Drumming is a very old tradition. Throughout pre-Christian history, drumming was used by many cultures as a medium of communication and spirituality. Today, in native culture, drumming continues to play a vital cultural and spiritual role in most native communities. Over the past few years there have been a growing number of women and men who joined in drumming rituals.
The drums that are used in native culture vary in style and size and are used in various types of events and ceremonies. Drums sizes and styles vary in size and style. The choices range from large community drums to small hand held drums. "In native circles these drums are referred to as hand drums, powwow drums and water drums." (Pete, 2002) In native culture, drums are used with a drumstick and very rarely used with one's hand.
The hand drums are usually 2" to 4" in depth and 6" to 20" in diameter. (Pete, 2002) The frame is generally made of wood and animal hide is used for the face. These drums have many uses, but they vary from nation to nation. They are used by women and men in various situations like powwows and drum circles.
The powwow drums, also known as the grandfather drum, or community drum, are the largest of drums and usually have two faces. The faces on the powwow drums are usually made of the hide of a large animal like the elk, moose, and buffalo. The sound produced by a grandfather drum is louder and deeper than that of hand drum and is generally used at large ceremonies and celebrations. Water drums have a very unique sound since they actually do contain water.
"The movement of the drum and the water change the sound." (Pete, 2002) Regardless of their style or size, the drum is used in many ways and for various reasons. The drum is not only an instrument and drumming is not only "making music." (Desjarlais, 1998) The drum is a sacred object through which we can hear the heart beats of the mother earth. (Desjarlais, 1998). Drums draw communities together. They are used on many occasions including weddings, funerals, feasts, and powwows. It is believed that the drum is a very powerful healing tool.
When people are in pain, whether it be emotional or physical, many believe that drumming or even just the sound of the drum can help the person heal. (Desjarlais, 1998) In addition to physical and emotional healing, the drum can help people deal with the pressure of everyday life. As Shirley Bertrand says it in an interview with Judith Desjarlais, "The language and the spirituality of the drum helps me to strengthen my culture and beliefs, which in turn helps me deal with the changes of todays world." (Desjarlais, 1998) The sound of a drum beat can be very powerful. I discovered this while attending the first meeting of an aboriginal women's drumming circle at the Spirit House in January 2003.
Being close to the pounding of the drums and the strength of the songs brought me to tears. I felt a connection with the drum and it was then that I knew that I had to join this teaching circle. From that moment on, I have spent every Thursday night at the Spirit House with other aboriginal women, learning about drumming from Grandmother, a singer and drummer from the Haudenosee Nation. I will forever carry the teachings and maybe someday I will be the one teaching young women. I have a found an new friend and know that wherever I may go, as long as I have my drum, I know that I will never be alone. Although drums vary in depth, diameter and style, its strength and power continues to affect hundreds and thousands of native and non-native people around the globe.
As Michael Harder, an anthropologist and found of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, states, "the beat of the drum can transport peoples into shamanic states of consciousness, closely approximates the base resonant frequency of the Earth." (Ewing, 2003) Who would have guessed that a simple instrument had the power to alter the mind. Bibliography Desjarlais, Judith, web 1998 Pete, Tacchini, Introduction to Native Drumming, web 2002 Ewing, Jim, Shamanic Drumming: A Form of Prayer, web 2003.