Like many of you, I have been seeing and hearing the news surrounding Occupy Wall Street, Zuccotti Park, New York. It appears that the drummers involved have caused quite a controversy and while they may have intended to be helping the cause it appears they may actually be hurting it. They have been playing most of the day and well into the night and as well as garnering noise complaints from both the neighbourhood and the protesters. They have caused a divide in the movement itself. Since drumming has been so positive for me, I wanted to dig a little deeper to try to understand what is going on.
Throughout history drumming has always had a purpose. It has always had the incredible power to unify groups of people. Its ancient uses were in ceremonies to celebrate various occasions in a village and also to prepare warring factions for battle. The drum has had a long history in war. The armies of Rome had drummers along side the commanding officers that played rhythmic versions of the commanders’ orders. Drums could be heard over the battlefield and played beats to keep the troops marching.
Nowadays, drumming has many realizations. It is true that it has been a big part of freer gatherings of people expressing their concerns over a cause; to show unity and ”togetherness”. But it is hard for onlookers to have an appreciation for the power of drumming when it is used disrespectfully. I have learned that there are actually two drumming groups involved in this protest in New York. There is a group of drummers that agreed to play during two windows of time during the day. But another group who just wanted to play wherever they want as long as they want.
Drums have the power of sooth as well as annoy. I have always said that playing drums in a group is about two things: Listening and Respect. This respect is also for the listener; if you don’t respect your listener then drumming becomes a selfish act. When you take listening and respect away from drumming it becomes noise, and it makes it hard for those us who care so deeply about the great power of drumming to be taken seriously when we speak about its benefits.