The light and warmth of a fire, combined with the rhythm of the drum create an environment to develop common bonds. As a result, fire and drum are the first community building tools.
How are Fire and Drum Relationship Builders?
The campfire brought people together. At night, fires provide an inviting and practical focal point. Not only does it provide light and warmth from the cold, but it also provides heat to cook. Cooking food may have been the initial purpose. However, the fire became much more. Watching and listening to a campfire has a soothing effect on the mind.
The drum unites people. When a steady rhythm is played our heartbeat tends to synchronize with the rhythm. This synchronization is what helps people to connect. So, fire and drums are a subtle but powerful combination of relationship building tools. They bring people together.
“Fire brought man together, drums built communities.” — Dan Shinder
It makes sense that the drum circle probably originated around a fire. The reasons for the drumming vary depending on the purpose. This can range from simply being a time to gather and unite, to providing specific guidance for Shamanic journey. The social etiquette for the circle depends upon the purpose. As a community gathering tool, everyone can join in and flow of the rhythm changes. However, if the circle is for a more structured purpose, like a Shamanic Journey, then the melody and rhythm timeframe will be controlled by the teacher or Shaman. Similarly, if dance movements are to be learned as part of a cultural practice then a teacher will dictate time, melody and rhythm. This is because these elements are actually powerful mnemonic learning tools.
There are a number of excellent books and drum track recordings for those interested in the Shamanic journey. Awakening to the Spirit World: The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation by Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman is one we recommend. You can find this book-CD combination on Amazon.
Music and Rhythm as a Mnemonic Memory Tool
If fire brought people together, drumming gave a united purpose. Sacred drumming and dance are at the core of many indigenous cultures. They also are found in many forms of spiritual exploration. It is obvious many ancient cultures took considerable time and effort to understand the use of rhythm and melody. They use these tools as mnemonic learning devices. The music, rhythm, and dance are able to communicate complex kinesthetic and cultural knowledge.
the Rhythm With Silat
The Indonesian archipelago is a good example of how the rhythms of the Kendang drum are used. The martial arts of Silat and Kuntau train using these tools to memorize moments. These martial arts use the framework of dance and music to bond, memorize and associate specific techniques. The dance movements incorporate the use of peripheral vision. Thus, giving the dancer the characteristic far-away stare. The sacred dances encoded various martial arts principles. So, when the dancer performs the choreography of the dance they are practicing their fighting art. No matter the situation, they are able to move in proper alignment in order to counter any attack.
When the conscious application of peripheral vision is combined with the rhythm and melody of the Kendang orchestration, the practitioner is able to move within a combative confrontation free of emotion. Consequently, the use of peripheral vision enables the practitioner to move on time. Training with music ensures proper body alignment, fluid movement, and application of the techniques. The practitioner is able to control fear and anger in a combative confrontation when they combine all the elements together. This provides a distinct advantage. As a result, the physical confrontation becomes a dance albeit a deadly one.
Silat Concealed in Plain Sight
Many of the Western cultures that occupied Indonesia forbid the practice of their martial arts. Concealing their martial arts in the dance, they could practice openly. Consequently, the untrained Western eye simply saw an interesting dance. It does not compare with Western ballet. Nor, does it appear to have the punctuated movements many in the West associate with other martial arts. The Indonesian dancer has an unusual unblinking stare and moves with an unusual jerky, awkward even ugly movements by Western standards.
We train in the use of drumming and the sacred dance as a part of the blended learning process at the weekend retreat. And, when possible, around an open campfire. Fire and drum are still excellent tools for building community.
If this article resonates with you check out our blog. Learn how this topic fits into our blended learning process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. This is a process at the core of many ancient cultures which helps you develop your own path. Interested in learning these process? Follow the link to learning options, and our page under FAQ.