The drum master danced around the circle as he directed us — his face expressive, arms waving, hands so fast and furious on his own instrument that the term “smoking drum” came to mind.
I looked around at the gathering. Everyone’s eyes were locked on him as he walked the inner circle. He was the Pied Piper of Hamlin and we were the children, so captivated by the spell of the music that we would follow him anywhere.
An expert conductor, he whipped up the sound to a crescendo and then dulled it to a soft whisper — directing first one, then the other. Collectively we created a wave of sound that filled every inch of the studio. The rhythm was so intense that it not only surrounded us, it went through us. It was us.
Every now and then we would pause while he explained an exercise or shared a story. When the sound ceased in these moments, there was silence — and late into the evening during that suspended hush, he told this story:
He had been working with a group of women inmates. He’d taken pizza and Coca Cola to bribe their interest. They were sassy and full of back-chat but were playing, finding some joy in the rhythms.
One woman played with her head down very close to her drum. A black curtain of hair spilled around her face, creating a shield of sorts. She never looked up and was just tapping her drum quietly with her fingers. Tap, tap, pause. Tap, tap, pause.
In his attempt to include her, he approached, wanting her to be part of the group. Several women stood in front of her, creating a blockade.
“Sit your ass down and leave her alone,” the warrior women said.
So he backed off and left her playing to herself. Tap, tap, pause. Tap, tap, pause. It was almost as if she expected an answer, like the tapping was a question: “Anyone home?”
Gradually, the drumming session came to an end and as the circle broke up and drums were put away, the ribbon of hair was finally thrown back, revealing a tear-stained face.
She hadn’t been playing to herself. The rhythm had made her baby move inside her, a feeling she had not experienced for weeks. She’d been afraid that the baby had died, but the rhythm of the drumming had stirred the little soul and it kicked out a rhythm in response.
The rhythm of a drum, the rhythms of nature, the rhythm of our hearts and our breath … They all carry tremendous power to move our spirit.
Join our next gathering and connect to your own unique rhythm.
Image credit: dapple37 via Flickr (CC)
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