The Power of Drumming

Yesterday in my Indigenous Poetry class two Native American men taught us about how traditional native music has inspired rock and roll. After the very interesting discussion involving lots of chatter about Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Dylan, the men knelt on blankets on the floor and sang traditional native songs while playing a water drum and gourd. Both of them had their eyes closed as the music transported them elsewhere. It was absolutely beautiful and soul-refreshing.

Interesting things we learned in class:

-The oldest form of American song is Native drumming.

-While playing the drum one of the speakers, Henry Quintero said, “This is what it sounds like when you’re in your mother’s womb.”

-Back in the day when tribes battled, instead of fighting physically they would solve problems through dance.

-The water drum is alive; it’s combined with all the elements of Earth; it’s the heartbeat.

Lyrics sung during a ceremony of a young girl that I hurriedly copied in my notebook:

“Baby girl, baby girl, baby girl, you can learn, you can learn, you can learn. Bless your mind, bless your mind, bless your heart, bless your heart. Let your heart grow, let your heart grow. Let your mind grow, let your mind grow.”

All class period I was transfixed on the drumming, on the singing, on the chanting, on the power in sound.

Listening and watching reminded me that there are so many beautiful things in this world, in this life. So often our lives become clouded with to-do lists, assignments, appointments, toothaches, heart aches, all kinds of aches and all kinds of pressures. So often we forget that life is beautiful and we need to be reminded. Sometimes only music can do that for me. It goes beyond the pitch in voice, beyond the rhythm of the drum; it’s the something else speaking through the musician. I don’t understand how people can hear drumming and not be moved.

How can you hear that beat and not open your mouth to call to the wild?

How can you hear that and not tap your toes to the Earth?

How can you not be compelled to rise out of your skin and spin, arms out to the Universe?

How can you listen to that drumming, that internal rhythm and not become what we’re meant to become?

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