Thursday, May 21, 2009

Drumming in the Neighborhood

Perhaps you feel like you march to the beat of a different drummer than others drumming away in your neighborhood?

Yesterday The Front Porch had the privilege to host the first of three drumming circles led by Mamadou Diop, renowned West African musician who joined us once last year as well. This program is supported in part by a grant from the Lynn Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Mamadou had us all beating our drums to the same rhythm for a while, a task requiring close listening and concentration. Not surprisingly, research is showing that drumming and other music-making benefit overall mental health and can help to decrease stress and pain. Afterwards each of us had a turn to lead the group with a rhythm of our own creation.

Mamadou also began to share with us his wealth of knowledge about how drumming is used in Africa as a means of communication among villages. Different patterns can convey danger, news of a celebration and other messages which can be sent from village to village without the need for email or internet access! He amazed us all when he said that such a message could travel all the way from Boston to Seattle, Washington in 24 hours--with no Internet fees!

More profoundly, Mamadou began to tell us of the lessons that drumming holds for how we live our lives and respond to people around us. For instance, by learning to focus on and maintain our own beat, despite the cacophony of sounds around us, we can be calmer when we're confronted with life's stresses and the tensions of those around us--We can choose what to respond to and absorb--or not. So try it!