Every movement in life can be linked to the sound of music. The challenge can be getting the rhythm down and finding the beat. The Michigan men’s soccer team has only to look into the stands for its musical counterpart, the Like Water Drum Group, and the rhythm of their game is set.

When Michigan coach Steve Burns contacted the local drum group, his primary goal was to have the musicians play in sync to the tempo and pace of the game to get his players more in tune with the feel of the game and the movement on the field.

“Soccer has a definite rhythm to it,” Burns said. “Sometimes it’s back and forth and end-to-end action. And sometimes it’s pretty damn boring and both teams are tentative and not really getting into the attacking third at all. The drums can play to that rhythm.”

Now in its third year of playing at home games, “Like Water” has become a regular addition to the U-M Soccer Field.

“The drums make the stands much louder,” band leader Ryan Edwards said. “There’s a better connection between the fans and players, like having the marching band in the football stadium. Drums are used at most games in Brazil and Africa, where soccer is the most popular sport, so it just seems natural to have them at (Michigan) games.”

Edwards played soccer for many years before becoming serious about music. He says that being a part of the game means understanding the tempo on the field. By playing the drums, Edwards has been able to connect to the sport and set music to the pulse of the game.

“Soccer is definitely a combination of long ebbs and flows of energy,” Edwards said. “The concept of tension mounting and the timing of a soccer game is very similar to what musicians do with their compositions. You have to establish something and build on it ’til you find a climax. You know when you’re doing your job right because you can make audible the movement on the field.”

Edwards founded the Like Water Drum Group five years ago. After spending time in Western Africa studying the cultural music of the area, the Chelsea native returned to Michigan and was inspired to teach people about it. As he began leading classes, he built an ensemble of his students and other interested people from around the Ann Arbor area. As the group advanced musically and professionally, Edwards added dancers to the mix to create more authentic African music. The group now has 13 full-time members who perform three to seven times a month at schools, bars and community centers.

The original idea for the name of the band, “Like Water”, was that culture is like water and everyone needs a connection to their culture.

“We’re all in this life for a reason,” Edwards said. “There needs to be an inspiration to wake up every morning, more than just surviving. Music serves as a kind of medicine for the difficulties of life and water is very much like that in everyone’s life.”

The Like Water Drum Group will be playing on the U-M Soccer Field this Sunday when the Wolverines take on their first Big Ten opponent, Northwestern, at 1 p.m.

“I can’t say how lucky I feel to be paid to watch soccer games and mix both my love of the game and music,” Edwards said. “Soccer is an American underdog sport. It feels good that we can apply ourselves to make it more exciting and popluar.”

 

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