Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Buying a Drum

Before buying a drum, ask your drum teacher’s advice. There are many good-looking, badly made drums on the market, and price is not always a guarantee of quality.

Drum teachers often have extra drums for their students to play during class. Some teachers sell excellent drums at reasonable prices. Others will go with you to shop for a well-made drum with a good sound.

Want to learn more about drumming and the research on how drumming heals? More coming soon.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Drumming and Healing Resources

Here is a list of recommended resources on drumming and healing:

Diallo, Yaya and Hall, Mitch. The Healing Drum: African Wisdom Teachings. Destiny Books, 1989.

Diallo, Yaha. The Healing Drum: African Ceremonial and Ritual Music (Audio CD). Destiny Recordings, 1994.

Diamond, John, MD. The Way of the Pulse – Drumming with Spirit. Enhancement Books. Bloomingdale IL. US. 1999.

Friedman, Dorian, Drumming to the rhythms of life. U.S. News & World Report; 06/09/97, Vol. 122 Issue 22, p17, 1/2p, 1c

Friedman, Robert Lawrence. The Healing Power of the Drum, White Cliffs Media, Reno, NV, 2000

Longhofer, Jeffrey and Floersch, Jerry. African drumming and psychiatric rehabilitation. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal; Apr93, Vol. 16 Issue 4, p3, 8p

Doyle, Mabry. Drumming and Wellness. The Birthing of Rhythmaculture.

Mikenas, Edward E. Drumming on the Edge of Leadership: Hand Drumming and Leadership Skills for the New Millennium.
Percussive Notes. February 2003.

Redmond, Layne. When the Drummers Were Women. Three Rivers Press, New York, NY 1997

Robertson, Ian H. Mind Sculpture:Unlocking Your Brain’s Untapped Potential. Fromm International. New York, NY, 2000.

Slotoroff, C. Drumming technique for assertiveness and anger management in the short-term psychiatric setting for adult and adolescent survivors of trauma. 1994. Music Therapy Perspectives, Special Issue: Psychiatric music therapy. Vol 12, Issue 2. p. 111-116.

Stevens, Christine. Should Drums Be Sold in Pharmacies? 2001. Percussive Notes.

Thompson, April. Beating Chronic Illness: Drumming offers a sound addition to modern efforts to ease pain. Science and Spirit Magazine, September-October, 2001,

Winkelman, Michael. Complementary Therapy for Addiction: Drumming Out Drugs. American Journal of Public Health; Apr2003, Vol. 93 Issue 4, p647, 5p

Reaping the Benefits of Drumming

How do you take full advantage of the amazing benefits of African drumming? Trying to learn from books and CDs without a teacher is frustrating. At the beginning, most of us don’t have the discipline to drum alone, day after day. You really need a good teacher.

A workshop can be a great way to get a taste of drumming. And most teachers offer a single-class trial rate and special rates for multiple classes.

Djembe classes are advertised in many places, but they vary widely in quality. It takes a minimum of six different parts to comprise one djembe rhythm, including the main three parts, played on large stick-played drums: sangba, kenkeni, and dunnun. You don’t get the full effects by playing just one or two parts. You need to learn the whole rhythm.

Studying with an authentic African drum master like Houston’s Baba Abubakr Kouyate is the best way to get the absolute most from drumming.

Healing Power of African Drumming--Part 2

A Healer Looks at Drumming

After just one African drumming class, I was hooked. I felt relaxed yet somehow energized and inspired.

But why? Sure, it’s exhilarating to play jazzy multipart rhythms in a class where everyone from first-time beginners to professional musicians can play together and sound wonderful. (It’s addictive, in fact!) But there had to be more to it.

The comments of class members are summed up by this quote from visionary artist Yvonne Fitch, “Abubakr is like a loving father with a gentle discipline in teaching drumming and healing. After drumming with Father Abubakr. my heart is lifted and my root chakra is cleared out of any negativity. He is the best.”

I agree. Still, I wanted to know more about the effects of African drumming on drummers. A fascinating book, Mind Sculpture, by Ian H. Robertson, offered a clue.

Moment by moment our brains are changed by what we experience, think and remember. Our moods can even be affected by which side of the body we move….

In one study, people were more likely to come up with positive statements…describing an ambiguous picture [while] clenching their right hands than…their left.

That also brought up more questions. What about left-handers? If using the left hand stimulates the right hemisphere, does using the left hand also stimulate creativity? What happens when we use both hands equally in rapid djembe drumming? Could drumming balance the two sides of the brain?

Could African drumming have healing powers far beyond the relaxation and pleasure most people enjoy in it?

Research on the Power of Drumming and Healing

Research on Drumming, Rhythm and Healing

Another classmate, Lynn Colwell, told me about drumming research by Dr. Barry Bittman and showed me a paper she had written on African healing rhythms. When I searched for more information, I found quite a lot.

Drummers in the Bittman study were given two psychological tests: the Beck Anxiety Inventory and the Beck Depression Inventory, which showed they felt less stress and less depression after drumming.

In The Healing Power of the Drum, Robert Friedman quotes drummer Layne Redmond, author of When the Drummers Were Women: "As the two hemispheres begin to resonate to a single rhythm, …the individual is able to draw on both the left and the right hemispheres simultaneously. The mind becomes sharper, more lucid…."

In recent years, major articles describing the healing effects of drumming have appeared in newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times, The Yoga Journal and Newsweek. A Newsweek cover article, "Your Child's Brain" (February 19, 1996), detailed the scientific evidence that the brain has a fundamental need for rhythm and described the stress produced when the brain is deprived of that basic need.

Even just listening to drumming has a relaxing affect and can cure headaches and relieve other stress-related conditions. Furthermore, researcher Melinda Maxfield has shown that a steady rapid 4.5 beats per second (300 beats a minute) can slow listeners’ brainwaves down into theta, the level of deep trance and rapid learning.

Actually doing drumming has even more powerful effects on the body. Drumming has measurably improved the functioning of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s, stroke, Alzheimers, and other serious conditions.

Evidence now proves that stress contributes to all disease and is a primary cause of many life-threatening illnesses, including heart attacks, strokes, and immune system breakdown. Drumming for an hour improves the body’s physical reactions to stress and strengthens the immune system at the cellular level.

So how do you take advantage of these great benefits?

--more tomorrow--

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Healing Power of African Drumming--Part 1

Drum circles are everywhere. People clearly enjoy them even without formal training in drumming. After awhile, though, they all started to sound the same to me.

I never wanted to study African drumming. I knew certain rhythms were used to call the orishas or other spirits, and as a student of metaphysics, I didn’t want to study with a teacher who didn’t understand the effects of the rhythms.

In drum jams with friends, while some played djembes or ashikos, I would accent the rhythm with iron bells or claves (hardwood sticks). Sometimes I would accent the rhythm by playing a large hoop drum, using a padded stick. It seemed safe enough since we weren’t playing “real” rhythms.

Then a friend told me about her fabulous African drum teacher, Abubakr Kouyate, a master drummer and a very spiritual person, who taught the purposes of the rhythms as well as how to play them. The class was fun and uplifting, she said—and right in my neighborhood.

--more tomorrow--