One of the best parts of our trip to St. Louis this summer was the chance to spend some time with my childhood friend Amy. She’s living a fantastic urban life in St. Louis, and loving it. Last year, she took a chance and tried out for a local Taiko group.
This is a Japanese performance art, with roots that go back thousands of years. The drums are huge and loud, and your chest and heart thumps along with the music. The drummers sing and dance as they play, with long beautiful lines and roaring passionate screams. Amy is incredibly, and surprisingly, good at this. Surprising because Amy has had very little in the way of musical, dance or performance instruction in her life. In fact, some of my fondest memories in highschool are of hanging out with Amy at football games and making fun of the band. Now here she is in, essentially, a hardcore drum line!
While Mark and I were in town, Amy asked permission, and Mark and I were allowed to come watch one of their practices. The group practices 3-4 times a week for 3-4 hours at a stretch. The drumming is a huge workout, with long arm swings and leg lunges. The drummers use their whole body to produce the music, and it is a sound unlike any other. Mark and I were entranced by even their timing exercises and the song which they practiced over and over again that night. I took about 300 pictures before the evening was up, and Mark took some video.
To get a real feel for what it’s like to just watch the 8 or so people who showed up that night practice, plug your computer into a 30″ bass amp and turn the volume up to eleven when watching this video.
Amy and I had long conversations the next day about how drumming and dance were so much like rock climbing. Both are moving mediations, ways for our restless western minds to focus pure attention on a single moment. In life, you learn more about yourself in those quiet times, those places between thoughts, than you ever do in the normal clutter and clatter of brain work. Whether it’s pounding a drum, jamming a crack, spinning and dancing or sticking that dyno, when we find a way to truly focus ourselves on a single task, we find the source of all of our personal power.