Thursday, November 26, 2015

Twinning on 12/6

Back in 2008, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding launched an initiative they call "twinning." It's a beautifully inspired movement bringing Jews and Muslims together into community and conversation.

The drum has opened many, many doors, wal-hamdu lillah. I am invited, along with my dear friends Bassem Rashidi and Moose Simjee to facilitate that intentional community with drum and song. I couldn't be more honored or excited.

The event is being locally coordinated by the Southern California Muslim Jewish Forum:

Sunday, December 6th from 1-3 pm
I.M.A.N. Center
3376 Motor Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

The event is free.

The spirit of this impending, historic moment of shared sacred space is captured in a beautiful video shot by the lovely individuals behind Two Faiths One Prayer:

Be with us, people.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Lomax Effect

My first exposure to the work of Alan Lomax was a collection of prison songs that I picked up, probably after hearing something on public radio. It was the Big Brazos collection. I remember that much:

The disc was a watershed moment for me, linking the lingering effects of the African Diaspora with my growing awareness of communal music and all that it might hold for us. Sylviane Diouf has suggested that as many as 20% of those enslaved and brought to the Americas were Muslim. It's possible that, in listening to those prisoners singing away the hell of a blazing Texas work-farm, I was listening to the descendants of my brothers in spirit. And their message was clear.

Singing together makes the day go. It revives the spirit and shunts blood through tired muscles and a broken heart.

Those voices would have died out there on the field if it wasn't for the work of Mr. Alan Lomax and those who follow in his footsteps, those who record and archive the living history of common people. And this was not work without significant danger. Alan Lomax was branded a Communist. The FBI, CIA, and the British M15 kept files on him and harassed him mercilessly.

People's music is dangerous. It is the antidote to panem et circenses. Lomax brought attention to the communal traditions of musical expression that brought people together, that afforded people the collective strength to stand up and resist oppression, even if only at the level of spirit. And, like those slave masters who forbade their charges the drum, Lomax would be criminalized for his work.

There are people like Lomax today, people who sit with others to record, to compile, to archive, and to share. They have an open, encouraging presence that allows them access to the masters of a particular tradition. And they are preserving.

In that preserving there is also a perpetuating, and that's the dangerous stuff. They bring us glorious noise to challenge the contemporary entertainment paradigm, and these are the sounds that mainstream media wants so desperately to drown out.

Lomax set a wonderful precedent, and there are others who continue this work, many outside of the American folk milieu. The people at Ihsan Press are doing this work. The nascent effort that is Nashid Lyrics is another example of quiet revolution.

There are those who sing the songs. There are those who beat the drums. There are others who capture the experience and tell the story to the masses.

It is this triad that will deliver the bullet, guns down and voices up in the primal circle.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


This could be the summer of the drum.

Primal Music Monday (PMM) was abandoned months ago. There were lots of reasons for that. Multiple obligations, dwindling participation, stagnant momentum.

It was time to move on, and that was a good choice, wal-hamdu lillah.

But seeds were planted. And we're seeing a little fruit.

I got a call recently from a brother who used to come out for the drumming. He's getting married. He wants a drum circle facilitated at his wedding feast.

And then another of the guys from PMM sent me a note. He's a professional musician and he's put together a drum ensemble. They've been asked to drum in the groom at another wedding. Would I like to help out?

Of course! To see my community embracing their celebratory heritage by pulling together the irresistible energies of drum and voice to commemorate holy matrimony- that's exactly what I'm about.

That's how you do it.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

FOLI (there is no movement without rhythm)

Life is rhythm.

If you have external speakers, do yourself the tremendous favor of hooking them up before you watch this.

And see if you can spot the dancing sheikh.

We'll be organizing a field trip to Motherland Music for a West African drum circle real soon, insha Allah.

Be ready for that.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Thursday, March 12, 2015

CSULB Pow Wow 2015

A pow wow is a gathering of the North American indigenous peoples. The plains Indians got this going awhile back, but now it's really about people from all tribes getting together to catch up and have a good time as they preserve and share their respective cultures. Think ISNA for Indians.

While  there are pow wows happening all the time, one of the more engaging ones I've been to is coming up this weekend, March 14-15 at California State University Long Beach. Clicking the link will take you to the flyer.

It's free, but bring money. Lots of shopping if you like Native American handicrafts.

It's also a good opportunity to see the extent to which drum and voice figure into the lives of our indigenous population. There are many other wonderful similarities between Native American and healthy Islamic worldviews, and that can be validating and interesting for some of us.

Take this picture of Zuni women:

Pretty incredible, right? There are very interesting linguistic relationships as well. Take this line from the Wikipedia entry on Zuni language:

"Zuni adults are often known after the relationship between that adult and a child. For example, a person might be called "father of so-and-so", etc."

Like abusajidah!

Anyway, you should totally go to the pow wow.

Monday, March 9, 2015

ISIS: Officially Not Cool

Now here's violence I won't stand for:

Not the drums, guys. Anything but the drums . . .

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Women, Drums, and Social Justice

I like to keep up with all of the wonderful things that Miranda Rondeau does. She's an amazing drummer and a wonderful, generous human being.

Browsing her Facebook page, I came across this article that really sums up the power of the drum in the hands of the socially conscious.

Read about how this group of lower caste Hindu women were empowered through the drum and how they leveraged their new-found strength and unity to protect women in abusive situations.

An inspiring read, for sure.

Along similar lines, I have been working for the last several weeks with Rowan Storm to build a local women's rhythmic ensemble. She facilitated a frame drum intensive a little over three weeks ago that left a small band of 15 women very inspired.

Will that inspiration be enough to bring these women into a committed relationship with one another and the drum? Will they blaze an opening for joy, power, and social justice through the universal language of rhythm? Will they break through the silent societal barriers that restrict imagination to only that which is immediately acceptable?

Whether taken up today or later, the drum is there, a holy tool ready to bring so much to those bold enough to strike it.