Sunday, July 20, 2014

Protest Drumming

There are terrible things happening in Occupied Palestine at the moment, made all the more terrible by the fact that the atrocities committed against her people are only made possible by the taxes that I pay.

That's an issue that needs to be addressed. I'll have that opportunity today, God willing, at a protest scheduled to take place at the Los Angeles Federal Building later this afternoon. I'll brings my drums and I'll bring my voice and I have invited others to do the same.

We've talked for months at our Primal Music gatherings about the various manifestations of communal music. It makes the work day easier. It helps to internalize shared values. And it can embolden us to speak truth to power as a united body.

When Africans were first brought to this country as slaves, they were forbidden to play the drum. The power of the drum to gather and unite was acknowledged and feared. Not much has changed, and so it was with a great sense of validation that I came across this treatise on the resurgence of the drum in contemporary protest.

Among the many exciting points of this article:

Drumming groups are easily organized compared with melodic marching bands. (I've discussed the comparatively divisive nature of melodic instruments here.)
Drums are most powerful when they are played sparingly and with discipline.
Drums have not quite been defined by modern society, and the media will try to fit you into a category they've dealt with before: hippies, Africans, new-agers, Hare Krishnas, men's groupies, or something "tribal" or cult-like.
Police often get agitated by things they don't understand, and they are intimidated by the sonic power that drums wield. (just like the plantation days!)
And my favorite paragraph, on the politics behind the drum set:
Have you ever thought about the origins of the drumset? The drumset is the percussive symbol of capitalist domination. Where once the percussion section united cadres of dedicated individuals to work together for a common rhythm, to communicate, to learn each other's strengths and weakness, and to come to consensus on the beat and the swing. With a drumset, you fire everybody except the most dextrous drummer and eliminate all of that beautiful social interaction. Why? Is the music any better having one person play everything? No. It is all about maximizing profit. The manager reasons, "Why pay five drummers, when I get away with just paying one!"
A man after my own heart!

There are many, many more interesting and enlightening points, and I highly encourage you read the whole thing here.

Today is my opportunity to walk the talk, to test all that I suppose about communal music. Will I find others to play with? Will I find others to sing with? And what will be the outcome of our melodic and rhythmic interactions?

I'm looking forward to finding out!

Enjoy this short clip of some rock-solid protest drumming out of New York: