My drum circle started out slowly this afternoon, but then we had some visitors drop in:
I just could not be too serious on such a gorgeous day:
ljg (c) 2017
Until recently, I have never thought of myself as a musical person. Music was never part of my growing-up experience except to listen to 93 KHJ’s Boss Radio on a tinny transistor. I never had instrument, voice, or dance lessons. I was always a little envious of my friends who had this, though, at the time, my friends would have thought I was the lucky one.
I joined a congregation as an adult and I discovered that it was okay to sing. Then one day, when I was about to have a significant birthday, I signed up for a belly dance exercise class and discovered that dancing was okay too. It was in that dance class that I really discovered rhythm and melody. It started out with finger cymbals, then I got my first Arabic drum, then an African drum, then two frame drums. I started playing the drum at informal worship meetings. Then I started attending a community drum circle. And just last week, I acquired a strum stick, a type of stick dulcimer. I am teaching myself to play it.
I feel like some flood gate has opened and water is irrigating my soul.
I have learned that everyone, by virtue of being human and having a heartbeat and vocal cords, is a musical person. We are instruments through which God makes music.
Here is what a music therapist has to say about this:
(My apologies for the advertisement on this video….)
The purpose of an “Artist Date” is to refresh and recharge the Creative’s spirit. Yesterday’s visit to Motherland Music did just that. I had a couple of other reasons to visit this particular place on my “date”. First, I wanted to get a proper mallet for my frame drum, but I also wanted to check out their weekly drumming class. I liked what I saw and intend to take this course sometime in the coming months.
The “artist date” also serves to provide fodder for subsequent creative works. In my case not only did I get inspired to practice on my drum at home that evening, but it also drove me to engage in some photography and videography which I have never done on my smart phone. (There was a learning curve involved here. 🙂 I also taught myself how to use YouTube’s Video Editor to make this short video below.
Altogether, a very successful date .
Ljgloyd (c) 2017
The purpose of this blog is to serve as a journal for my creative experimentations and expressions. I have written essays, poems, and short stories over the years. I have exhibited my photography and once in a while my artwork. However, one mode of expression that does not get much attention is music. The reason for this is simple: growing up I never had the opportunity to learn a musical instrument or was given the chance to sing.
As an adult who is part of a faith community I get to engage in congregational singing. Furthermore, in the last year or so, I have been asked on a few occasions to play my darbuka or djembe drums at informal worship gatherings.
Curious note: I have no problem calling myself a writer or an artist or a photographer; however, I would never ever call myself a musician or even label myself as “musical”. Maybe it is because I don’t consider myself a “good “musician. After all, I have had no training at all in music. But, then, I am not an outstanding writer or visual artist either, yet that does not stop me from calling myself a writer or an artist.
So what’s the deal? I think it has to do with a feeling of empowerment. When I write I know it is not great writing, but I feel like I have said what I wanted to say. That’s power. The same could be said for my photography and artwork. It may not be particularly well-rendered compositions, but I strive to convey powerful messages in those images and am usually satisfied.
I am thinking that perhaps my reluctance to call myself musical comes from a feeling of dis-empowerment, a sense of being an outsider. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about:
I have a frame drum which is a simple wooden ring overstretched with a leather skin. (Think of a tambourine without the metal jangles). A frame drum is typically played by holding it and tapping with ones fingers. However, one can also beat it with a stick. I decided I wanted to try playing it with a stick. So yesterday I went down to a local “big box “music store franchise to get a beater. I went into the percussion department and asked for a “soft-headed beater for playing a frame drum”. The man at the counter pointed to an aisle and said with a note of condescension in his voice “you mean a mallet.” (No, I meant “beater” since that is what I heard it being called) Anyway, I went to where he pointed and discovered that they wanted over $30 for a pair of them. I asked if they were sold singly. Again, I received a slightly snarky response: “they only come in pairs.” If I had turned around, I bet I would have seen him rolling his eyes. I pointed out to him that I was playing a frame drum which only requires one mallet since you need to hold the drum with the other hand. His response: “well, then, I guess you’ll have an extra one”. My feeling as I left was that he thought I was an idiot who did not know what I was looking for. I then went down the street to a competing music store and got pretty much the same response from the guy who worked at that store.
