Originally from Barcelona, Demi studied at the London College of Music. He now works as a freelance drummer and percussionist, specialising in Flamenco, Jazz, Arabic, Latin and Pop music.
Current projects include Alec Dankworth & Spanish Accents, Nova Trio, Nicolas Meier, Jorge Bravo, Tito Heredia, Shirley Smart Trio, Nikki Yeoh, Martin ‘Youth’ Glover, Ben Hillier, Mel C, La Tipica contemporary Flamenco company, Maria Vega Dance company, Melange, The Budapest Cafe Orquestra and Los Amigos Latin band. He has toured all over Europe, North Africa, and USA.
Demi regularly teaches Cajon and Flamenco Rhythms at Escuela Flamenco Londres (Flamenco dance School London).
Demi was born in Barcelona, Spain into a family of pastry chefs. He spent his youth in Sant Cugat, a small town near Barcelona, where the family patisserie (a shop named 'Sabat') still thrives today. Indeed his greatest early inspiration was his grandfather Jaume Sabat, a true 'maestro'. An expert and innovator in the kitchen, he also painted, wrote novels and works for theatre. There is even a street named after him in Sant Cugat!
Demi's interest in drums began at the age of 6, on hearing the snare drum rhythms of marching bands. A guitar was offered to him, but he could not be persuaded away from percussion and finally got his first drum kit age 7. He spent those first years trying to teach himself.
At the age of 15, Demi began receiving formal drum tuition. He also started buying vinyl as his interest in music developed and expanded. Even then his tastes were eclectic, with early influences ranging from ‘Metallica’ and ‘Buzzcocks’ to Peret, Paco de Lucía, Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock and John Zorn.
Between 1989-1994 Demi played in a psychedelic rock band called 'Strawberries' and also led a marching band for the 'Correfoc' of Sant Cugat. 'Correfoc' is a Catalan tradition. Townsfolk dress up as devils after dark and run through the streets setting off fireworks to the accompaniment of a rhythmic percussion group.
From 1996-1998 Demi lived in the centre of Barcelona and formed a new band, 'Whisper XL', which played power pop, punk and garage.
Throughout this time, Demi completed his training as a pastry chef and worked for the family business 'Sabat'. Whilst highly successful and tipped to take over the business one day, he longed to pursue music further and thus decided to take the bold and brave step of leaving Spain in 1999. It was to be either London or New York for the great jazz scenes in both countries, but he settled on London due to its closer proximity to home.
His first lessons in London were at the Walthamstow Drum Centre. In order to fund his studies Demi found chef work in various restaurants around town. It was through one of these jobs that he met other like-minded musicians and formed the band 'Asesino'. Inspired by funk, acid jazz and pop they played many gigs in small venues around London. They re-launched as 'Lounger' in 2002, having spent one month recording an album in Barcelona.
Whilst recording this album Demi took cajon lessons with Nan Mercader and started to develop an interest in flamenco. Nan Mercader was one of the first musicians to publish a book on cajon studies exploring the possibilities of this instrument. Demi spent much time studying his book and listening to the Tomatito CD, ‘Barrio Negro’. Another big inspiration from this time was Antonio Carmona.
He also took jazz drum lessons with Quico Samsó to help prepare for his music college auditions, as it was jazz drumming that Demi wanted to specialise in.
Demi began his studies at Drumtech, London College of Music in 2003. He was lucky to come across some very inspirational teachers there, including Bosco de Oliviera (Brazilian percussion) and Tom Meadows (Drum kit). In particular, studying with Bosco opened Demi’s mind up to the possibilities of the world of percussion.
Towards the end of his course he met singer Ulises Diaz Ropero and joined 'Prensa o Palike', a rumba flamenco band with whom he recorded an EP. His friendship with Ulises was a very fruitful one. Ulises shared his vast knowledge on the subject of flamenco and Demi’s interest and love for this music continued to grow.
He started to create his own ‘drum kit’ consisting of percussion. This was partly because he did not drive and was having to travel with his instruments on public transport. For many years he lugged around a heavy suitcase with his percussion drum set!
He did still continue to play a standard drum kit however, and at this time also founded a covers band 'The Escorts', which went on to enjoy much success playing for corporate events and weddings.
From 2004 - 2007 Demi gained his first teaching job for Havering Music Service in Essex. He taught drum kit in four schools across the borough and enjoyed this work greatly. Demi is still in touch with former pupils, some of whom have gone on to become professional musicians themselves.
His experiments into the world of music fusion began with the band 'La Xula' in 2005 (until 2008). They fused flamenco, Arabic, electro and psychedelic styles and spent much time touring around Europe and North Africa, in addition to UK concerts. They recorded the album 'In X-ile' for Via Lactea Records, and at the time of release were widely considered to be one of the top five world music bands in the UK.
During this time he also worked for Lord Yehudi Menuhin's charity 'Live Music Now', which takes live performance into the community. He did this with the flamenco band 'Carambita' and they played in a wide range of venues including prisons and hospitals. Through this Demi met the amazing flamenco guitarist Jorge Bravo, with whom he still plays today.
In 2006 Demi got married to violinist and teacher Jen Underhill. For their honey-moon they travelled to Cuba, inspired by the wonderful music there. Whilst in Havana Demi made the most of studying congas and bongos with local musicians.
On his return, Demi’s work expanded to include accompanying contemporary dance classes, something he enjoyed immensely. He worked for The Place, Greenwich Dance Agency and Trinity Laban.
