Loving a Drum – By Mary Dusing

Loving a Drum

I got my first hand drum about five years ago. I was absolutely helpless to resist its lure and so this oversize piece of African art followed me home from a conference. Once it took its place of honor in my home, I studied it intently but never played it – something I laugh at now.DrummingThe deep carving around the stem depicts what seem to be okapis, but could just as easily be almost any African antelope. It is hand-carved from a single piece of wood by some anonymous African craftsman. The skin is made from the back of a goat and smells of the business end of one – despite my best efforts. It is marbled in browns and greys and it carries the line of the spine, which in tribal lore signifies that the animal was a willing sacrifice. I have since added a hennaed phoenix design to the skin as well. I did not expect that bringing this piece of Africa into my home would reignite my own passion to travel there. I would catch myself looking at it and inventing the story of the carver, the goat, the village and the people who crafted it.

It would be almost a year before I did more than pet this drum and I can still remember vividly the angst of playing it for the first time (mostly because that still exists). But a strong bond developed between that drum and me such that I came to love this instrument in its own right. My ‘playing’ is still fairly spotty and I play less these days than I did a while back. Definitely less than I should. And let’s just say that I will probably never make a living as a professional drummer. But there is a joy in beating on it long past the place where my hands throb. There is a freedom in not caring if I mess up, in letting my hands find weird new rhythms known only to them, in letting my spirit soar out with the wild booming.

According to the West African culture where the drum was made, the drum is one way that a person speaks to the Creator. The skin of the drum is the ear of God, the stem and bowl of the drum the birth canal and womb of the Mother. By playing we give our fear, anxiety, stress and hatred to them. Thru the drum these things are transformed and re-birthed into the world as love, joy, and healing. I have certainly found that to be so.

My collection of drums had grown to four – possibly due to my association with Toby Christensen and the steady influx of really beautiful drums from Ghana and the Ivory Coast. I gifted two of those so that someone I loved could have a way to transform his sadness, so that his son could find love in a life that contained so little. So these days I am down to just two and that feels right for me. One for me and one for you to come over and join me in a really bad ass jam session….or just a bad one. With the drum it doesn’t really matter. Guaranteed to make you laugh!

Curious? Get on over to Suzanne Singh’s (merlin@healing drummer.com) and get yourself a drum. Or maybe take in the drum circle with Toby himself at the Zen center in Hamilton! on Tues (info from Suz as well). It may just change your life.

Feel free to repost this note.

C’mon and drum

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