Native of the San Francisco Bay Area and son of folk music icon Joan Baez and political activist David Harris, Gabriel grew up with a wide spectrum of musical influences and a strong sense of social justice. In his late teens Gabriel discovered and fell in love with traditional African drumming and music, and began his tutelage with the legendary Babatunde Olatunji, who embodied not just West African drumming, but the heart and soul that the tradition springs from.
Gabes’ passion for the drum has taken him to Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Ghana, and South Africa. On his travels he also discovered and began a study of traditional Griot (Jeli) instruments including balafon (xylophone), and kamele n’goni (harp). Gabe has had the opportunity to study with a great number of master drummers and musicians, and has become an integral part of, and advocate for the African music and culture scene in the Bay Area.
In 2001 Gabe founded Rhythm Village with the vision of sharing the joy of African drumming with a broader audience, and since that time has facilitated participatory drumming workshops for a wide variety of audiences, including team building seminars for Pixar, Cisco Systems, Kaiser Permanente, Young Presidents Organization, and many more.
Touring and Performing
In 2010 Gabe shifted his focus and became a full time touring percussionist, traveling and performing with the Joan Baez band throughout the U.S., Europe, Scandinavia, South America, Australia, and New Zealand. The experience of playing for audiences as large as 10,000 people in a very intimate trio has brought a high level of sensitivity and expressiveness to his playing. He also developed a thorough understanding of how the music industry operates on the most professional level. Gabe brings a truly unique and innovative approach to percussion on the stage, bridging his African drumming sensibilities with the intimate setting of American folk music and ballads. He continues to bring a unique and sensitive approach to every project, looking to embody exactly what the music calls for.
In addition to African, Latin, and Middle Eastern drumming, Gabe has always had a passion for unique instruments. He has developed aptitude in the West African balafon and kamele n’goni, Australian Aboriginal didgeridoo (yidaki), Native American flutes, the modern handpan (from the Suisse “Hang” instrument), as well as western drum kit, and more.
Since Joan Baez retired from touring in the summer of 2019, Gabe has been performing, recording, and teaching from his studio in Fairfax, CA, and online. He has a number of collaborative and solo projects, including Sonic Ceremony and Sonic Transfusion, both of which emphasize the healing and transformative power of sound, and music. He is also freelancing, providing percussion, drumming, and other musical support for other bands.