Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Got Stress?  Can’t really exercise outside because it’s snowing or raining?  Are you frustrated? 

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 main vocals. 

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, usually. 

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 drummers. 

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!



Post a Comment