First, there is the pulse. In the womb, the regular beat of the mother’s heart is the soundtrack of a baby’s liquid world, a vibrational constant that governs reality. No wonder drums are an instrumental constant in every culture. No wonder children (and the child in all of us) respond instantly and automatically to the rhythmic beat of the drum.
The drum embodies all the power of a language intuitively understood by every living thing. This eternal beat is the song of who we are. It is the song of our home, the song of creation. Through the drum, all age, gender and race are woven by a common thread—the rhythmic beat of life. The drum’s magic to create an instant sense of community and harmony is simple. Through the drumbeat, we speak directly heart to heart.
In Mickey Hart’s book, Drumming at the Edge of Magic, Nigerian Master drummer Babatunde Olatunji describes the inherent healing power of the drum. “Where I come from, we say that rhythm is the soul of life because the whole universe revolves around rhythm, and when we get out of rhythm, that’s when we get into trouble. For this reason the drum, next to the human voice, is our most important instrument. It is special.”
It is no wonder that children naturally gravitate towards the drum as the earliest voice of the source of life, for it is the very sound of home.
A 1996 Newsweek cover story entitled “Your Child’s Brain” presented strong evidence of the brain’s fundamental need for rhythm and the stress that comes when the brain is deprived of this need. Many recent studies have shown drumming naturally alters brain waves to bring children into deep states of relaxation and gives us a strong sense of connection, grounding and well-being.
A new study by Barry Quinn, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in neuro-biofeedback for stress management, indicates that drumming for brief periods can actually change brain wave patterns, dramatically reducing stress. Dr. Quinn has been working for over eight years with how a variety of techniques affect brainwaves. He calls the results of 30 to 40 minutes of drumming on the highest stress clients, “by far the most amazing results I’ve encountered thus far in my research.” Until drumming, in fact, no other technique used in all eight years of Dr. Quinn’s research had been able to bring a significant return of the Alpha relaxation brainwave in any client. The Alpha brainwave is a mental relaxation state missing in nearly 40 percent of the population.
The seven-foot diameter GrandMother Drum was built by the Alaskan community in 2000 and is the largest crystal-inlaid healing drum in the world. It is travelling internationally as a living, beating symbol of the universal heartbeat of all races, cultures and religions. During our extensive world tour, we saw how children of all cultures were immediately drawn to the drum. Native American Elders share a prophecy that notes, “When children bring the drum back to the villages, the cultures will be restored.”
In 2000, the GrandMother Drum International Peace Project gave birth to the Baby Drum Project. Since then, over 500 Baby Drums have been made by our family around the world.* Baby Drums are small replicas of the GrandMother Drum and give children (and adults) a hands-on experience with the ceremonial art of drum making, and playing with the rhythms within and around them through group drumming, dancing and singing. The joy is evident by the look on every child’s face!
Suraj Holzwarth is an international teacher, healer and drumkeeper of the GrandMother Drum International Peace Project. Suraj operates the Whirling Rainbow Center in Anchorage http://www.whirlingrainbow.com. Originally published in Alaska Wellness magazine. *Proceeds from the sale of Baby Drums support the travels of the GrandMother Drum International Peace Project.