In both cases, the condescension I felt coming from these men made me feel like I didn’t belong there– like I was an outsider. I don’t know if it is because they somehow knew I was not well-educated in percussion instruments, or if they didn’t think a frame drum was actually a real instrument, or if it was because I am an older woman and not a young man. If you go to Wikipedia and search for “list of famous percussionists” you will get a list of 100 percussionists of which only five are female. This gives me an idea that it may be the latter case. This is ironic since scholars assert that the frame drum is an ancient musical instrument originally created by women from their grain sieves. These women from long-ago expressed themselves without any hesitation. Consider this passage from the Hebrew scriptures:
And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord…. Exodus 15:20-21a (A timbrel is a type of frame drum)
Miriam, a woman, a sacred seer, singing to God– no fear, not marginalized, with complete boldness– was totally empowered.
My point in sharing this story is to emphasize that you do not create –whether through writing or rendering or making music– to get yourself a standing ovation. You do not do this to claim accolades. You do it to reclaim your personal power.
And if you have such power propelling your creative practice, the results cannot be anything but great.
— ljgloyd (c) 2016
Postscript: I went to my local artist supply store, bought about six dollars worth of materials, and made my own darn beater. My ancient foremothers would have been proud.
Another postscript: Not all music stores are like this. At the small sole proprietorship drum store I wrote about in the previous post, the experience could not have been more positive.
Image: “Miriam” by Anselm Feuerbach
Last year about this time I acquired a small djembe, a type of West African hand drum. I also have a darbuka, another kind of drum from the Middle East and North Africa. I have been messing around with these drums for quite a while, playing with other musicians on an informal basis since I really don’t know what I’m doing. I taught myself some basic rhythms by watching YouTube videos and live percussionaists.
A few days ago the cords that bind my djembe began to unravel, and I needed to find someone to repair it. This brought me to a store in a neighboring community that specializes in these types of drums. I never knew such a place existed– it is filled with all manner of hand percussion instruments and provides a place for the drumming community to gather, play and dance.
Besides getting my drum repaired, I had the opportunity to learn more about drumming from the people who work there. Since I have never taken a drumming lesson in my life, I already suspected that I had a lot to learn. But I had no idea just how much I did not know. For example, i learned that one does not usually play a djembe in the same way as one would plays a darbuka— different cultures, different rhythms, different ways of playing the instruments. They were polite about it though.
When I returned home, I enthusiastically started googling the topic of drums and eventually fell into a study of the therapeutic effects of drumming. Apparently, there is evidence that supports beneficial effects ranging from stress reduction to improving compromised immunity systems. There are social benefits as well. People do not become closer through their electronic devices and social media; they become closer by gathering over food, talk, music and dance.
You can see what I mean here:
Daily Post prompt: “Enthusiasm”
I am not the least bit musically inclined. So it’s hard to explain why I had this darbuka drum for so many years. (Truth be told it had something to do with my brief experimentation with bellydancing– but that is the story for another day).
I have been using this drum for the last decade as a decoration in my home and occasionally as a place to park cups of coffee.
A few weeks ago a musician friend of mine invited me to bring the drum to an informal gathering of friends in a garage. My playing with them was a bit tentative since I have never had a real lesson by a proper darbuka instructor, but I muddled my way through with the guitarists, relying on my intuition rather than skill to find the appropriate rhythms for each song.
My playing must have been acceptable because I was asked to bring my drum to a Christmas party last night. We sang about a dozen Christmas carols where, for most of them, I provided the percussion.
I had a lot of fun– so much so that I am thinking about finding a way to be properly trained to play this drum.
I would never have thought that music would ever be a creative expression for me.