The Bridge That Goes Boom

My djembe“The spirit of the drum is something that you feel but cannot put your hands on. It does something to you from the inside out.” – Babatunde Olatunji

Over the weekend I was hanging out with my pals Toby and Suzanne. Who, aside from being generally fabulous, also seriously rock sound-ey stuff.

Toby was doing a drumming thing at a local church. I went because I wanted to support him. And because I’m not one to miss a chance to drum.

But I have to admit, I felt a little weird as I pulled into the parking lot.

Because aside from seeing Krishna Das at that church in Indy in April, I haven’t been to a church in forever.

Like so-long-ago-I-can’t-even-remember-when.

So the idea of being in a church, making the drum go boom boom with rhythms inspired by an indigenous West African spiritual tradition?


It’s the monkey

Do you remember that test they used to give you in school? The one where you had to look at three objects and figure out which one didn’t fit?

Feet. Shoes. Monkey.

That kind of thing?

Yeah, that’s totally what my brain was doing as I got out of the car. I felt like I just stepped in a big puddle of cognitive dissonance.

Not because something like this couldn’t happen. It could. I mean, it was. Because there I was hauling my djembe into this huge church.

But it just felt weird.
(Did I say that already? Sorry. I’m still kind of processing this.)

Wait, let me grab my bags

Ok.  I admit I’ve got some baggage from some seriously craptastic experiences with church-ey things.

family members.
Horror stories my elder told me about the church-run school in Nigeria.
Bumps and bruises from a short stint in a Pentecostal church.

It’s totally my stuff. I get that.

I’ve had enough distance from the bruise-ey bits to work through a lot of it. And I don’t think all church-ey stuff is the same.

But I still felt a little squirmy as I put the car in park.

I just drummed

But, see, here’s the thing.

The second I walked into the church’s gorgeous stone courtyard, with a circle of folding chairs and a bunch of drums, weird and squirmy vanished.

And once the sound of the drums started bouncing off the walls, I wasn’t thinking about bumps and bruises and fire and brimstone.

I wasn’t thinking about anything.

I just drummed.

And so did everyone else.

Including a dad holding his little boy, who bounced up and down and did this awesomesauce squeal-ey thing when the drums really got roaring.

And the girl who seemed kind of shy, but played her drum beautifully.

And Reverend Bruce, who, at one point, was so into the rhythm that he just closed his eyes and totally jumped in.

We all just drummed.

Because that’s what happens when you get a bunch of people in a circle with a pile of drums.

The drum is this seriously rad equalizer.

It brings people together. And creates this instant sense of community that makes room for a bunch of totally different people to unite around a central rhythm.

Boom-ey bridges

The drum creates a bridge through sound. It erases the lines of you and me, and us and them, and I-believe-this and you-believe-that.

When you’re drumming, it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t believe, or where you fall on the political spectrum, how much money you make or what color your skin is.

All of that disappears beneath the rhythm.

So when you drum with a group of total strangers, you really get hip to the fact that once you get past all the surface crap, the stuff you have in common outnumbers the stuff you don’t.

By, like, a lot.

The drum draws people together. It gives people the chance to set aside all the stuff that clutters everything up, and rock a real sense of connection for an hour or two.

It’s universal for a reason

That’s probably why you find drums all around the world.

In music of every flavor. In shamanic traditions everywhere. And in the gorgeous stone courtyard of a local church.

People want community. We crave connection.

The drum gives us that. And so much more.

Like a heaping dose of healing when you I least expect it.

Because as I sat there, playing my drum, lost in the rhythm, I looked up and noticed one of the kindest smiles I’ve ever seen. On the face of Reverend Bruce.

And somehow that baggage I brought with me got a little lighter. And the past bruise-ey bits hurt less. And now there’s more room in me to meet stuff like this with less weirdness in the future.

This is why I love the drum so much.

It builds bridges.

And makes connections. And brings healing. And makes more room for awesome.

And this is why I’m convinced that drumming could change the world.

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9 Responses to The Bridge That Goes Boom
  1. Joely Black
    November 4, 2009 | 12:52 pm

    There is a djembe player who busks up in Market Street most weekends. He has a whole group and they play north African music – very much like Ayub Ogada. It’s kind of wonderful to walk around wintry Manchester and hear the drumming echoing off walls first built in the early 1800s.
    .-= Joely Black´s last blog ..A 4.4.2: A little tingly and how we “mind the gap” =-.

  2. Julia
    November 4, 2009 | 1:20 pm

    Lovely post. You’re a very good writer, Fabeku. I’ve wanted to mention that for a while now.
    .-= Julia´s last blog ..Hallowheel =-.

