The time passes quickly. I began teaching drumming meditation at Seasons in Santa Monica, California 22 years ago. The shop is small and we sat shoulder to shoulder 15 people drumming with their eyes closed, settled into a laid back groove. This was the discovery that the Downbeat(the beginning anchor note that repeats) was the key to total strangers being able to drum together. There were a few attempts at drumming around the country, but everyone was not onto it yet. I took my findings on the road; Atlanta St. Pete, Lawrence, Kansas, Cape Cod, Michigan, Austin, Lafeyette and of course Miami. The drumming awareness was yet to be born. But I was onto something; the power of downbeat drumming was creating community everywhere. As a result the groups held together- some for years- and the groups started to have some social impact. When I first started doing the drumming meditation groups, there were not many people showing up. But now 22 years later, every community in the country has a drumming group. What have we accomplished?
First of all we have a great big community of drummers. Second of all we are agreeing on simple things like the downbeat concept for improvising over a basic pattern. Thirdly we are experiencing trance in our drumming meditations(if we are lucky and stay nice and laid back.) We also are understanding ego aggression as a dysfunctional element that is all too often the overwhelming factor in drumming groups. We have also seen the “Drum Hustle”. Where drumming is used to sell something else. But most importantly we are seeing the drumming as a spiritual experience. This is a big reason people are drumming. The other big reason people are drumming is too heal themselves. This excites me even more than teaching the basic trance grooves which I love to do. Healing drums are the future for many drummers who are not interested in drumming as a recreational ego sport but something with intense feelings of improving the environment both inside of ourselves and outside. The one last element that has emerged from the drumming meditation groups is the ability to create; Creating our worlds is what some suspect is happening now. Rhythm is a basic tool in creating. The more we know how rhythm works, the more we can use it to manifest a healing in ourselves, our world, and in our cultures. Focused thinking while in a drum trance is so much fun and easy to do, why not make use of it to visualize the reality that is to be.
P.S. The firsts prize goes to whoever finds the youngest picture of me drumming in Clearwater, Largo, St Pete Florida. I am still that rock no roll brat a lot of the times. But what is being demanded by the drumming community is that shamans step forward and teach. Personnally I refused to be a shaman- sure. I see it as science, too. The good drum matrix has grown; the groove matrix. It is consciousness and intention with a beat you can dance to.
Russell Buddy Helm
Santa Monica, CA