‘Thriller’ drummer brings funky beats

Lacey Alexander

Staff Writer

A Troy University student music ensemble will be performing with the drummer from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” next week before they begin recording for their first full album.

The music group POPulus and the Troy University Jazz Ensemble will perform a concert with drummer Ngudu Chancler on Tuesday.

Chancler will also be speaking on the music industry for the public that morning in the band room in Long Hall.

Chancler, a Louisiana native, began playing the drums when he was 13 years old.

Though his beginnings were in jazz, he has played with a variety of artists like Carlos Santana, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Frank Sinatra.

He holds a degree in music education and teaches at the Stanford Jazz Workshop in Stanford, California, every summer.

“Ngudu may be the most successful rock/pop/R&B drummer of all time,” said Robert Smith, the director of POPulus and a professor of music at Troy University. “Everybody in the world knows the albums he’s worked on . . . like ‘Billy Jean,’ that incredible groove that just kicks in and audiences go nuts. . . That’s all him.”

Smith said he contacted Chancler after knowing him for almost 10 years. “I met him at a music event in the Midwest,” he said. “We’ve been trying to get him to Troy for some time.”

Chancler will have what Smith called a clinic-style rehearsal with the groups on Monday and have a sound check with them Tuesday afternoon before the show.

“He plays all of the styles, and he does it incredibly well,” Smith said. “There’s no style of American popular music that he’s not absolutely amazing at . . . There’s nothing you can put in front of him that he can’t play.”

POPulus, a group of student singers and musicians that perform covers of popular hits as well as original songs, will also be digitally releasing its third and most recent EP, “Who You Are,” later in the week.

For the first time since it was started four years ago, POPulus is divided into two groups, POPulus 1 and POPulus 2. Smith said this is due to a large turnout at auditions last semester.

“There was so much more talent there than the existing POPulus could take,” Smith said. “As a professor and teacher, this is mostly about the educational process, and here was all this talent . . . so it worked out that we got POPulus 1 and 2.”

Every fall, POPulus has recorded an EP, but now that there are two groups, Smith said that they will record a full album with nine tracks this fall. “Wyatt, as a senior, will be the producer for this album,” he said.

Wyatt Edmonson, a senior music industry major from Montgomery, was the first student Smith recruited for POPulus. “We kind of built the group with Wyatt at the center,” Smith said.

Edmonson said that POPulus has helped him prepare for his career in the industry. “I’m going to a great internship in Nashville (Tennessee) because of the experience I’ve gotten with POPulus,” Edmonson said.

“We want students to step out of their shell. It gives us a chance to explore things we might have not otherwise thought of doing.”

Edmonson also said that the students involved were elated to work with such a high-profile guest like Chancler.

“We were just all freaking out about the fact that this literal superstar would be working with us,” Edmonson said. “Through these connections we’re getting a really quality experience.”

The concert will be at 7 p.m. in the Claudia Crosby Theater on Tuesday, Oct. 13. Admission is free to the public.

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