Got Stress? Can’t
really exercise outside because it’s snowing or raining? Are you
There’s more than one way to
relieve stress – you can do so by drumming. If you really get into it, you can
get quite a work out! Don’t have drums? Use an oatmeal container, a
coffee can, a Tupperware storage container. You can change the sound by
the level of the contents inside! Start with a steady rhythm and play on
your own. Or simply play your favorite tunes in the background and try to
keep tempo. It’s a great stress reliever!
Create your own homemade
drumming party. Invite your friends over and have a drum circle. Meditate, play
the drums, sing and keep rhythm and have fun. Soon your stress will melt
away. You’ll feel good and feel back in rhythm with yourself.
While you’re at it – learn
about the drums by reading. You’ll discover that EVERY CULTURE has drums.
Why not have a party with foods to go with each culture’s drumming and
celebrate the beat of every culture with food and music that matches!
Drums have been used through
history in all countries as a form of communication for meetings among groups
of people, attack warnings in military, tribal ritual, religious ceremony,
storytelling, honoring life and death, dance, as a musical entertainment art
form and also as a form of health healing and therapy. They have been around as
early as 6000 B.C.
African drums vary in size
and shape. Djembe is an animal skin covered drum shaped like a goblet, meant to
be played with both hands. The Kutirinding drum is used for rhythm while the
Kutiriba is used for bass. The Bougarabou drum can be played with hands or
stick and is shaped like an hourglass.
Latin American drums are mostly known visually as a side-by-side dual of drums.
The Bongo drums are most prominent in Cuban music stylings like son and
changui. These drums were originally used within the Abakua religion in Cuba.
The Conga drums are long tapered cylindrical shaped drums and the Timbales
drums are shorter flat drums shaped similarly to the snare drum.
Native American drums include
the drums from the Tarahumara Indian tribe which are hoop style drums. Tomtom
drums are short cylindrical shaped drums with lacing, while Tohlakai native
drums are short, wide drums used for powwows.
Middle Eastern drums are Doumbek drums which come in wood, metal and ceramic
materials and are mushroom shaped and actually originated in Africa.
Medieval drums include the tabor drum, which is a double-headed drum. These
kinds of drums were played in the middle ages and eventually grew in popularity
in the 16th century as a military drum, what we now know as the snare drum,
which is played with drumsticks.
Indian drums include the long tapered drum Bhangra Dhols, known as Ashikos and
are a very popular folk drum of northern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The
Indian Tabla drums are basically African djembes and vary in shape and color.
Steel drums are usually 55 gallon oil drums, but now have changed in size and
shape for different sounds and are mostly known for music in Trinidad, Jamaica,
Rio and are used for celebrations like Junkanoos and Carnival.
In Japan, the beating of a
drum has roots. And like most of the performance arts in Japan, these
roots lead back to ceremony, health and healing, spirituality, history and
tradition. The taiko drums are a rhythmic percussion instrument utilizing
these performance arts roots.
While the taiko drum’s
historical roots are fascinating, most will be intrigued by the drum’s
construction – which literally has roots of its own. Taiko drums are made
from trees. The Zelkova Serrata (Japanese ‘keyaki tree’) is a tree native to
Asia. And it is from a hollowed-out tree trunk that determines the actual
size, shape and diameter of the taiko drum called byouchi daiko. The byouchi
daiko is a long-bodied drum (nagado daiko). This narrower shape is from a
younger tree – from one piece of wood, unbroken. The drum construction has
heads nailed directly to the drum’s body. The beauty of this drum comes from
its versatility in sound.
Because of the longer body of the drum, sounds
can be alternated from its movement and it can be played by more than one
person. This style of drumming is called Hachijo daiko – where two
drummers can perform simultaneously. The best way to describe this style of
drumming is similar to singing harmonies. One has the base melody the other has
Taiko drums vary in shape and
size – but generally speaking taiko refers to a ‘wide drum.’ Most of
these drums utilize ‘bachi’ (drum sticks). There are only two kinds of
taiko drums which do not use ‘bachi and they are Kotsuzumi and the larger is
the Otsuzumi drum.
Odaiko taiko drums are also
made from trees and are the most sacred of all taiko drums. These taiko drums
are usually featured in shrines or temples. They are the most sacred not
just because they are in places of worship, but because they are the largest
drums in the world, made from trees which are hundreds of years old and
sometimes thousands. Just like the Byouchi daiko, the Odaiko drums are carved
from a single piece of wood. Its large size has everything to do with the
age of the tree. The older a tree is, the larger the circumference of the drum
aligning with the trunk of the tree.
Shime daiko drums offer
versatility in taiko drumming because they are able to be tuned by the player.
Most taiko drums are NOT tunable. And it is because of this, drummers like to
tune their shime daiko before performances much like a pianist would tune a
piano – making sure that the pitch is correct before using. Tuning is
done by a tension system on the drum. Construction of shime daiko include iron
rings which are placed around the body of the drum itself. These iron
rings have heads sewn on them and tension is created using bolts or rope,
Tsukeshime daiko is a snare
version of shime daiko, which is more similar to a snare type of drum and they
are available in five different sizes with different thicknesses of deer skin
over the drum cavity – producing varying depths of resonance for
These pieces of wood are
singular – meaning that there is no cutting and piecing back together. They are
made from one piece. And because they come from nature and a tree
sacrifices its life for the drum, the drum is regarded with great purpose and
the drumming has meaning and a heartbeat all its own. This is one of the
reasons the drummer is ‘at one’ with the drum – mind, body and soul.
Part of this mind-body-soul
experience with the drum is also part of the drum’s historical roots, when the
tsuri daiko drum was used as a part of Gagaku music which is the oldest
existing classical music in Japan dating back to 702 AD. This music was performed
in the Imperial Court of castles and shrines in Japan, crossing both Shinto
(for prayers) and Buddhist (for the voice of leadership) religions.
Gagaku music incorporated the original use of taiko drums. The thundering
sound of the taiko drums was believed to be used as the voice of the great
Buddha in temples and also to reflect the sounds of nature ranging from rain,
wind and the ocean to help with rice planting crops to scare away anything that
could threaten food supply including insects and animals. The taiko drum was
also utilized in Gigaku (Kabuki) theatrical plays for the purpose of acting out
this drum resonance with nature in storytelling.
Insects and animals were not
the only ‘enemies’ to be scared away by the taiko drum. The drum was also
utilized in war, just as much as it was used in religion and peace ceremonies.
The drum sounds were directed to scare away the negative war energy and troops
who could threaten a village and was also used to empower and rally Japan’s
military through ceremony. The rhythmic beat was to help troops set a marching
pace going into battle.
Taiko drums are additionally
used for happy occasions and celebrations like festivals, parades and fairs and
are used today in concert performance with other instruments with a variety of
ensemble settings including the multi-drum set up with a multiple of players
performing at the same time (like a choir of drums). Contemporary music
stylings from jazz to classical fusion have been incorporated to modernize
performances for today’s audiences worldwide.
Whether it’s the constant
rhythmic metered Kizami beat, with underlying bass Jiuchi rhythms, the
resonance of the drum, the momentum building swell of the Oroshi tempo, you’re
sure to find your Chanchiki common tempo with a taiko. It is when you
allow yourself to be ‘at one with the drum’ you find moments of Ma which is a
pause for effect – kind of like peace is to life.
Drum roll please… to the beat
of your own drumming!
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