Sa Davis Dies at 56

The faculty member and percussion innovator will be missed by his many friends and collaborators.
September 24, 2010

Sa Davis, 56, a member of Berklee's percussion faculty and an innovator of hand-drumming technique, died a few days before the beginning of the fall semester. Known for incorporating percussion styles from around the world into a range of more well-known genres, Davis performed with a host of music greats, including Billy Cobham, Tom Scott, Grover Washington Jr., Freddie Hubbard, and Lalah Hathaway.

He was also a frequent collaborator with a long list of Boston-based musicians, including faculty members at Berklee, New England Conservatory, and Northeastern University.

Post your own memories of Sa on Berklee Blogs.

"He was probably the best conga player I've ever played with," said Berklee professor of percussion Jackie Santos, one of Davis's longtime musical mates. "He never overplayed. Everything he played had a nice groove."

Santos and Davis played together in bands dating back to the late 1970s, when both were members of the r&b-fusion group Peaceful Flight, which also featured faculty member Armsted Christian. 

Davis, who joined the Berklee faculty in 1995, most recently taught courses such as Afro-Caribbean Rhythms and Percussion for Nonpercussionists and Practical Applications of Afro/Latin Rhythms.

"My specialty as a percussionist is to be able to take instruments from Brazil, Africa, and Cuba, and the rhythmic patterns associated with them, and transform them for use in very conventional settings—playing r&b, pop, jazz, rock 'n' roll, hip-hop, or whatever the style may be," he said in a recent interview for

"He was just a beautiful person overall," said Santos. "I loved playing with him not only because of his musicianship but because he always brought a warm, gentle feeling. It was great to be on stage with him and look over at him, seeing his warm smile light up the room."

Watch videos of Sa Davis performing: