Toby Drumming in AfricaThe Drum has a place in the lives of many people throughout the world. It can manifest energy or represent gods. The Drum holds ancient energy, which beckons to the soul and calls for indigenous remembrance. The Menomini, Native American from Wisconsin, believe the Drum is a strong force in the world that should always be treated with great respect.

The drum (te-we-hekan) is the most sacred object in the Drum Dance powwow for a variety of reasons. It is the most important material embodiment of power.

It is believed that the Great Spirit, and all the good spirits he created, put some of their power into the original Drum given to the Sioux women who believed to have introduced the Ritual to the Menomini. — (Slotkin 1975:35).

The Dobe/hoansi are a hunter and gathering society in middle Africa. These people eat the bounty of the land and live in groups of twenty to thirty people. They practice a form of drumming and dancing to harness their energies. “Women dance and enter trances, and men play a supporting role, beating complex rhythms on the long drum that is the central symbol of the dance.” (Richard B Lee. 1993:119-120). In this culture, the drumbeats allow the energy or nu/m within the dancer to rise. An interesting fact is that the drummers of tradition are the women. Recently, a dance and particular drum beat called the Giraffe dance has begun. This dance involves women and some men to enter trance through dancing. Medicine men and women of the bands perform these ceremonies. Many of the participants in this ritual are of varying levels of experience. Participating aids in exposing beginners to their personal nu/m while surrounded by experienced people or for others to learn to control their personal nu/m (energy). Often overwhelmed by the intense trance state, individual may collapse. Others around will care for the individual by freshening them up and helping them to regain a level of recognition where they can either rejoin the ritual or participate in any way they desire. The ceremonial energy is used to summon the healing needed to handle illnesses that inflict the Dobe people. Through additional methods, such as hands on and vocal exclamation, the energy of the healers are shared with the sick of the tribe.

The rhythmic energy created by drumming often has a meditative response on individuals listening. As if swept into oneself, the comfortable sound of the drumbeat opens the minds eye to the divinity within. “Nature, in fact, is such a complex organism that only the intelligence of Spirit can manage it” (Malidoma Patrice Some’, 1999:66). The Dagara people of Burkina Faso, West Africa, are well known for their spiritual practice. They believe that if there is a problem with the physical, one must look to the spiritual for a solution. “That is, in the mind of the indigenous, illness is like an unwelcome guest that wants the place it has taken over to remain the same so that is can be comfortable. Certain healing practices, such as this one, involve altering the energy structure of the person. By doing this, the illness, if there is any, becomes ‘irritated’ at the rude hospitality and moves away in search of another place” (Malidoma Patrice Some’, 1999:262).

The ceremonies of the Dagara people often involve the people of the community, as well as the spiritual leaders, and may also utilize physical representations of elements. They feel that the Spirit is fused with the physical form and that addressing one is addressing both. When addressing the physical the five elements (fire, water, earth, mineral, and nature) correspond with particular areas of the body.

The elements also adhere to the behavior of an individual. Fire associates with the heart and behaviorally tends to have passion and vitality. Water associates with the blood and behaviorally tends to seek peace and harmony. Mineral associates with the skeletal structure, in particular the spine, and behaviorally tends to be the communicator of ancestral, indigenous and ordinary ideals. Nature associates with the lungs and breath and behaviorally encourages easy transformation or change. Earth associates with the stomach and behaviorally tends to be the hub of the wheel providing nurturing and the basic resources that sustain life. The Dagara have particular ceremonies that relate to the five elements.

Often drumming, dancing and singing accompany the ceremony. The presence of the community often provides security and support to the ceremony whether it is being held for an individual or for any other reason. The structure and activities included can vary depending on the elements called upon. To the Dagara people the elements are a vital part of our existence. When healing is needed one must seek the help of the elements and the spiritual leaders of their communities.

One must seek to create a balanced energy in sync with nature and with Spirit and to create a healthy home for the personal spirit. Only then can we tune in to the divine energy around us and begin our harmonic journey. Toby Christensen’s Sound Attunement Therapy (SAT) builds the bridge between the spirit and the individual to aid in the healing of the self.