“You should be recording this”

You should be recording this.” Phylis, a grey-haired grandmother drum student said thoughtfully. We were sitting outside in the back of the store, Seasons, on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. Sunny day, ancient eucalyptus keeping us company. Her remark brought me out of the light trance we had fallen into on the drums.
“Why?” I asked, really not knowing what she was talking about.
“You’re telling stories while you drum. Its interesting. It helps.”
Reality did a slow hiccup in front of me. I got a cassette recorder (Thirty two years ago). After we drummed for a while, I ran it back and listened to it. I was telling stories while we were drumming. I had no idea I was talking while playing the drum. Not in a sing songy way, or not like rap or hip hop, or even lyrics or poetry. It was straight discourse on the nature of rhythm and its effect on our lives, while the drum intoned a meditative groove. The universe suddenly made sense to me. The leaves on the trees grew vivid and sharply focused. The sky was intensely blue. The air was alive and flowing with our grooves. I had an insight; This is what I will be doing for the rest of my life. Teaching the healing drum grooves. And telling stories. I flashed back to a recording session I played drumset on back in nineteen seventy six down in Watts, with Big Joe Turner. He sat in front of me, about six feet away, with a cane.
“Heah it is, Buddy.” He stated matter of factly and tapped the cane to the groove he was ready to sing to. It was up close and personal, witnessing the flow of consciousness and lyric with soul and timing through this huge man, it was a blessing.
That’s when I noticed that the other session musicians were not spiritually elevated by this event. I realized my path was going to be different.
All these years later, I have been traveling across the United States teaching anyone who will listen to play along and feel the downbeat grooves that sustain us. It was a calling, and I was willing to do it. Cathy was willing to support that work, and to participate with insight. The response was overwhelmingly in favor of meditation healing drumming.
I got a call, “Can you drum up at Sting’s house tomorrow?”
We got there and set up first on the beach which was grand. Drumming, watching the sun set. The rock star was relaxed and real. The grooves were laid back. Then we moved the group up to the deck and the crowd of celebs arrived. Iron Man, Rain Man, and others. The grooves picked up energy and soon people were dancing right in front of us as we sang our invocation and brought the groove up to a dance tempo. Kanye started bouncing up and down and hooting.
“Give me your phone number!” He yelled as we pumped up the groove.
The following days I ended up at a soundstage in Burbank carrying my humble djembe and my handmade wooden stand, facing a phalanx of mercenary drummers. They gave me a look like I was not dressed right for the party. They had chrome on every drum. LOTS of drums. If I hadn’t been in this kind of scene before, it would have intimidated me, but I had to laugh. These guys were locked down. Professional. No spiritual drumming allowed here. That’s voodoo. No can do.
Kanye finally came into the soundstage and hugged me.
“Tell them what its all about, Buddy.”
So I sat down and drummed and told stories to about one hundred and fifty African American singers and musicians he had gathered for his church service project. I really had to laugh.
After the first show, I got nice feedback from the singers and even the drummers. After the second show, Letterman came up to me,
“Hi! I’m Dave. What is that you said about the drum and the heart?” He wanted to know about the healing drums. The third show, they had added a very soft groove meditation with one of their own people talking about the church stuff. It was shaky but they had the idea. My job was done. Let me out of here.

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