Non Linear Functionality
Drumming can trigger non linear functionality in human consciousness. This is one of the next evolutions for humanity; expanding our awareness beyond literal, beyond rationality, past intellectual parameters and around restrictive assumptions. Rhythm defines an outside reality beyond words and intellect. Drummers develop unique problem skills using timing as a dimension. This is a newly activated bio app. Rhythmic holographic constructs are a new paradigm employed by this dormant app that is being activated, now that the rational mind has ceased to be of much use except in three dimensional spheres. The coherent rhythm field is a usable paradigm, again. It was and then was over ruled, but now is coming back because it can decipher reality using equations in time. Time was the missing ingredients in tribal medications. The anthropologist ignored the singing, breathing, dancing, drumming by the shaman when they prepared their brews. Rhythm was and still is our blind side. Those who see the world rhythmically, understand basic truths about our dimension and how it relates to dimensions outside our comprehension.
excerpt: “History of the Groove” Russell Buddy Helm©2015 buddyhelm.com
well that’s a natural fact
things been taken from you
ain’t never get em back
I’m here to tell you
That kind of pain, ain’t no gain
Look out baby they’s comin back round
all over again
This time, Learn from the blues
This time, Don’t live it
This time don’t live the blues
This time just learn from the blues
I have realized that I would not have had such a stellar introduction to the blues if if hadn’t been for Christian, the keyboardist in Bethlehem Asylum. And as a result of his perspectives and teachings, the healing drumming therapies came about many years later.
In retrospect it seems like a forgone conclusion, even ordained, but while we go through our changes we seldom see the overall arch of the dramas in our lives. We may feel the intensities of the moment but it takes time for us to see our own ultimate intentions.
The fact was that he was born into the Brahmin caste in Jaipur, India, then moved to Harlem in New York City as a young boy in the midst of the greatest jazz music evolution that the world has ever known. He was saturated with all of the great jazz improvisers and musical theorists. While we lived and played in Coconut Grove, Christian talked about George Russell’s musical concepts that all the notes were available for improvising- not just the notes in the chords or the scale but the whole keyboard. There were no wrong notes.
“That wasn’t a wrong note. You just didn’t dig it.” Was his quip to quiet the young pups who thought they knew something about jazz. He could solo on trombone, his black wooden ebony flute, percussion and of course any keyboard. His attitude was a mixture of tough New York City street smarts, brilliant musician and composer but also the other side of his demeaner was the priest, the magic man. He was a jazz shaman. But that term did not exist back in nineteen seventy.
Whenever we opened for a major act, they would come over and meet Christian and learn musical ideas from him as he sat at his Wurlitzer electric piano during sound checks. He was always the center of awed interest, and he never abused the privilege. He was the calmest person in any crowd.
The seekers would spout quotes to him.
“You don’t know that for real. That’s something you read in a book.” was another way he put the pretensions of philosophers into perspective. He had reality written all over him. He was tall, even qaunt, thin, dark skinned, with thinning hair that he used black boot polish on to cover up the sparse parts of his sculpted head. He looked like Gandhi with his wire glasses, but with a taller, longer gait that had evolved over years in the big city. He owned the space he was taking up with solid sure conviction of who he was. His real angel side came out when the hippie kids would talk to him. He gave them insight in just a few words. Never one to elaborate. It was a zen koan left to the listener to ponder and decipher for years to come,
“Your soul is on fire.” He mumbled to me as we walked down the sidewalk at the University of Miami where we were to open for Miles Davis and his Bitch’s Brew band. He was right. My soul was burning white hot- as were many others at that time.
The philosophy of the band was historically based; Our Sisters of Bethlehem opened their convent to the mentally ill back in the late seventeen hundreds in London. The insane lived there, also the political opponents of the crown, writers, philosophers, free thinkers, and the criminally mentally incompetent. The ruling class would sit in their observation booths high above the courtyard and be amused by the humanity wandering about, jabbering to themselves.
The lyrics to the ‘Bethlehem Asylum Theme song’:
“If you’re wondering where you are and from where you’ve come,
You’re in Bethlehem Asylum, Third one from the sun.”
Over the years, I have developed a way to use the drum in a therapeutic way. It is ancient and it is modern. But I often hear myself quoting Christian, or feeling him in my hands when I am playing the keyboards. I listen to the playback and have no idea how I could play that. His voicings are unique.
When I see myself performing a healing drumming meditation with someone or with a group, I remember his compassionate groove.