In 2007 Demi received the offer to play with jazz bassist Alec Dankworth and his 'Spanish Accents' band. This fusion of flamenco with jazz was something he had always been passionate about and he continued to develop his own sound using a combination of percussion instruments and drum kit. Demi was a huge fan of Chano Domínguez and Carles Benavent at the time and these musicians helped to influence his style.
Demi uses a stick in his right hand as a drummer would (snare, cymbals and toms), and keeps his left hand for percussion (cajon, djembe, darbuka, frame drums, udu and shakers). His right foot will either play the cowbell or hi-hat and his left foot the bass drum. He also sometimes switches between percussion and drum kit depending on the song.
Together with Alec, Demi has had the privilege of playing with some of the country's top jazz musicians, including Phil Robson, Chris Garrick, Mark Lockheart, Emily Dankworth and Roland Sunderland and flamenco dancer Jesus Olmedo. He continues to play with ‘Spanish Accents’ and has since also formed a trio with Alec and guitarist Jorge Bravo (2017). It was always Demi’s dream to bring these two musicians together and ‘Nova Trio’ play a combination of flamenco, Latin and jazz to much acclaim.
From 2007 onwards, Demi’s work has focused heavily on the genre of flamenco. He has played with 'La Típica Flamenco', a contemporary flamenco group led by dancer Natalia Garcia Huidobro, and has also performed with the flamenco company of Rafael from Oxford. Artists he has worked with as part of the Oxford flamenco scene have included Rafael de Utrera, Domingo Patricio, Estéves-Paños Company, Lola Rueda and Kuljit Bhamra.
In 2008 Demi joined forces with the virtuosic Swiss jazz guitarist Nicolas Meier and his group. He continued to work with fusion, but this time jazz with Middle Eastern. To date he has recorded four albums with Nicolas Meier, been on a tour of the USA, and played with the likes of Lizzy Ball, Pat Bettison, Kevin Glasgow, Paolo Minervini, Asaf Sirkis, Lawrence Lowe, James Pearson, Richard Jones and Gilad Atzmon.
In the same year Demi also joined forces with singer Javier Moreno and his 'Los Amigos band', which includes an old colleague, guitarist Andres García. The mix of rumba flamenco covers and original music brought back memories of his youth and listening to Catalan rumba flamenco (Peret), and his time in Cuba. This band still performs today and is in much demand around the UK. The same musicians also play occasionally in flamenco group Alma Gitana, working with dancer Lourdes Fernández Menayo.
In 2011 Demi met cellist Shirley Smart and joined her band 'Melange Collective'. More musical fusion; this time blending sounds from North Africa, Middle East, Balkans, Turkey and Central Asia. He features on the album, ‘Via Maris’, released on Two Rivers Records in 2015. Other musicians in the collective include Peter Michaels, Stefanos Tsourelis, Maurizio Minardi, Joe Browne, Jake Painter, Michelle, Montolli.
One project that Demi is particularly fond of is 'Last Summer’s Tealights', a jazz fusion band that he became part of in 2012. It was the brainchild of saxophonist Joe Browne and marimba player and pianist Hal Hutchinson. Their original compositions are atmospheric and beautiful. Demi recorded an EP with them in 2013, and other musicians to feature are Shirley Smart and Nick Breakspear.
Demi has worked with cellist Shirley Smart on many occasions, and another of these is with her world jazz Trio, featuring jazz pianist John Crawford.
In 2013 Demi became involved with flamenco dancer and philanthropist Karen Ruimy. She organises huge productions in venues such as The Peacock Theatre in London and invites top musicians and dancers over from Spain. One such show ‘Zik’r’ was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2015. ‘Zik’r’ is a journey of music inspired by the roots of flamenco, including India, Arabic and Sufi. Through Karen, Demi has been fortunate enough to perform alongside Trini de la Isla, Jose Almarcha, Pedro Obregon, Paco Hidalgo, Kuljit Bhamra, Michael Rendall, Les Child, Gerry Diver, Ash Mukherjee, Lola Rueda and Martin ‘Youth’ Glover.
Demi worked with the contemporary flamenco dancer Maria Vega in 2016. Her show ‘A Dancer’s Journey’ received glowing reviews and featured artists such as Manuel Diaz, Adrian look, Maria Ines Sousa, Leo Power, Jorge Bravo, Marcel Mamaliga and Paolo Minervini.
Since 2017, Demi has worked regularly with virtuoso flamenco guitarist Tito Heredia and the pair have a weekly residency in a bar in Camden. Another artist with whom he has worked for many years is flamenco dancer and singer Lola Rueda. In 2017 he recorded an album with her, fusing flamenco with Cuban styles.
Demi also opened a cajon school in 2017, giving weekly lessons at the Escuela de Baile, London. During the summer of 2018 he ran a highly successful week long series of cajon workshops, which culminated in a jam session with vocalist and dancers. There are plans afoot for similar workshops in the future and Demi has expanded his popular classes to include an Intermediate one. He also has a YouTube channel on which he often publishes tips on different cajon techniques.
Demi continues to work as a session musician, involved in many different projects. He travels up and down the country giving concerts and frequently performs abroad. One interesting new project is his involvement with the company ‘Canela Fina’, who organise workshops throughout the UK promoting Spanish culture. Workshops range from flamenco through to cookery, making use of Demi’s other rather special talent!
Throughout his life he has continued to collect vinyl. He has an eclectic collection of Latin, Funk, Soul, Boogaloo, Afro Beat, Ska, Reggae, and Psychedelic grooves, and can sometimes be found DJing rather than performing!
It is fair to say that Demi’s unique musical style is much in demand. So far in 2018 he has recorded six albums with different artists, and there are many more projects in the pipeline….
"Creativity leads us to freedom"