The earthy roots music of Groove Merchant Drum and Dance Ensemble has been described as Bedouin Funk.  The New Jersey based group’s repertoire includes original compositions that dig deeply into ethnic roots music as well as offering a tasteful blend of traditional music.  Groove Merchant’s nomadic inspirations are from the Near East, West Africa, New Orleans and beyond with two things in common; the funky bottom and respect for roots of the music and cultural traditions.

Groove Merchant is much more than drummers who play while dancers dance.  A large portion of the group’s repertoire integrates musical arrangements played by dancers and drummers alike.  There are blurred lines between dance corps and musicians.  “We all cross train musically”, says Dave Merritt, Groove Merchant’s co-director.  “In addition to making the music visual, the dancers play integral arrangements on finger cymbals and various instruments that complete the compositions.  We have some straight up percussion pieces but honestly the energy is highest and feels best when were all on stage together.” 

2014 marked the group’s 10 year anniversary and 2015 saw the release of the debut cd, 'Dansa'.  “We are really proud of the cd but it’s really only half the story of Groove Merchant Drum and Dance Ensemble”, said co –director, Kim Leary. “I think we were able to genuinely capture the energy of live performance with dance in tracks like Avalon and Reda’s Drum.   Other choreographies are on deck to be created and performed live with the tracks “Naseem” and “Open & Close”.

Groove Merchant Drum & Dance Ensemble has a very diverse fan base and has been featured at venues such as The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, Princeton University’s Frist Theatre, Paramount Concerts on the Beach as well as national dance festivals, local community events and many others.  (Full venue list available upon request.) Co-Director’s Kim Leary and Dave Merritt are dedicated to teaching dance and music and facilitating the creative process at The Drum and Dance Learning Center in Lawrenceville, NJ.



 “It was difficult not to wish oneself on stage and part of such an infectiously enthusiastic group of performers.”  ž  “With their high energy and incredible versatility, these dancers and musicians took on a surprisingly diverse sampling of musical traditions from across the globe, paying homage to elements of rhythm and movement originating in various regions of the world.” ž “The fusion was seamless and highly engaging.”

-       E. Rosenfeld, Unbound Magazine, “Fusion Meets Funk” article.

“For an audience that included many cultures and widely different age ranges, few experiences could keep such great attention and invoke such enthusiastic energy.”

-       Zach Lichtmann, Author of Dynamo, - “Review of 2014 Groove Merchant Showcase”

“The audience clapped and children danced in the aisles.”

The Courier Post“Review of 2008 performance at Kennedy Center/Burlington”

Dave Merritt Groove Merchant Drum & Dance Ensemble
Dave Merritt is an accomplished drummer of many talents and interests who has been playing drums for over 35 years. He has performed with varied and diverse groups including: drum set with the Road Runners Blues Band, Catfish, and Paul Plumeri Blues Band; bodhrán, bones,and hammered dulcimer with traditional Celtic bands Kintail, Cwn Annwn and Browne Jenkyn; and snare drum for the First Highland Watch of Pennsylvania Bagpipe Band and Revolutionary War re-enactors First New Jersey Volunteers. In 2004 he, along with Kim Leary, formed Groove Merchant Drum & Dance Ensemble, which led them to open the Drum & Dance Learning Center (DDLC) in May 2005.

As musical director for DDLC, Dave is the principal composer, writing in a variety of styles.  In addition to his original compositions, he also arranges traditional rhythms true to their origins, as well as drum/ percussion- only interpretations of existing music. 

A teacher since 1980, Mr. Merritt teaches a variety of drum techniques at the Drum Dojo at DDLC: Drum Set, Rudimental Snare Drum, Bodhrán, traditional West African Djembe and Dunun, and Arabic Tabla (Dumbek). As a drum teacher, his casual approach allows students the relaxation and freedom necessary to learn at their own pace, and his enthusiasm and appreciation of the instrument is both contagious and motivational.

