Taking to the streets to march again after a 50-year hiatus (last time I marched was to protest the Vietnam war starting in the mid-60s through 1975), I found a very different feeling amongst the marchers. I was part of a sea of over 100,000 people of every gender, every race, every age and every place. I was leading a small group of 6 drummers with 15 dancers processing in a ritual called A Wake and Awaken to acknowledge what we are losing in our democracy and what we can build with our strength in numbers and participation. It was a march with a sense of humor (i.e., pink pussy hats) and a purpose…to let this new administration know that women are alive and well, strong, ready to stand up for our rights in strong and peaceful ways, the rights we have fought to achieve as women. We are ready to stand up to hate mongering, ready to be dancing, drumming and peacefully protesting in the streets as much as we need to… and, to make it clear that we are not going back on all the progress that has been made for women, immigrants and all global citizens who want to live in a more peaceful and life-affirming world!
This march was exhilarating, inspiring, loving and imaginative. It was a time for people to come forward, to express the grief of the ripping apart at the heart of our democracy, to show that there is strength in numbers. We are now activated to march and take other strong but peaceful actions these next years to preserve and create anew our democracy and ways to live in peace with and appreciate and care for the great diversity of all forms of life.
And so it begins…another way to communicate with all of you about my deep love and respect for the Music and Drumming. Yes, you’ll see Music and Drumming and other words being capitalized to represent the depth and respect they carry for me. Drumming and Music have been a main road for me to travel all my life.
There is a book that was written 25 years ago titled: “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” If I were to write a book it would be titled: “All I Really Need to Know I Learned by Playing Drums/Music.” There are so many metaphors and similarities to life situations in Drumming and Music. At this point I feel no separation between Life and Drumming/Music.
I’ll begin with the most basic foundation for drumming, music and life which is Pulse! Everything in the universe pulses…vibrates. EVERYTHING! All at different speeds yet able to create this extraordinary symphony we call Life. As a drummer, I feel that my number one commitment is to stay connected to that Pulse at all times. The Pulse is Home…the place inside us that doesn’t waver, the place of peace and happiness. I see the Pulse as a vertical pole connected deep in the earth and high in the sky that provides an unwavering, organizing structure for the various rhythms played. As I play, I feel these rhythms spiraling around the pole…similar to a tetherball pole with the ball on the string being the rhythms that wind around the Pulse.
A couple of very easy ways to experience the Pulse is to feel your heartbeat either at the wrist or in the jugular vein just under your jawbone at the end closest to your ear. The second way is to keep track of your footsteps as you walk. They are a perfect built in metronome!
Keep your ears open to all the pulsing sounds you can hear in a day…including car alarms, smoke alarms, jackhammers, dripping faucets for city dwellers and crickets, frogs, woodpeckers, crashing waves when in nature.
May the Pulse be with you…
This video was taken by Susanne DiVincenzo – bass and cellist in Alive! – at sound check on August 2, 2015 for our performance that night at the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley, CA. Carolyn Brandy on congas, Michaelle Goerlitz on repinique and cuica, and Elizabeth Sayre playing sordo, the big bass drum. You’ll see me after about 30 seconds playing drumkit.
This rhythm we are playing is samba from Brazil (from the song, Skindolele (Always Alive! CD). The “batterias” or drumlines that play this music in Brazil can be well over 100 people strong. There are many other instruments played along with the various drums: agogo bell, tamborim, pandiero, caixa to name a few. You can take a look at some of the Samba instruments here: http://www.steveweissmusic.com/category/brazilian-percussion.
And the beat goes on…