West African Drums

February 3, 2010 10:03:50 AM PST
The Ultimate Guide to the African American Spirit Legend & Lore, Music & Mysticism, Recipes & Rituals. Just in time for Black History Month, Chicago author Stephanie Rose Bird has written an unusual new work: The Big Book of Soul: The Ultimate Guide to the African American Spirit Legend & Lore, Music & Mysticism, Recipes & Rituals. Soul is the ultimate expression and experience of African American culture, she explains and says her new book the first popular reference book to provide an in-depth examination of the source of soul in African culture and how soul finds its expression today.

Stephanie takes readers on a breathtaking journey of soul by examining the spirit of animism and how it evolved in contemporary African American culture. She explores spiritual practices related to diet, dance, beauty, healing, and the arts, and provides readers with ancient healing rituals and practices they can use today. One example is the drumming circle that Stephanie says can be relevant in these high-tech, high stress days.

Filled with fun facts, practical advice, and ancient spiritual wisdom, The Big Book of Soul is for any reader who wants a genuine, rooted experience of soul today.

"There is so much talk about soul these days, much of it linked to Africa and black cultures scattered across the planet," the authors says. "This book provides an in-depth look at the source of soul in African culture, as contained in traditional healing arts and crafts. Healing traditions?including earth-based spirituality, rites of passage, midwifery, and herbalism?form the foundation of this book."

In The Big Book of Soul, Stephanie delves into activities that are deceptively simple on the surface, to reveal the mysticism, spirituality, and mythology that lie beneath and give these practices their magnetic power. "The book is designed to be informative while providing hands-on recipes, rituals, projects, and resources to help you become an active participant in these wonderfully soulful African traditions," she says. The Big Book of Soul is available wherever books are sold or directly from Red Wheel Weiser at 800-423-7087 or orders@redwheelweiser.com

Stephanie Rose Bird graduated with honors from Temple University and an MFA from the University of California-San Diego. She has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a professional member of the American Folklore Society, the Herb Research Foundation, and the American Botanical Council. She lives in Chicago.


Leaders used talking drum to motivate their armies They (drums) can send message over long distances Talking drum brings with it a long tradition of oral history Talking drums play praise songs. In the Yoruba language, gan gan is the smallest drum, dun dun is the largest Drums have symbolized the power of a traditional political leader Skilled drummers hold high status in West African communities Djembe closely imitate the rhythms and intonations of spoken language. Can reproduce sounds of proverbs, moralizing tales, fables and praise songs in a specialized drum language Djembe is used to accompany dances, send messages, in rites of passage, in planting, harvesting and hunting ritual and ceremony. Juju contemporary popular West African music utilizes the djembe The music is linked to folklore and mythology Numu?Mandinka and Susu blacksmith believed to hold certain powers created djembe Some report the djembe is from 500 A.D. Healing drum?ability to heal Magic drum?ability to move people African drum beat website www.africandrumbeat.com lists teachers across the country.


Therapeutic West African Drumming and Divination Page 76

Many members of my family were wiped out by AIDS, especially when it first struck and there was little awareness of its cause. As I mentioned previously, my uncle, who had HIV for many years, managed his life with the help of spirituality. He practiced divination, which helps us to know what the future holds and to understand alternate realms of possibility, and became heavily involved with djembe drumming, which is a way of activating those realms of possibility. Sometimes drumming can induce a state that is meditative or trance-like, which is enhanced by controlled breathing.

My uncle was strong of heart and spirit until shortly before he passed over, but this may not be true for everyone. It does not mean however, that music cannot still offer spiritual support. A person who is suffering and knows a drummer or drumming circle can ask that they come play for him or her. I have suggested ways of forming a drumming circle, but drumming circles in communities may even make an effort to go to a local community center and play with spirit for people with HIV/AIDS or other serious illnesses.

Art as Therapy Page 49

"In black culture, regular people without a specialized title such as an art, dance, movement or music therapist have long understood the transformative powers and therapeutic abilities of talking drums, which we call djembe (or jembe), spiritual dancing, shuffling, clapping, tapping, humming, whistling, singing, chanting, shouting, and making art. In Africa and the African Diaspora, the marriage of art and healing isn't called music, dance or art therapy; it is considered part of community ritual and ceremony employed during life passages and uneasy transitions."

Drumming Page 50

"Drumming can lend power and purpose to your life journey. Drumming is useful for every passage: birthing, coming of age rituals, weddings, easing the journey of the seriously ill, and as an addition to funerary rites. It is a creative outlet and distraction. Drumming provides mental and physical exercise while at the same time transporting the drummer to another dimension in space."

When the Healer Needs Healing Pages 50-52

"My uncle, of whom I speak frequently, was my father's younger brother. He did what my father and my grandmother did to deal with serious illness, though he had HIV rather than cancer. He took whole foods as medicines, especially soul foods such as collard greens, yams, beans, and rice, herbal and mineral supplements, and sought out the assistance of a fellow Babalawo.

My uncle lived with HIV for fourteen years before it developed into AIDS. He was very reluctant to take conventional medicines, fearing that HIV/AIDS was the creation of scientists who wanted to wipe out the black race. With that belief firmly rooted, he could not trust Western medicine."

Instead, he performed and participated in rituals and ceremonies, and he used djembe and congas therapeutically. He was a former drummer for the progressive group Sun Ra during the 1960s and 1970s, I credit these alternative therapies with extending his life and enhancing its quality during his illness.