Wednesday, April 27, 2011

drum is the ear of god

Richard Hodges | Every culture lives within the interplay of two movements, an outer movement of performing the activities necessary for the continuation of physical life and an inner movement towards relating to forces, being and intelligence beyond and above that life. The music of a culture is a measure of the relationship and balance between these two movements.

There is a music, nowadays practiced mainly in certain places where the traditional spirit has not completely given way to modernity, that uses its power over the feelings to cut through the self-absorption of everyday life and bring one to an experience of communion, the sense of being part of the vast play of forces that encompass and connect all beings. In Africa music and dance evoke a sense of communion on many levels in a rich tapestry that includes spiritual aspiration, religious experience, evocation of deity, psychic and physical empowerment, enactment of myth and history, teaching, healing, courtship, cultural assimilation and solidarization, mutual criticism, celebration, entertainment and exercise.

Traditional Africa maintains a distinction between religious music and social music. This distinction corresponds to the widespread understanding that spiritual life and material life are on different levels. While many processes of a secular nature may take place in a religious context and vice versa, this is felt as part of the unique drama of each situation, not as an undesirable contradiction. In effect, this ambiguity represents an affirmation that spiritual life and material life are inseparably united as constant reciprocal movements of the human spirit.

In Africa, as in many other traditional cultures, religious music and dance play the central role of invoking possession-trance. In possession, the person loses consciousness of himself as an individual and becomes the vehicle or mouthpiece of a "deity," a personification of one of the great forces of the inner or the outer world. The actions and speech of the person possessed are regarded as those of the deity and are looked to for advice, healing, prophecy, and magical power.

The deities in whose service music and dance are performed are traditionally understood not as being divine in themselves-rather, their divinity is a particle of the Divinity of a higher principle, the creative principle behind the Universe. But this principle is already always everywhere and in everything and hence needs no service to call its presence. No special temporal material condition, such as a temple, ceremony, or artifact, can concentrate its force. Its action at our level is non-action. Its symbol is silence. In music, it is expressed by the rhythmic pulses that are heard innerly though the instrument is not played; through their silence, these pulses give shape and meaning to the rhythm that is heard outerly.

The Great Principle is too far above the level of man for him to relate to It directly. The deities are necessary intermediaries through whom man and God address each other. In some traditions the drums themselves are also specially invested as divine intermediaries. The Dogon say that Drum is the ear of God and one must beat it with the attitude that one is speaking to God on behalf of mankind. This attitude requires respect, but also great force. In the words of a religious song of the Blekete cycle (Blekete is the name of a deity of the Ewe people of Ghana and also the name of the principal drum that is used in this cycle): "A feeble effort will not fulfill the self."


Tom said...

CNu thanks for posting the link.

CNu said...

You know that's how we "cult0-mystic" Gurdjieffians roll brah..., (^;

nanakwame said...

Most of the ideas in this article are a reflection of my long-time interest in the teaching of Gurdjieff, and of the musical and cultural kowledge conveyed to me by the great African musician C. K. Ladzekpo.

You said it, culto-mystic like those I have studied and dealt with, including Ifa/Orisa. Why would a wanderer become attach to anyone particular human activity, when understanding, the Many evolving from the One event

Anything on paper is obsolete!
Craig Bruce

nanakwame said...

And added to the greatness of Latin Jazz, from rituals came some beautiful music. Is there any consciousness in these human patterns?

CNu said...


you began playing yourself last week. time to either articulate your point and keep it moving, or, move along.

arnach said...

Fela Kuti lives!

nanakwame said...

"Wisdom is knowing I am nothing,
Love is knowing I am everything,
and between the two my life moves."
Nisargadatta Maharaj

nanakwame said...

Four stars fro Herog's 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams' - shows off the wonders of a 30,000 year old cave in 3-D
Who were the people who drew this art? What were their dreams? What manner of creatures inhabited their prehistoric world? His metaphysical poetry may not always be eloquent (or coherent), but his raw musings echo the same awe felt by the audience Werner Herzog

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