Dave has attended workshops with various drum artists including: Billy Cobham, Tommy Campbell, Rod Morgenstein, Ed Shaughnessy, Terry Bozzio, Greg Bissonette and Pat Patrillo (drum set); Sam Hall, J. Reid Maxwell, Jon Quigg and Gordon Bell (pipe band snare drum); Francisco "Fuyo" Gomez(conga); Victor Marshall, M'Bemba Bangoura and Mamady Keita (djembe); Mangue Sylla(dunun); Kim Leary, Souren Baronian, Issam Houshan, Amir Naoum, Karim Nagy, and Bill Koutsouros (Arabic tabla); and Phil Smiley of the Tannahill Weavers demonstrated bodhrán technique. Dave continues to refine and expand his own technique on these instruments, finding inspiration and new ideas everywhere he goes.

The history of the instruments that he plays is also important to Mr. Merritt. He continues to study their origins, cultural and social signifigance, historical impact and evolution. One of his hobbies is the restoration of vintage drums and drum sets. He has even designed and built a few snare drums and various folk instruments. Dave combines his love of drums, history and education in his school and library presentation of "A Day in the Life of an 18th Century Soldier", the Revolutionary War as seen through the eyes of a Drummer.


 World Music

“Dansa” – Groove Merchant Drum and Dance Ensemble

Composer, arranger, producer and performer

Djembe, dounoun, davul, frame drum, timbale, conga,

drumset & small hand percussion.

Sourlands Mountain Studio, Hopewell, NJ


Celtic Music

 “Browne Jenkyn” – Browne Jenkyn

Arranger & performer – bodhran, bones, hammered dulcimer

Sourlands Mountain Studio, Hopewell, NJ



“To-Nite” – Catfish Blues Band

Performer – drumset

Generic Choas Studios, Newtown, PA


“706 Union Ave” - Catfish Blues Band

Performer – drumset

Sun Studios, Memphis, TN

Kim Leary (Alexia) is a world dance performer, choreographer and instructor in Central New Jersey.  She is Co-Artistic Director of Groove Merchant Drum & Dance Ensemble and Co-Director of her school, The Drum & Dance Learning Center in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.  Kim has been involved in the multi-cultural music and dance genre since 1989.

Ms. Leary has performed at numerous venues such as Lincoln Center, The Ohio Theatre (SOHO), CAMI Hall (NYC), DanceSpace (NYC), FIT (NYC), The Evolving Arts Theatre (NYC), The Black Box Theatre (NJ), as well as at many colleges, universities, and festivals as a soloist and with her own dance company, SaZ Dance Theatre, Jamila Salimpour's Bal Anat and Dalia Carella's DNA Project. 

Kim holds a certification in Training & Development in Multiple Intelligences and the Arts from Kean University. She is a Level 2 Certified Dancer in the Suhaila Salimpour Dance Format since 2000 and Certified Level Two in the Jamila Salimpour Dance Formasince 2008 and earned a Level Two Certification in Sahra Saeeda's Journey Through Egypt Program. Kim received a dance scholarship award from Dance New Jersey in 2010 and was voted New Jersey's Favorite Belly Dance Teacher in 2008, 2010 and 2013, 2014 & 2015. 

She has taught a variety of workshop topics at many festivals and events including Rakkasah East, Spring Caravan Art of the Belly, Raven's Night and The Austin Belly Dance Convention .

Her acclaimed dance company, Groove Merchant Drum & Dance Ensemble has performed at festivals and theatres nationally and their performances have been partially supported by funds from the NJ State Council on the Arts.

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About Groove Merchant Drum & Dance ensemble

Our earthy roots music has been described as Bedouin Funk. The New Jersey based group’s repertoire includes original compositions that dig deeply into ethnic roots music as well as offering a tasteful blend of traditional music.  Groove Merchant’s nomadic inspirations are... READ MORE

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