My name is Gregory Michel Henry Marcel Gochtovtt. I was born and raised in Paris, France, and I came to the United States when I was 12. I went to college at Indiana University in Bloomington. It was there that I learned to play the doumbek and djembe drum, and I was very active in drum circles. I also wrote two songs for a girl who never cared about me, and a multitude of poems for waitresses who never knew I existed. I graduated with a degree in English, spent a few years trying to find myself as a waiter and bartender (I’m still lost). I traveled and lived back and forth between Indiana and Pennsylvania, and finally settled in Pennsylvania. I also spent a lot of money.
In 2002, I joined the United States army and spent four years in Louisiana and I deployed twice to Iraq, once with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (the unit which built what is now known as Camp Liberty from the ground up, when it was back then called Camp Wareagle), and the second time with the 142nd Brigade Support Battalion, where I earned the respect of the local Iraqis, who named me “Doumbekchi” (he who plays the doumbek.)
I am still in the Pennsylvania National Guard. and since my active duty days, have volunteered again twice, going to Iraq the first time (I was featured in Time Magazine because of the failing economy in 2008), and Afghanistan the second time. I still drum actively in Philadelphia every week at Fairmount Park. I have had the pleasure of drumming for such bellydancers as Najia of Philadelphia, Jeehan of New York, and Raja of New Jersey. I have also drummed in Indiana for the Fort Wayne YMCA’s African dance troupe, a dance ensemble started by local police officer Diane Wilson to help at-risk kids get off the streets. It was there that I had the pleasure of drumming with master drummers Ubaka Hill and Deborah Flye. I also sing, play Native American flute, and I dabble in classical and acoustic guitar.
Another of my hobbies is Medieval re-enactment, and I own a full coat and coif of chainmail, a variety of swords, a full-length Hungarian longbow, and several pieces of armor. I have done a really awesome shoot in full armor with budding photographer Caitlyn Beatty (see my photoshoots page, which also includes an army photoshoot by renown fashion photographer Mike Brochu, and a Doctor Who cosplay photoshoot Joey Pasion, or “Doctor Photo”.) I welcome any opportunity to display my armor, such as Halloween, Renaissance Fairs, or even the opening night of Game of Thrones at the local hookah bar, Hookah Matata.
My next project is to find other drummers with whom I can collaborate to do local performances in the tri-state area. So if you are a drummer or bellydancer looking for a doumbek or djembe player, feel free to contact me!
You can also find me drumming at Fairmount Park‘s Glendinning Rock Garden on the corner of Girard Avenue and Brewery Hill Drive every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. Just listen for the sounds of drumming by the underpass parking across the meadow and up the stone steps.