Tufts University

Universal Heartbeat: World Cultures
and Community Drumming

Offered at Tufts University, Spring Semester, 2000, 1999, 1998, and 1997

Instructor: Morwen Two Feathers, M.A.

This course examines the connections between two phenomena: 1.) the rise of "world culture" and multiculturalism in the last quarter of the twentieth century, and 2.) the growth of "community drumming", a new form of musical and creative expression which has become increasingly popular in the last ten years. The course includes both sociological inquiry and hands-on instruction in drumming. Topics include: the ancient history of the drum, the use of the drum in "traditional" cultures, issues of appropriation of traditional cultures by the modern drumming movement, and how drumming builds community, as well as basic drumming technique, learning to play specific rhythms, creating improvisational music with drums and percussion, and drum circle facilitation techniques. Optional topics that the students can choose to explore include drumming and healing, particular drumming tradition(s), and gender issues related to drumming in either traditional or modern culture.

This course is appropriate for those with or without previous drumming experience.


Drumming Movement Issues
A Lively Usenet Discussion

On Wednesday, November 6, 1996, a member of the djembe-l usenet bulletin board system posted a message, quoted below in part. This was part of a fascinating discussion about "traditional" drumming at drum circles. Two responding messages, written by members of the EDC community, are posted here. This document is an excerpt from a compilation of djembe-l. When a message quotes another message, the quoted message is surrounded by brackets >like so>.

... I am hostile to this concept of a certain "correct" tradition, which can't really exist beyond the idea that in some sense you're being true to a greater "rightness" than one person's version. Even the people on this list who advocate subservience to a "traditional" way of drumming admit that the names of rhythms change from person to person and village to village, and the rhythms themselves vary from person to person and village to village, and, presumably, though it's not demonstrable, from decade to decade. What tradition is that? You dig into what "tradition" seems to mean, and the more you dig, the less substance it seems to have until it disappears entirely. But it seems to serve some useful purpose, because it has so many adherents.