Guest Author - Michelle Taylor
I love music, just about any kind of music. Yet whatever type I listen to, inevitably my favorite part of the music is going to be the drums. Be it the rolling timpani of an orchestra, the drum kit of a rock band (especially the rhythmic bass), or the hand drums of African tribal music; drums get to my heart and soul and resonate with me.
But then, that is the drum’s job – to make you feel like getting up and moving to the beat.
I mentioned African tribal music above. This is almost always played for a dance to be done and there are many, many types of drums that may be involved. There are Djembe drums, Gourd drums, disk drums, wata drums, dondo (or talking) drums, and tongue drums. Then there are other types of percussion used such as rattles, shakers, and bells and the balaphone (which looks like a wooden xylophone). Drums and the human voice make up the majority of music in African Tribal dancing with a few woodwinds thrown in for good measure. But to see these dances is amazing; and to feel the rhythms throughout your entire body is something you will never forget.
The Native Americans also use drums heavily in their dances and celebrations. Once again the drum sets the tone of the dance. Dances are very specific; they ask for good hunting, celebrate marriages, give thanks – and it is the drums that carry the underlying theme for each of these dances.
The Chinese have been using drums as part of their celebrations since the Shang dynasty (1562 BC). They were made up of tortoise shells stretched over with crocodile leather and bones for strikers. In China a red drum signified royalty and the army. Drums were used for ceremonies, weddings, funerals, and war. Over half the instruments used in Chinese music are some type of drum.
Interestingly, Australian Aboriginal music did not use a custom made drum as most other cultures did. Their beat was (and is) kept by a clapping of hands, or sticks, or boomerangs. However, even though these may not be considered “drums” they still do the same job of setting a beat for a story to be told. It still gets your heartbeat going in time with the music so that you are a part of the story and not just sitting on the outside listening in.
For that is after all, what the drums are for. They pull you in and make you a part of the song and celebration. You can feel the music inside of you, tugging at your soul and urging you to get involved. Drums are the heartbeat on the outside.