Sunday, October 10, 2010


Friday night found me at the “palooza of percussion” also billed as “an all star concert featuring Japanese Taiko by Kaoru Watanabe and the legendary Kenny Endo, with Asako & Ringtaro Tateishi; Senegalese Sabar by Thione Diop and Yeke Yeke; and Indian tabla by Samir Chatterjee, an internationally-acclaimed virtuoso and noted historian of Indian music.”

I have taken up drumming for ceremony in a Native American context and it was beyond thrilling to see the ceremonial aspects played out from the perspectives of different cultures. That is the dry way of saying, I just wanna bang on da drum all day.

Or, as a fellow drummer put it, “I bang the drum, you shake your booty!”

A quick Google on drumming turned up this perspective…

“Drumming is an occult practice used in pagan rituals. Designed to connect people with earth spirits and other demonic forces. Such circles are associated with witchcraft and shamanism. Put simply, this practice is not Christian.”

I bet J.C. wouldn’t have minded if someone pulled out the toms while he was multiplying fishes and loaves. Sounds like just the time to get a good beat going if you ask me.

The African drummers called in the four directions plus the as above and so below (heavens and earth) just like the Native American circles do. As they did this, the power of their intent was palpable. They created a ceremonial container for the entire audience and show.

At the end of the concert, all musicians played together. Their stage presence and styles were very different, and I doubt they all spoke the same language, but there was never a dropped beat. They built in each group, one at a time, then they let solos sweep over the stage as each group became the lead in turn, and finally built to a chest vibrating crescendo and BAM BANG BANG BAM. Full stop.


And the crowd jumped. It was one of those group-as-one moments. I can still feel the applause that we washed over those drummers.

My mother was Native American by blood only – not culturally. She told a story of being an infant in her grandmother’s care in the back woods of Alabama while her parents went to work in a cotton mill. The grandmother took her to a field that looked just like any other, but her grandmother knew where to dig. She placed my mother on a blanket, and she dug. Soon, she found pots, arrow heads, knives and skulls. These she placed by my mother and told her to rub the dirt off. In the afternoon, they took these down to the big road and sold them to rich white people.

Grave robbing.

My mother told me that story in a monotone when I asked about our Native American background and finished with, “I never did like that old woman.”

Beyond that disconnect, I look more like my Norse grandmother from my father’s side than anyone from my mother’s side. Another blue eyed Indian.

Still, a twisted hairs lineage out here has a need for drummers. They reach out to other people and share the various teachings that they have pulled together (like twisting hairs together to make a stronger cord). So, I drum with them. The slanted Christian perspective quoted above did get some points right. It does, “connect people with earth spirits and other demonic forces.” Maybe I take exception to the word demonic, but I’ll own up to the rest. Natural forces would be more accurate.

As the Go-Gos put it…

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