Drums on Fire

Joan RivardBy Joan Rivard 5 years ago19 Comments

The drum circle is a good place to consider the problems of the world because a lot of the same things happen there that disturb nations.  Even here there appear dominant types who want to control everything, lead the drums, decide who stays or who goes.  The power they’re addicted to is to control those around them, invade their mental space with a constant presence or noise.  When rogue drummers or guitarists with amps invade the circle, or loud guys, Rich drums as hard as he can and says, “We’ve got to work harder.”

Amplified guitars are among the worst intrusions, hard to compete with for even the loudest drums.  There are some very good musicians who bring these and play well with the drums, and don’t overpower the other instruments with their amps.  But then there are the others.  Lone musicians arrive with wheeled carts loaded with heavy guitars and battery-powered amplifiers, electric cables and other equipment, and set up without shame in the middle of the drum circle.  Right on the chalk drawings of the heart and the peace sign.  Too often, the loud sounds they crank out do not resemble music and do not match the rhythm of the drums.  In my personal opinion, some of their weird twangy guitar licks are an offence and a distraction.

I too am a drum Nazi but in a different way.  I often hate it when loud amplified instruments intrude on the drum circle.  An occasional harmonica or the organ can go well with the drums, and certainly those wonderful big six-foot horns should be amplified.  When the drummers are assembled at their bench on Hippie Hill, I believe these should be some of the few exceptions.

I like the drums pure and simple, coming straight and spontaneous.  Something special happens when the drums are in synch, as if the musicians working together somehow signify that we can work together to fix the world.  They work together the way nature works together, the way the universe works together.  It is a spiritual experience.

What a far cry that is from when one drummer tries to be the leader and keeps changing the rhythm.  Or when some loud guy starts babbling for a long time, or stands around in the middle of the circle just drinking a beer.  Or when a loud, amplified instrument adds either weird sounds out of synch or some annoyingly mellow beat.  We don’t want the drums to be mellow.  We want the drums to be on fire for truth, moved with rapture.

When the drummers are in the zone they start to sound like a living, breathing thing.  The brotherly love they sing about is politically powerful.  Is it too much for me to hope for that the life-filled sound they make could help us work together the way the drums do, to heal the broken-hearted and set the captives free?


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