In western society, drumming is seen as art and entertainment. But with the indigenous people, this activity has depth and purpose.
In almost all ancient tribal and traditional societies drums were and still are used in rituals, ceremonies, celebration, and as a form of communication.
Many cultures use elemental beats or rhythums in their drumming that may vary in sound depending on the culture. Some utilize three of the elements while others use as many as five.
My grandfather, who is American Indian uses three main elemental beats in his Native American Healing drumming sessions. I am honored that he taught me these three beats (Earth, fire, and water) before he passed a few years ago.
Later, I was taught five element drumming by a gentlemen who studied cultural drumming in West Africa. These traditional beats consisted of earth, fire, mineral, nature, and water.
Through my own experience with cultural drumming, I would have to agree with Shannon Thunderbird, who is also involved with Native American Healing practices, in her belief that "the rhythm of the drum facilitates healing and realignment of the four realms of human existance: mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical."
My purpose for writing this web page is to try to embody for my readers, the full essence and purpose of cultural drumming by walking you through the process; from the making or selection of the drum, to its sacred awaking ceremony, to the elements used, and their individual meaning and benefits.
Each drum has its own unique voice and vibration. According to Shannon Thunderbird, "the animal and tree from which it was made have their own unique medicine and their spirits are part of the drum."
This is why the drummer, especially those involved in Native American Healing, take great pride and has a closely connected involvement in the making or selection of his / her drum.
Some carefully select the materials for their drum and make it themselves. Some go out with the craftsman and choose the tree they intuitively feel would be perfect for the making of their drum. Others select from a wide variety of premade drums.
In today's society, the djembe has become the drum of choice. African drum masters refer to this drum as the magical drum because of its power to move people or as the healing drum because of its long history as a fundamental tool in African healing traditions.
However, the djembe is not always the drum of choice because like my grandfather once said, you don't choose the drum. The drum chooses you.
Once the drum is chosen, although hard to resist, it is the Native American Healing belief that it should not be played until what is referred to as the sacred awakening ceremony takes place.
The duration of this ceremony from the birth of the drum to its awakening generally lasts seven days but may vary throughout different tribes or cultures.
It is believed that the voice of the drum is awakened during this sacred ceremony. The drum is given a name during the ceremony. This is generally a female name.
The legendary belief is that the first sound we hear is the mother's heart beat that surrounds us while we are in the womb and when we are born the first sound we hear surrounding us is the heart beat of mother earth.
When the drum is played, its rhythm has the ability to fill the room and encircle us much like the womb of our mother and mother earth. Therefore the drum is considered feminine and its rhythm is said to be the heart beat of mother earth or in some cultures, the heart beat of all life.
During this ceremony, there are also prayers and the giving of thanks to the animal and tree that gave their lives for the creation of the drum, prayers and ritual smudging of the drum and drummer before it is played, and prayers to the people who hear the teaching of the drum.
When the ceremony has concluded, the drummer is ready to play or learn to play the elemental beats using three basic tones. The base tone, the open tone, and the slap tone.
In some cultures, the beat of each element corresponds with particular behaviors and areas of the body.
The beat of earth correlates to the stomach and provides nurturing and basic resources that sustain life. In other cultures, it is believed to help one connect with mother earth and the unconscious mind.
Mineral correlates to the skeletal structure and is the communicator of ancestral, indigenous, and ordinary ideals.
Water is correlated with the blood and brings peace, harmony, healing, and reconciliation.
Nature is believed to correlate to the lungs and breath and encourages easy transformation or change.
And fire, the most complicated of all the beats, correlates with the heart and is said to manifest prosperity, passion, happiness, and vitality into the social sphere.
When used as a tool, the drum brings balance and harmony into ones' life by assisting in releasing tension, emotional stress, and mental fatigue. For these reasons alone, I would suggest to anyone and everyone to give it a try. I once heard somewhere, that "the sound of the drum is the tuning of the soul."
If you would be interested in learning how to play the five elements and do your own Native American Healing to bring about healing, balance, and harmony in your life, click thisNative American Healing link.
This site offers DVD's that give you step by step instructions. By following this link, you will also find Native American Healing music CD's, healing books, other Native American healing methods, and more.
If you're looking to purchase a drum, I would suggest visiting ZZ Sounds. They have a wide selection at great prices.