Linda-Philomène Tsoungui is a full-time drummer based out of Germany who plays and tours with artists such as Chefket, Mine, Fatoni, Mal Éléve, Elif, and Lxandra. With an opera singer mother and Cameroonian father who introduced her to Bikutsi and salsa music, rhythm has always been an important part of Tsoungui’s life. She got her start (and a Bachelor’s degree) in classical percussion, and while in college, a concert by the Robert Glasper Experiment led her back to her rhythmic roots.
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What is your city, country, and age?
I’m 26 and am currently living in Mannheim, Germany.
What kind of gear do you use? What’s your setup?
I play a DW Performance set, mixed with a bunch of triggers and pads, and some mikes run through effects pedals. I also use a big and colorful table full of fancy small percussion instruments. Kit-wise, I usually play two snares, a 20“ kick and a 16“ floor tom. My cymbals are Paiste Masters. I usually use Dry hats and Thin and Bright rides and crashes.
Do you have endorsements?
My partners are Vic Firth, DW, Remo, Paiste, Mr. Muff, Flam Gear, Big Fat Snare Drum, and Ableton.
What bands/groups do you perform with, if any?
I currently play with the German artists Chefket, Mine, Fatoni, Mal Éléve, Elif, and Lxandra.
What led you to your instrument? What’s your origin story?
Rhythm always was a very fundamental part of my musical socialization as a child. That was mostly led by my Cameroonian father, who listened to a lot of bikutsi and salsa music. I didn’t start with playing the drum set right away, but got into classical percussion first, which meant playing in orchestras and as a soloist. This development was led by my mother, who is a professional opera singer.
During my studies in classical percussion, a concert by the Robert Glasper Experiment brought me back to my roots, to the music I first and foremost listened to growing up. Since then I have been more and more getting into playing the drum kit, which led me to my profound inner voice as a musician. I immediately felt that classical music was something I loved but couldn’t identify with. So now I’m happy to make a living by playing the kit and touring with musicians and artists I admire.
Who is your favorite drummer and why?
I’d say right now it’s Dan Mayo and Lenny “The Ox,“ because they both have this relaxed yet very virtuous way of playing, which just speaks to me.
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How do you practice? Do you have a routine?
I can’t really have a routine right now since I’m on the road so much. But I like to have at least 30 minutes of pad workout every day. And I also practice a lot mentally. This has become essential because more than your muscles, you have to train your brain.
Are there any specific playing tips or techniques, or advice, exercises, or discoveries you’d like to share with Drum readers?
Focus on your body. Where is tension, and why? Is it necessary, or is it in the way of flow and relaxation? Maybe the reason that an exercise can only be played up to a certain tempo lies within the correlation of the muscles in your whole body rather than just your hands and arms.
Take some time to observe yourself, head to toe. If your mind drifts off, get your focus back on this and your breath. Everything that feels pushy or wrong doesn’t have to be forced on your body. Be gentle with it, it’s the only one you have!
What’s something you believe about drumming or music that other people think is crazy?
Yes, this is my job. I don’t do anything but that.
As artists, the goal post for “success” is always moving. There’s not one “I made it!” point. How do you think about and define success?
I think it’s something you shouldn’t think about when making music. Because it will probably end up affecting the love and curiosity you have for it. A baby that is discovering the world doesn’t measure it in terms of success but in being open-minded, curious, and loving. The system that divides the world in good or bad is detached from pure and simple love. Be a baby while making music.
Do you have any quotes or sayings that you live by?
When you sit down to make music and are starting with a blank canvas, what’s your process like?
I try to imagine rhythm, harmonies, melodies. Everything you can imagine, everything you can hear in your inner ear, you can also write down or program into a DAW. When you start the process of making it hearable, other new things you didn’t think of before will come up and inspire you. Also, be curious and don’t be discouraged if you’re not having your Quincy Jones moment every time you sit down and make music.
How important is failure in making music/performing?
Probably the most important thing. It’s learning on so many levels and also holds a lot of potential for something new and innovative to come up—think of a lot of musical inventions, like distorted guitars, etc.
Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?
Don’t wait for anyone to make you visible. The 21st century offers so much opportunities to get seen and heard. Use them to your benefit. And don’t be afraid. We all have the same desires and we all have the same insecurities, no matter which gender. Be aware of who you are. Anything that gives you a feeling of not being welcome, of having to be someone else, is nothing you should spend your energy on.
If you had to put together a school or resources for would-be drummers, what would the training include?
Meditation and yoga. And skills that are necessary in the music business.
Where else to find Linda-Philomène