In Memory of Remo Belli
Some will remember him for inventing the synthetic drumhead. Others will recall his extraordinary panache as a professional musician.
I will personally remember him for far more.
As an extraordinarily talented and passionate visionary, Remo Belli’s unrelenting quest for improving what he referred to as the “human condition” forever changed the face of music making throughout the world.
With roots as an accomplished percussionist blended with a seemingly limitless energetic spirit, Remo’s set his sights on improving health and well-being in the broadest sense. Inspired by his physician wife, Ami, Remo knew the drum was far more than a musical instrument. For Remo, it was an instrument of healing that united people on many levels that extended from child development to aging and ultimately to tolerance, understanding and world peace.
We first spoke in the late nineties when to my surprise he agreed to fund our initial scientific research project over the phone. Our first personal encounter actually took place shortly thereafter in his North Hollywood warehouse during a pre-NAMM international dealer meeting that culminated with a strange assignment − and one I will never forget. He assigned me to his long-time friend and colleague, Karl T. Bruhn, who later became my mentor and the founding Chairman of the Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute. Karl and Remo together were truly the dynamic duo.
In later years what began as a research study serendipitously evolved into HealthRHYTHMS, a program that to date has launched more than 3,000 trained facilitators throughout the world along with an unstoppable drumming and wellness movement that’s effectively enabled thousands of people who were absolutely convinced they were not musical to finally experience the true joy of music-making. Some of the memories forever etched in my mind date back more than a decade − teaching an extraordinary team of Yamaha Corporation of Japan facilitators the HealthRHYTHMS protocol.
Reflecting on my personal time with Remo, our longstanding friendship personally inspired me in many ways. Throughout the years he taught me how to live every waking moment to the fullest with a deliberate focus on what really mattered. While I envisioned him as the ultimate toy maker, tinkerer and inventor whose youthful exuberance was nothing less than contagious, I fully realized that there was far more to the man. Beyond non-stop innovations that ranged from the latest nuance in drumheads to building “not-so-loud” drums that could be used even in the most serious medical settings, Remo, often immersed in deep thought, contemplated and dreamed of a better world.
Whether lunching in his Valencia office, navigating crowds in his extraordinarily loud NAMM booth, reflecting on the last lecture at convention hotels, or gazing down the boulevard in Estepona, Spain, Remo always seemed to settle in and gently revert to his longstanding dream of empowering every person in the world to express themselves on a drum. Frankly he had both the dream and the math down to a science!
During those long walks, contemplative evenings and extended discussions, Remo’s ageless wisdom, passion, gentility and genuine willingness to share his perspectives led to a lasting sense of utmost respect and admiration for a timeless genius who never let go of what really mattered to him − his quest to improve the “human condition.”
For those of us privileged to have known him, we will never again lose ourselves in a rhythm or a beat, natural or otherwise, without Remo’s spirit in our midst.
I am certain that heaven will never be the same now that Remo and Karl are again jamming together.
Barry Bittman, MD