  3. Christine Martell
    November 4, 2009 | 1:27 pm

    This brings me back to when I owned a store focused on healing, inspiration and celebration. We brought a huge pile of drums to an alternative New Years celebration our town held. At first people just circled around staring, but eventually we got 50+ people drumming and hundreds watching. It was really fun, and brought people of all ages and walks of life together.

    You are right, drumming could change the world.
    .-= Christine Martell´s last blog ..Free VisualsSpeak Webinar Dec 9 =-.

  4. Wulfie
    November 4, 2009 | 3:14 pm

    I love bridges!

    Great blog. You have a gift with words.

  5. Charlotte
    November 4, 2009 | 3:30 pm

    Drum circles are such beautiful and transcendent experiences. This post captured that wonderfully. Glad you got so much out of it. 🙂
    .-= Charlotte´s last blog ..How NOT to SEO. (In which I receive a crappy pitch from a John.) =-.

  6. chris zydel
    November 4, 2009 | 4:06 pm

    What a wonderful story! I love the image of everyone getting in touch that wild drumming spirit that doesn’t really give a hoot about all the crazy personality stuff and just… drumming.

    I’ve always felt that if we could just get all the politicians PAINTING that it would really change the way decisions were made at that level. But I think we can now add drumming to the required activities of anyone who ends up in any kind of position of power. It brings you back in touch with what is REALLY important!
    .-= chris zydel´s last blog ..Art Every Day Month- Day 4- Flying Heart Lady =-.

  7. Josiane
    November 4, 2009 | 5:01 pm

    Oh, so the boom *built* the bridge! Love it! It’s so often the opposite, with bridges literally going boom, and all connections consequently being lost.
    I have in mind an image a friend from Bosnia showed me one day, it was a painting of a well-known bridge in her country, and she told me that all that remained from that bridge were ruins: it had been blown up during the war.
    That’s the kind of bridges-going-boom the title of your post evoked in my mind when I saw it, but that’s totally cool because now I have a new mental image of bridges that are built by the boom. Awesome!
    .-= Josiane´s last blog ..Noticing – the dragonfly edition =-.

  8. Katie Schroth
    November 4, 2009 | 5:39 pm

    You wrote: “The drum draws people together. It gives people the chance to set aside all the stuff that clutters everything up, and rock a real sense of connection for an hour or two.”

    Wow, that brought wonderful memories of drumming with Toby when he was in Marquette, Michigan this summer. We were at a home several miles out of town, a bit out in the middle of nowhere in the woods. There were probably ten of us drumming and at times initially things were a little discordant. About ½ of us had Djembes and many of the others had crafted their own drums – some incredibly beautiful. We had been drumming for probably 45 minutes to an hour when I heard a vehicle drive up. A man came, literally running, carrying a really large – maybe 3 foot diameter , handcrafted beautiful drum, which had legs. He ended up right next to me. Immediately one of the children who had been playing around the fire (yes, we had were sitting at a fire pit near a beautiful labyrinth) ran up to it and starting drumming with him.

    I didn’t realize until we were all done and someone starting kidding the newcomer, who was a neighbor, that he had painting clothes on. He lived down the road a bit, was working on painting his house, heard us, stopped painting, grabbed his gorgeous drum and came over as fast as he could.

    That was a beautiful night. I had been in Toby’s workshop all afternoon and my hands were super sore – I had broken a couple of veins in my fingers and parts of my palm were black and blue. Initially my thoughts were how to minimize pain and I even drummed one-handed for a bit. Then something happened, joy and oneness took over. I have NEVER drummed again like I drummed that night – so fast, so into things, under the stars, feeling one with everyone there. An amazing night to remember.

  9. Fabeku
    November 13, 2009 | 5:52 pm

    @Joely – That’s so cool about the djembe busker. Those folks add so much to the landscape, don’t they? Sound. Character. Music. Woohoo!

    @Julia – Thank you. I really appreciate that.

    @Christine – Right on! This is a perfect illustration of how powerful drumming can be. It doesn’t matter whether people have ever played a drum before or not. It just draws people together. And that’s a million kinds of awesome!

    @Wulfie – Here’s to more bridges being built. With drums. With sound. With anything, really. The world clearly needs more bridges.

    @Charlotte – Transcendent. That’s a great way to describe it. There’s some kind of special magic that happens when people drum together. Some seriously good schtuff.

    @Chris – I hope we both live to see the day where political folks grab paints and drums and go to town. I’m positive that kind of thing would totally change the world. And I say bring it on!

    @Josiane – Bridges built by booms. I’m all about that.

    @Katie – What a cool experience with Toby. And I love that a guy grabbed a drum and came running to the drum circle. How awesome is that? When we were all sitting the church courtyard, playing a rhythm of welcoming, a guy walked in, sat down and grabbed a drum. It was the coolest thing.

    Thanks for all of your comments. I appreciate you all x 1000.

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