Tony Mart's (in Somers Point, N.J.) and after a while I was running the place for my father, booking the bands, hiring bartenders, bouncers, parking lot attendants, whatever. Running the whole thing at the age of 17. I got to see thousands of bands over the years. I probably have been in every predicament under the sun when it comes to getting a band up and going.
How did that impact your involvement with One Heart Beat?
That's why I was able to say, "OK, well, we're a jam band, so we don't have to sit there and get every single note exactly right like most bands." A lot of other bands spend a lot of time rehearsing. The fact that we have so many different players... if somebody can't make it or somebody's on vacation or somebody has other plans, OK, there are other people to fill in. We also don't take any breaks. At Second Saturday, we played (continuously) until 11:30 p.m. last week—we started at 6 p.m. If I have to take a break, I just walk away and it keeps rolling. The music keeps rolling; the percussion ... just keeps rolling.