I seem to still be the drummer in Bethlehem Asylum.
excerpt: “History of the Groove” Russell Buddy Helm ©2015 buddyhelm.com: photo by Ron Sill
‘Time Is A Construct.’ is an old rubric, but what has that got to do with drumming? What we have as our own, is not the past. It is our perspective on the past. Energetics here. We keep that stuff alive by pondering it, reworking the ending, contemplating commensurate results of said event, and generally trying to make sense out of the moments in our lives. This is sometimes referred to as therapy, or meditation, or poetry, or the blues. The point of view is what is cogent to the drummer. With the right grooves we can slip and slide into and out of ‘time’ and rhythmically affect reality, that includes the past, as well as present time and future time.
The drummer reveals the fabric of time, and we witness that it is not substantial. It is our group agreement. Much like the downbeat in drumming. It is an immediate consensual instant when people agree to sharing the downbeat. Community happens. Time stands still. Or time can go where you want it to go. We have a time machine.
Visiting the past while you keep a steady very relaxed groove is an interesting journey. The action of hitting the groove yourself is protective and cleansing.
We can take care packages back to our former selves; things to help them survive. A prayer if nothing else. But in the long run we sense a change in the present time when we feel this has been a successful sojourn into what we call ‘our past’.
excerpt: “History of the Groove” Russell Buddy Helm ©2015 buddyhelm.com
78. On the Road again
The decision to go out back on the road was not taken lightly. Decades had passed since I knew the touring life. But for some unexplainable reasons, I had no fear about doing this. I felt as if something were pulling me along by my nose, in the right direction, to manifest something that was needed in our culture; Sacred Drumming.
In a sense it was the “Blues Man” tradition. When I had traveled with Chuck Berry back in the early Seventies, the individual promoters would supply musicians along the way. I would have to do the same thing now- in nineteen ninety one.
Every town, every New Age store, every festival, yoga center, healing center, beach drumming group, and individual one-on-one drumming therapy sessions, all would be my band. But as with Chuck Berry, there would be no time for rehearsal. Chuck assumed, rightly so, that any musician who walked on the stage with him should know Chuck Berry’s catalog of songs, and there were a lot of them. Lots of hits; Maybeline, Memphis, Brown Eyed Handsome Man, Roll over Beethoven, Ce la Vie Say the Old Folks, many more, plus his last hit- My Dingaling, which we had to sing.
I did not have a catalog of hits songs, but I had the grooves that made up those songs. And those grooves were universal. If you grew up listening to rock n roll, Rhythm and Blues, Soul music, you knew these grooves. We didn’t need a guitar or melody for lyrics, although I often heard the lyrics of many a great song running through my head while I grooved and jammed with people all over the world; Japan, Australia, Kansas, Brewster in Cape Cod, Treasure Island in Florida, Coconut Grove, Austin, Asheville. Twenty five years of touring with a djembe, a tambourine on my foot, and my custom djembe stand. No one was doing it…yet. There were some drumming groups who were purists and played only African drum songs, and they were often adamant about not allowing any other kind of djembe drumming. This had been inherited from their African master drum teachers who played from a place of great cultural identity. But I kept teaching the downbeat method using Rhythm and Blues grooves, and it always worked. People got into a groove and they felt much, much better.
I was watching the expenses as best I could.A record company or management agency was not paying the bills. There was no tour support except for Cathy holding down the store, and giving me a place to come back to after these culture wars. Sometimes I was out for seven or eight weeks. I stayed in people’s homes. No motels. I do not like hotels and motels; too many bad associations, plus there was no money for that luxury. I preferred the hospitality of strangers, who soon became close friends. I learned about people’s lives in places like Bisbee, Arizona, Adrian, Michigan(drumming with 1,000 nuns), Austin, with a lawyer who got his wife to dance by playing the drum. Rosie, the sound healer in Sarasota, Martial Arts masters who were husband and wife in Nagoya, Japan, and a cattle rancher in Bendigo, Australia. All these people wanted to drum. I saw the huge impact this was having. I couldn’t stop doing this.
Occasionally I would talk to Charlie, who was still out with Hall and Oates for thirty years, and we would cross paths often. He would come to a fire dance and play his flute, then go back out on a first class worldwide tour and play with Daryl and John, Mick Jagger, all the top groups. He was a good friend and encouraged me although the healing aspects of the drumming were not something he was particularly interested in. He liked to play over my grooves. He always liked to do that.
excerpt: “History of the Groove” Russell Buddy Helm, 2015 copyright buddyhelm.com