Monday, 10 January 2011

Picking up the bodhran again

Rhythm is the soul of life.
The whole universe revolves in rhythm.
Everything and every human action
revolves in rhythm

Babatunde Olatunji

The first sound we ever heard while still in our mother's womb, was the beating of her heart, and the rhythm of her breath. No matter what race, gender, religion or belief system, humans share this experience.

Modern research has shown that our brain waves are affected by rhythm and drumming. Drumbeats alter brainwave patterns, increasing Alpha (a light meditative brainwave), and dramatically reducing stress. Through the rhythmic repetition of sounds, the body, brain and the nervous system are energised and transformed.

It's a little disconcerting when browsing through youtube videos of bodhran performances to see that most of the drummers are male and the style distinctively war-like. Teaching DVDs, the few that can still be bought, are by male musicians with little idea about how to teach effectively. So it came as a huge relief to find one of the best teachers I've ever come across, teaching the bodhran - and it's a woman without a hint of beligerence in her playing. There's patience, endless repetition, and tiny steps in each session leading to steady growth and progress. Michelle Stewart launched her online bodhran course a few days ago after a week's delay for technical reasons. I'd worked through her free teaching videos before but signed up for the course anyway and started right back at the beginning - she's that good.

Today I discovered that research into the use of drumming in ancient times reveals that there was a time, long ago, when the drummers were women.

The wheel turns to the rhythm of mother nature.