Relevance of Rhythm: Why Drum?
A good question. Why do ANYTHING if it doesn’t provide some benefit to you? There are three primary reasons to tap into the power of rhythm: Rhythm and drumming helps you to SLOW DOWN and reconnect with YOU.
Everyone has heard the phrase “Don’t just sit there, do something!” but I’d like to offer something different: “Don’t just do something, sit there.” And play your drum!
Let me explain. In our modern world, speed is king. Faster is considered better. More is superior to less. Action trumps inaction. We want a lot of things, now.
But this world of hyper-stimulation has it’s drawbacks: shorter attention spans, heightened desire to consume, overvaluation of commodities. Ultimately, it places attention and focus on the outside. What external items do I need to stimulate me and make me feel whole and complete? This is a real problem!
Drumming and Rhythm help bring us back inside. The Power of Rhythm is the Power of Repetition. When we lock into a beat, our mind SLOWS DOWN (and, ultimately, turns off) and we reconnect with our physical rhythm: heartbeat, breath, muscle movement. We stop looking outside of ourselves for stimulation and approval; we begin to listen to the still, calm voice from inside. Some call this intuition, guidance, Love, even God. I call it my soul, or my positive lifeforce, or “axe” (“ah-shay”)* as they say in Brazil. This energy resides in everyone and is constantly attempting to share it’s wisdom and guidance. Unfortunately, most of the time we are too busy, too much into “More, Faster, Now” that we never stop to listen. That’s too bad, because this message from our spirit is exactly what we NEED and WANT to hear in order to live our lives in complete accord with our dreams and desires.
You’ll start hearing it and feeling it when you tap into the Power of Rhythm.
(*Axe (“Ah-shay”) is a term I learned while studying music and dance in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. It means, roughly, “positive life force”; the energy inside all of us that drives our dreams and desires.)
Drumming and Rhythm Helps Us Connect with Others.
At the heart of being human is a desire to connect. Most of the time this desire is to connect with other people, but not always (it could be a desire to connect with nature, creative expressions, spiritual matters.) No matter, we want and deeply need to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. The truth of our natural connection with all living things has been lost through generations of isolation, separation, loneliness. As we embrace a culture of materialism and consumerism, and a spirituality that separates us from our highest power, we drift further away.
But there is a practical and joyful (if not new) way to reconnect: Rhythm! People have gathered for thousands of years, in virtually every culture on the planet, to DRUM TOGETHER. Human beings don’t do ANYTHING for a long time unless it has a benefit, and rhythm provides a tremendous benefit.
Group drumming creates a supported place where we not only connect with our own spirit (as mentioned above), we THEN SHARE THIS EXPERIENCE WITH OTHERS. We are no longer alone or isolated. Rather, we collectively feed our souls, our higher selves, through the beat. And what a meal! Locking in complimentary rhythms, and holding those beats tight like a muscle is incredibly powerful, even thrilling. Many skills are needed to make this happen:
- We must be willing to go to a deeper place first individually and then collectively,
- We must listen to each other,
- We must communicate with each other in the context of a unifying beat,
- Most importantly, we must support each other in maintaining this common beat.
As we develop these skills and insights through drumming, it’s easy to see the crossover to other (all?) aspects of our life. Close personal relationships require a willingness to be go deep both individually and jointly; all successful work endeavors require outstanding listening and communication skills. Keeping focus on the common goal (the unifying beat) is the function of our sociopolitical system. Our everyday life requires immense trust and cooperation (e.g. driving on the proper side of the street, depositing money in the bank, flying in an airplane). Being “in rhythm” teaches and nurtures these skills.
Despite our mistaken, culturally-created belief that we are independent individuals, we are, in fact, completely INTERdependant. For example: think of turning on a light in your home. Do you realize how many thousands of people made that possible?**
Drumming and rhythm will help you develop the practical skills needed to establish deeper and more meaningful relationships in all aspects of your life.
(**The inventors who discovered the power of electricity and shared their findings and the donors who supported their research, the business people who invested their funds to make this new idea financially viable, the workmen who erected the electricity lines, the customer service representatives who receive new orders, the technicians who hook up each home in a safe and reliable manner, the homebuilders who construct the walls in your home and run the electricity lines to your switch, the employees who send out your bill, the service people who fix your line when it goes out, the technicians, hundreds of them, who continually (every minute of every day) monitor the electricity grid to ensure that it works properly, etc….the list continues.)
Drumming and Rhythm is our Entree into the Wide World of Music.
Music is fantastic! I’ve had a chance to travel around the world studying music, rhythm, and dance. The more I learn, the deeper the well becomes. The beauty, the joy, the exuberance, the soul of music…what a joy! I feel totally blessed every single time I’m near music; to hear it, to dance to it, to play it, to teach it.
By learning world rhythms, you will be learning about the PEOPLE who make the music. Music, like any other art form, is a creative expression – it reflects the soul of it’s creator(s). By studying drumming, in particular, we learn about a culture from the ground up. Rhythm is like a tree, “from the root to the fruit” (one of my favorite sayings). Drums are hollowed-out trees with animal skins on top. Rhythm flows through our bodies, starting from the feet and legs into the hips and lower torso (the root), up the spine down our arms and to our hands (the fruit). When we learn rhythms from a particular region, we are connecting with the culture from a very base-level, grass-roots place. We start to understand the soul of the people as we learn the rhythms that drive their music and, to a very real extent, their lives. This is very exciting!
I remember the first trip I took to Trinidad. For a few years prior, I was playing djembe*** for dynamic dance classes taught by Mr. Wilfred Mark, a world-class teacher and performer from Trinidad. As we became friends, he invited me to join him for a cultural trip to his island, and I accepted. Far from a “sit on the beach and drink a mai-tai” vacation, this was a musical and cultural odyssey to the back country of Trinidad. The modest country house we stayed was next to a home with over 100 chickens! We (there was a group of about 8 of us) woke to the rooster calls at the crack of dawn each morning, just like everyone else in the village. We learned traditional rhythms like Calypso, Jab Molassi, Shango from the local drummers in an open-air, tin-roof “dance studio.” But more importantly, we learned the soul of the music. We learned the tempo of the island. We learned not only what Trinidadians listened to, but WHY. My desire to learn the message behind the music gave me entree into this world. And rhythm was my ticket.
It’s been the same everywhere I have travelled: Brazil, Ghana, Cuba, Togo, Jamaica, Benin, Mexico, Nigeria… by connecting with the rhythm of the people, I have gained an exciting and powerful insight into their lives, and, by extension, have gained invaluable perspective on my own.
Drumming, rhythm, percussion and dance can do the same for you. The world is waiting, extending it’s hand. Let’s take the step, let’s explore. Together.