It is a great gift to know Suzanne Tribe, and to be having her join us for our BE workshop in Italy. She’s an amazing person, with a special ability to teach, inspire and guide others to heightened states of consciousness.
We share here her thoughts on the power of drumming, its history on the planet, scientific validation of its healing effects and its place in modern culture and the Shamanic path.
Suzanne’s insights on drumming for health and vitality:
Drumming was at the core of community life and healing in most ancient cultures around the world—from the Tuvan shamans in Siberia to the Machis in Chile, the Anatolian culture in ancient Turkey to the Shuar in the Amazon Rainforest, the Inuit in Alaska, the West African Yoruba people and the First Nation’s people in America.
Drumming was a way to communicate from one village to the next; drumming expressed the joy of gathering in celebration; drumming was the fabric of connection, collaboration and healing. Shamanic drumming was, and is, a key component of creating sacred space, honoring the earth and its directions, and intentionally shifting states of consciousness to retrieve information for healing, wellbeing and survival.
In certain parts of the world, particularly more secluded areas, this is still a way of life. I witnessed this when I traveled to the Andes in 1997 to do fieldwork on pre-Columbian drumming and chanting. In the small and beautiful town of Iruya, high up in the Andes, at a time of the yearly festivity, people travelled for days from afar, on foot or by horse, to come together in ceremony. There was drumming, dancing and singing for celebration, reunion, healing and in their words “to connect with mother earth and the cosmos.”
I learnt from the Aymara and Quechua people in the Andes about the importance of the drum in everyday life and in ceremony. The drum is our connection to mother earth, Pacha Mama, our groundedness. The sound of our voices projected in singing or toning are our connection to the cosmos, to our dreams. And our heart is at the center, allowing the flow between earth and sky/cosmos. I have carried these teachings with me ever since and they are part of who I am as a music therapist, as teacher and performer, and overall as a being dreaming on this earth.
In the 60s and 70s, a return to drumming as a community experience took place. In the United States free form drum circles sprung up at beaches, in parks and at indoor facilities. Simultaneously culturally specific drum circles were generated, and soon to follow came the facilitated community drum circles. In the 80s, with the shift in health care to more complementary and integrative models, a growing interest in drumming as a holistic tool emerged. Nowadays, there is a growing focus on drumming for health purposes in clinical settings, hospitals, psychiatric facilities, schools, private practices, etc.
As a music therapist, I have experienced the healing power of rhythm and drumming in helping patients to relax or become more energized as needed; in supporting premature infants to stabilize their heart rate and breathing rate; and in promoting parent-infant bonding (with the ocean drum and toning), drumming for stress release, drumming for caregivers in ‘caring for the caregiver’ programs, and in other situations.
Research has been conducted on drumming effects on health. A groundbreaking study by Barry Bittman, M.D. published in 2001, found that one hour of group drumming according to a specific protocol called HealthRHYTHMS, boosted the immune system and showed an increase in NK (natural killer) cell activity in participants. Subsequent studies by Bittman showed evidence that group drumming can lower stress, improve mood states and reduce burnout. (For more information about these studies, see http://www.remo.com/portal/pages/hr/research/index.html.)
The present trend shows that drumming for health and wellbeing seems to be making its way back into our culture. What about shamanic drumming?
Shamanic drumming for intentionally shifting one’s state of consciousness and journeying to other layers of awareness is a path I have been learning, practicing and guiding others along for the past 10 years. It includes creating sacred space, honoring the directions, setting intentions and journeying to non-ordinary states of consciousness and back, and includes the process of integrating the experience.
I’d like to conclude with these seven reflections on drumming:
- Drumming brings us into the here and now. Babatunde Olatunji, often considered to have inspired the return to the drum circle experience in North America, is quoted as saying: “Yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”
- Drumming is communication and expression without words.
- Drumming energizes us and can help us release tension.
- Drumming can intentionally shift our consciousness (assemblage point).
- Drumming with intention is powerful.
- Drumming can align us with our natural rhythms and the rhythms of nature.
- Drumming can align us with the rhythms of the universe.
Suzanne Tribe MA, MT-BC
Suzanne Tribe is a music therapist who conducts group empowerment drumming events for wellbeing and community building in the US and Argentina. Suzanne has performed extensively in a variety of world music genres, and at the University of Buenos Aires she taught dance majors the use of creative vocal expression. Her most recent CD with traditional songs from the Andes is Songs from Mother to Daughter.
“MY INTENT IS TO BRING THE HEALING AND TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF DRUMMING, CHANTING and MUSIC INTO THE WORLD!” says Suzanne.
Hear one of her songs: