The Making of a Gourdhead

Arthur Stephens founded the Richmond Indigenous Gourd Orchestra in 1993, after growing gourds, and making some traditional gourd instruments. Arthur started exploring his musical primal roots as a teenager, bringing home bamboo and creating simple xylophones in which he and his friends banged away with delight.

Arthur spent his formative years experimenting with multi-track recordings and playing guitar in various Richmond,VA bands such as Barbie and the Beeftones, The Argonauts, Argo Music, Beneficial Nematodes, Messages from the Black Hole, 11:11, and Power Cave.
He and his friends are still banging away with delight.

When Barry Bless first heard the evocative sounds of the musical bow and the gourd water drums being played, he was won over and became very interested in joining an all gourd instrument band. As a long time friend and merriment maker since teen years, playing together in a gourd band seemed like a wondrous idea.

Barry is an accordion player with the Happy Lucky Combo and was co-founder of the Ululating Mummies. With these groups, including RIGO, he has collaborated on compositions, albums and multi-media projects including live soundtrack performances to silent films.
A little known fact is that Barry has performed on the Mighty Wurlitzer at the historic Byrd Theatre in Richmond, Va.

Christopher Hibben is a percussionist and graphic designer, originally from Washington DC and Maryland. He grew up playing drums, had formal percussion training during junior high school, and played in a few college bands during the early 1980s and 1990's, such as Scrambled Leggs and later 11:11. He was recruited into the Gourd Orchestra after performing with Ruckus Watusi, a performance art/percussion ensemble.
This summer he's growing a gourd plant with his daughter in hopes of making a new instrument.

John Ramsey has been a long time musical collaborator on many experimental and pop music projects since our early teen years. When presented with the 'gourd' project, John quickly adapted to the primitive gourd instruments.

John says he is out to change the world through music and creativity.  In the gourd orchestra, John specializes in playing gourd water drums and made a gourd flute, as well as administrating the gourd orchestra’s MySpace page.
In a former life, John undertook formal studies in electronic music, voice, carillon, accordion, tuba, poetry and ping-pong (1 credit).  Outside of the gourd orchestra, John plays hammered dulcimer, folk harp, accordion, recorders, percussion and whatever else he can get his hands on, in the musical duo Hearts of Sound, with his wife Donna Bain.  John is also a universalist Sufi, with many years experience playing music for the Dances of Universal Peace, and he edits an annual national dance journal.  His favorite color is

Pippin Barnett joined the Gourd Orchestra in 2002, bringing with him not only his vast musical experience but also his woodworking skills. Pippin Barnett was a natural when it came to playing gourd instruments. His years of musical exploration contributed greatly to our wimsical style of music making.

Pippin created many of the second generation instruments including a gourd guitar, a hybrid asian - banjo, a talking drum, a snare drum and a bass drum, among others.

He has participated as co-founder and member of numerous bands including Happy Lucky Combo, Curlew, The Orthotonics, Nimal, The Ululating Mummies, Roof and No Safety.

Among the musicians Pippin has performed and toured with are Conrad Baur, Chris Cochrane, Tom Cora, Fred Frith, Shelly Hirsch, Tim Hodgekinson, Catherine Jeauniux, Zeena Parkins, Hans Reichel, Jean-Maurice Rossel, Hahn Rowe, Martin Schutz, David Wienstien, Shirley Anne Hoffman, Bratko Bibic and Keith Rowe.
He has been recorded on over 40 albums.

Among the venues at which Pippin has performed are, the Kool Jazz Festival- NYC, New Music America- NYC, Mimi Festival- France, Zurich Jazz Festival-Switzerland, Sarzana Music Festival-Italy, Goethe Institute- NYC, Knitting Factory Jazz Festival-Holland and NYC, Festival for Performance and Experimental Music-Copenhagen, Tampere Jazz Festival – Finland, The Kitchen-NYC and The Walker Arts Center-Minneapolis.